Rodrigo Lopez is making a strong push for a spot in a Diamondbacks rotation that will be without ace Brandon Webb for at least the first month of the regular season.
Lopez entered camp as a candidate for the number 5 spot in the rotation, which Billy Buckner held the lead for based on his solid September showing in 2009, but Lopez inserted himself into the mix and conceivably could land as high as number 3 behind Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson. Ian Kennedy entered the spring at number 4.
Lopez did not give up an earned run in three-inning starts against Colorado in Hermosillo, Mexico, on March 14 and against Oakland in Phoenix on March 18. He gave up one hit and struck out one against the A's and was so efficient -- 31 pitches -- that he threw 15 more pitches in the bullpen after being removed.
"Rodrigo was very effective with all his pitches -- he's got about six different ones, he can make them up. He showed some promise as to how he can attack a major league lineup," Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said after the Oakland game. "It's interesting how this is shaping out. We could go a lot of different ways. He's right in the thick of it. Coming in, a lot of the attention was directed toward Kennedy and Buckner. He's elbowing his way right in there, and the other guys are throwing OK, too."
Webb said recently that he does not expect to pitch in a major league game until late April, adding, "It's definitely not set in stone. It's a goal." If everyone stays on regular rest, the Diamondbacks will need a fifth starter only once, April 17, until they begin a stretch of 20 consecutive games April 23.
Lopez, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2007, did not pitch in the major leagues in 2008. He went 3-1 with a 5.70 ERA in seven games with Philadelphia last season after his contract was purchased from the minor leagues in July.
--3B Mark Reynolds' three-year, $14.5 million contract includes a partial no-trade clause. Reynolds can block a trade to four teams that he chooses in a window following the World Series. Only Eddie Mathews (112) and player Bob Horner (91) have more home runs among third basemen in their first three major league seasons than Reynolds' 89. The deal will pay him $500,000 with a $1 million signing bonus in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2012. The Diamondbacks have an $11 million option with a $500,000 buyout in 2013.
--Since Reynolds made his major league debut in Colorado on May 16, 2007, he ranks first among major league third basemen with 89 home runs and very high in other offensive categories. He is second with 261 RBI and 35 stolen bases, tied for second with 247 runs, third with 177 walks, and fifth with an .839 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
--RHP Kris Benson signed a minor league contract for $650,000 on March 17, joining the competition for a spot in the rotation with RHP Brandon Webb out for at least a month. Benson, 35, was signed after throwing 85 pitches in a simulated game against Diamondbacks minor-leaguers in Tucson on March 12. His fastball was in the 88-89 mph range. "He threw well," Arizona GM Josh Byrnes said. "He's going to come in and compete and have to outperform people in order to get a job."
Benson can make another $100,000 in incentives -- $25,000 for each increment of five major league starts he makes up to 20.
--C Chris Snyder had little reaction to the five-game suspension of Seattle LHP Cliff Lee, who threw a pitch directly over Snyder's head in the third inning of the Diamondbacks' 13-5 victory March 15.
"It's not my call," Snyder said. "MLB made the call on it, and that's it. We don't have them on our schedule. The only time we would see them would be if we both make it to October."
Snyder and Lee collided behind the plate in the first inning, when on-deck hitter Snyder coached a runner attempting to score while Lee ran in to back up the plate.
--LF Conor Jackson, who had most of his at-bats at the cleanup spots his last two healthy seasons, 2007-08, looks more and more like the number 2 hitter in the D-backs lineup because of his ability to work counts and get on base, manager A.J. Hinch said.
"Conor kind of screams 'two hole' to me right now," Hinch said. "He puts up good at-bats in front of the middle part of our order, and that's a good sign. He gets on base a lot. He's a guy you can hit-and-run with. He's a guy that is a good baserunner in front of the middle part of the order."
DIAMOND STAT: $41.1 million -- 2011 payroll commitments to RHP Dan Haren, RHP Edwin Jackson, C Chris Snyder, OF Chris Young, 3B Mark Reynolds, and OF Justin Upton.
QUOTABLE: "It gives our lineup stability for years to come. I know 'J-Up' is not going to let off the gas one bit, and I'm not either." -- 3B Mark Reynolds, who signed a three-year, $14.5 million contract extension two weeks after OF Justin Upton signed a four-year, $51.25 million deal.
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