Brandon Allen Looks to Prove Himself

Josh Whitesell had his chance to prove that he can hit major league pitching, but was not able to do so consistently. Now it is Brandon Allen's turn to audition as the Arizona Diamondbacks' starting first baseman.

First baseman Brandon Allen spent about an hour in traffic attempting to get to Minute Maid Park before his major league debut in Houston on Saturday night, not far from his home in Montgomery, Texas.

It could be about as far away from the starting lineup as Allen will be in quite some time.

Allen, 23, was acquired July 7 to be the first baseman of the future, and after terrorizing the Pacific Coast League for six weeks, he is already the first baseman of the present. Allen started and batted fifth in his first major league game Saturday and needed only two at-bats to get his first hit, a line drive single to centerfield. He was 1-for-4 with his first RBI on Sunday.

Allen hit .324 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI in 38 games at Class AAA Reno after being obtained from the Chicago White Sox for RHP Tony Pena. He is expected to get the great majority of the playing time at first base the rest of the season as the D-backs look toward 2010. They will not exercise 1B Chad Tracy's option, leaving a job available.

"I'm still a minor-league player," Allen told the media Saturday night. "I've got a lot of work to do. Hopefully I can stay in the big leagues, but I've got to keep working my butt off."

Allen had a breakthrough season in the White Sox organization in 2007, when he hit .283 with 39 doubles, 18 homers and 93 RBI at Class A Kannapolis, his second season at that level. He hit .278 with 32 doubles, 29 homers, and 75 RBI at two levels last season.

"It's exciting to have him here.  He knows what he's doing at the plate," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said in his Saturday press conference.  "He's got a lot of power. He's got a lot of strength through his swing. He plays a good first base. He's pretty athletic. He runs better than his body would indicate because he's big. He's a very gifted player."

Allen, 6-foot-2 and 235, was 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts in 2008 and had six steals without being caught in 38 games in Reno, where his OPS was 1.054.

First baseman Joshua Whitesell, the D-backs' minor league player of the year in 2008 when he hit .328 with 26 homers and 110 RBIs at Class AAA Tucson, was optioned to Reno to make room for Allen. Whitesell was given two chances to stake him claim on the starting spot this summer but did not produce either time. He was hitting .194 with one homer in 108 at-bats and will rejoin the major league club as Allen's backup in September when rosters expand.

DIAMONDBACKS 7, ASTROS 5: The D-backs broke a season-high seven-game losing streak by scoring five runs in the first inning and one in the second off rookie RHP Bud Norris. They had scored only 14 runs in their losing streak. IF Augie Ojeda had two hits, including a two-run single in the first inning, and RHP Jon Garland got his first RBI of the season with a two-single in the first. 2B/OF Ryan Roberts tied his major league high with four hits.


--2B/OF Ryan Roberts has thrived while receiving more regular time after 2B Felipe Lopez was traded to Milwaukee following the July 19 game. Roberts, recalled from Class AAA Reno at that time, is hitting .303 with five home runs and 10 RBI in 89 at-bats after singling in a run during his second career four-hit game Sunday. Roberts has started 17 games at second base and seven in left field, being used in the outfield to help balance a lineup that has three left-handed hitting outfielders. He is hitting .338 in the No. 2 spot in the order, with four of his five homers there.

--OF Justin Upton (oblique strain) is to begin a rehab assignment Monday at Class A Visalia. Upton, who has missed 16 games with the injury, still leads the team with a .301 batting average and is second in RBI (66), runs (68), home runs (20), and stolen bases (16). The D-backs are off Monday before beginning a three-game series in San Francisco, and it is conceivable Upton could rejoin the team during that series. Upton has been out since suffering the injury while attempting to steal second base in the ninth inning of a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh on August 5th.

--3B Mark Reynolds walked with one out and a runner on second base in the sixth inning Saturday night. That broke the D-backs' streak of 153 consecutive plate appearances without a walk, the longest streak in franchise history and the longest in the majors this season. Reynolds had the most recent previous walk, with one out in the top of the ninth inning of 9-4 loss in Atlanta on Aug. 17. D-backs' hitters did not draw a walk while being swept in a three-game series in Philadelphia from Tuesday-Thursday. Reynolds was given a day off Sunday, his fourth of the year.

--1B Brandon Allen is the ninth player to reach the majors for the first time with the D-backs this season. The others are RHP Esmerling Vasquez, LHP Clay Zavada, OF Gerardo Parra, RHP Bryan Augenstein, RHP Kyler Newby, LHP Daniel Schlereth, OF Trent Oeltjen, and IF Rusty Ryal. Newby was active for one day, May 21, and did not pitch.

--SS Stephen Drew left the team after Friday's game to deal with a family emergency, the D-backs said. His return was uncertain, but he is likely to be back for the start of a three-game series in San Francisco on Tuesday. IF Augie Ojeda started at shortstop the final two games of the Houston series Saturday and Sunday and had two hits in each game, two doubles Saturday and two singles Sunday. Ojeda is hitting .286 with a .423 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.

DIAMOND STAT: 153 -- consecutive plate appearances by D-backs hitters without a walk last week, setting a franchise record. It was the longest such streak in the majors this season, the fifth-longest since 1998.

QUOTABLE: "A week ago, we were hitting on all cylinders. Now, we're not." -- D-backs manager A.J. Hinch, after his team lost a season-high seven straight games before winning Sunday.

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