From Tucson Sidewinders to Tucson Backburners

After moving its Triple-A Affiliate from Tucson to Reno, the Arizona Diamondbacks now appear poised to move its spring training facility from the Tucson area.

The Diamondbacks pledged to be a state-wide organization when they were formed in 1996, and they demonstrated that by holding spring training in Tucson and putting their Class AAA affiliate there.

Things already have changed, and are likely to change again. The D-backs' top minor league affiliate will move to Reno, Nev., in 2009, and it appears likely that the team will move its spring training facility to the Phoenix area after the White Sox spent $5 million to buy their way out of their lease for the spring facility they share with the D-backs. The White Sox will move to Glendale, Ariz., in 2009.

The D-backs' lease expires in 2012, but team president Derrick Hall said the team already is doing due diligence on property in the Valley, with the Gila River Indian Community one of five possible candidates.

"We're looking at all our options," said Hall, whose team can legally leave Tucson if it is the lone spring training team remaining. Colorado has a lease through 2011.  "We're listening to four or five (Valley developers). They (Tucson officials) know that. It is safe to say we are looking in all directions -- north, south, east and west."

Hall said the D-backs would like to remain in Tucson, "but we've made it clear we want four teams to be there."

As part of the White Sox's buyout, the team agreed to continue to help city officials locate another team for Tucson. Tucson officials told Hall they are trying to lure teams from Florida, or even from other Valley sites.  Hall said the D-Backs would like see positive movement on this front by this time next year.

"We're also in a time crunch," he said, saying that the construction of a new Valley facility could take 18 months to two years. "After 2009, we will have to have a pretty good understanding of where we are going to be" in 2012.


--INF Ramon Vazquez, a free agent, has emerged as a candidate to replace Gold Glove 2B Orlando Hudson, who is expected to be lost via free agency. Vazquez, 32, batted .290 with 18 doubles, six homers and 40 RBIs in only 300 at-bats with Texas in 2008, his second consecutive productive year as a part-time player with the Rangers. Vazquez played mostly third base in Texas but came up in the Seattle organization as a middle infielder, playing a lot of shortstop. He also has played for Cleveland, Boston and San Diego.

--Third base coach and infield instructor Chip Hale was one of seven candidates for the Seattle Mariners' managerial job that went to Oakland bench coach Don Wakamatsu, who worked in the D-backs organization from 1997-1999. "I was disappointed, but it was a good experience," Hale said of the interview process after speaking twice with Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik.

--RHP Cesar Valdez, one of the D-backs' top starting pitching prospects, was one of six players added to the 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings Dec. 11. Valdez, 23, went a combined 13-8 with a 3.14 ERA at Class A Visalia and Class AA Mobile last season and was named the D-backs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He tied for first in victories (13) while finishing second in ERA and strikeouts (140). He made the California League regular-season All-Star team before his promotion, going 10-3 there.

--RHP Jose Marte, RHP Kyler Newby, LHP Leyson Septimo, LHP Clay Zavada and INF Pedro Ciriaco were also added to the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster. Ciriaco led the organization with 40 stolen bases at Class A Visalia and hit .310 with 26 doubles and 61 RBIs while hitting at the top of the order. He made the California League's regular-season and postseason All-Star teams.

--3B Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old Cuban defector, had drawn interest from the Diamondbacks, but according to multiple media reports, he has reached a contract agreement with the White Sox. Arizona director of player development A.J. Hinch and scouting director Tom Allison attended Viciedo's recent workout for all major league teams in the Dominican Republic. Viciedo, considered a strong offensive and defensive prospect, shares the same agent as White Sox INF Alexei Ramirez and RHP Jose Contreras, both Cuban émigrés.

DIAMOND STAT: 4 -- Years remaining on the D-backs' spring training lease at Tucson Electric Park, although the D-backs already are exploring options in the Phoenix area following the White Sox's departure from Tucson in 2009.  

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