If at first you don't succeed: the D-backs keep trying for pitching

A sense of deja-vu? Jon Heyman reports, "The Diamondbacks seem to be focusing now on free-agent hurler Jon Garland... The D-backs originally fancied Martinez and Schilling (a former Diamondbacks star), but in this slow market, Arizona is realizing it may be able to afford a younger guy like the 29-year-old Garland." Which is somewhat odd, because less than two weeks ago, he rejected Arizona's offer. Of course, no reason we couldn't have revamped the offer - or perhaps alternatively, Garland may not have received the warm welcome [and large suitcase of cash] he was expecting from other destinations.

The imperative for a fourth starter may have increased slightly, with the news that Max Scherzer had a bit of a false start to his pre-season. "The arm did not feel great when he started throwing," according to Steve Gilbert, though everyone seems - at least in public - to think it's nothing too troubling. "It's nothing serious. It's just typical of what I get when I start up," said Scherzer, while Josh Byrnes was similarly unperturbed, saying nothing was changing structurally. [Scherzer had an MRI after his stint in the Arizona Fall League was over] The good news is, Scherzer believes his shoulder strength improved, and the issue that put him on the DL last season shouldn't happen again.

Byrnes is looking to get about 170 innings out of Scherzer in 2009, and that certainly seems doable - nineteen pitchers aged 24 or younger reached that mark last season. Perhaps surprisingly, the most innings by a junior pitcher was not Tim Lincecum - he came second, on 227, getting one out fewer than Cole Hamels, though did face fourteen more batters [Matt Cain faced most of all, at 933]. However, the Freak's 265 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher under 25 for over two decades. The last to have that many was Dwight Gooden, who fanned 268 as a twenty-year old in 1985 - the season after getting 276 K's while still a teenager! Unlikely Scherzer will challenge those numbers, but that said, Max struck out 66 in only 56 innings; if he kept up that pace over 170, it would lead to two hundred K's. Apart from Lincecum, Volquez and Billingsley  were the sole young arms to match this figure in 2008. As an aside, the Big Unit didn't hit that mark until his age 27 season.

Interesting piece in the Eagle Tribune, which says [emphasis added], "Randy Johnson headed to San Francisco when the Diamondbacks tried to re-sign him for $6 million." This is definitely a lot more than that $2.5-3 million figure usually touted, and I tend to suspect that may have been the first offer by the Diamondbacks, rather than the last one, especially if more money was eventually freed up by the evaporation of the Dunn draft picks. While the Tribune is based in New England, and might seem out of the loop, the writer of the piece is Tracy Ringolsby, who's from Colorado, and generally has a rep as being well-connected. Though if this was indeed the case, I'm a bit surprised someone like Nick Piecoro or Steve Gilbert haven't revised the initial figure - or even management coming out with a correction, given the large volume of criticism sent in their direction, for making what was perceived as such a low perceived offer to Johnson.

Brandon Lyon signed with the Tigers, which probably caused headline writers all over the country to start drooling at the possibilities. Not quite the two-year or $9m contract being touted previously: he went for one year and $4.25m, plus possibly up to half a million in bonuses. Apparently, he spurned the multi-year offers because "the situation just suited me better. I heard from other players that it's great to play in Detroit and that weighed a lot in my decision." It's probably little, if any, more than he'd have got if he'd accepted arbitration and stayed in Arizona - with the additional benefit of not playing on a team which finished last in their division. I think the more important thing for Lyon is that he'll get to close in Detroit and gets to test free agency all over again in 2010. All being well, that'll then be with 30 saves under his belt and a better economic climate.

If you don't have Fox Sports Arizona or a similar cable package, you will not be seeing the Diamondbacks this summer. Last season, fifty games were screened over the air on Spanish-language KPHE, but Cox refused to add the station to their cable package, and it seems like the Diamondbacks wouldn't continue the deal without that. It's hard to say exactly how much of an impact this might have: obviously, most people have some form of cable or satellite, so that shouldn't impact the majority. However, I suspect the percentage among the Hispanic community is probably significantly lower, especially in the current economic climate. It's a move that certainly won't help the fanbase expand, that's for sure, and one wonders what the cost of continuing the previous arrangement would have been.

Is it just me, or is anyone else fed up with the Cardinals? Seems like they've been on the front-page of the Republic - and not the sports section, but the main paper - every day since they won the NFC title, over a week ago. We know they're in the SuperBowl 'n' all, but it's not until Sunday. Though I was amused by this line in one story: "A year ago, we were selling 10 Diamondbacks and Suns T-shirts for every Cardinals one. Now, it's the other way around." What they need is a t-shirt that says, "Bandwagon fan, and proud of it." Don't recall quite the same glut of coverage when the Diamondbacks made it to the World Series, though admittedly there were a couple of other things going on around the world at that time, which perhaps required coverage... I'll be cheering them with fervor on Sunday. If I don't hear anything more about them between now and them, it will be quite OK with me.

At least it'll mean less coverage for the even more tedious FBR Open, though Conor Jackson, Daron Sutton and Mark Grace will all be there tomorrow for a putting challenge. In other off-season activity, Brandon Webb (above) and his K Foundation raised $100,000 with the second Celebrity Fishing Tournament, earlier this month down in Los Cabos. Adam Dunn, Chris Snyder and Wade Boggs were among the participants, with Boggs' team coming out on top, catching an impressive fourteen marlin in one afternoon. Well, i guess the marlin probably weren't quite so impressed, but you know what I mean.

At the risk of picking open old wounds, stumbled across an article from Cleveland talking about Carlos Quentin. It says, "The Indians had serious trade talks with Arizona for Quentin, with Cliff Lee going to the Diamondbacks. Other players were involved. The Tribe decided to stick with Lee because of worries about the rotation." Lee, of course, only went 22-3 for the Indians last season, alongside a 2.54 ERA and the American League Cy Young award. We instead ended up trading Quentin to the White Sox for an A-ball hitter no-one had heard of, who became a fragment in the Haren trade. I will now go cry myself to sleep: that's right up there with the idea we could have had Chien-Ming Wang from the Yankees when we traded Johnson to them.

Finally, a gratuitous plug for the Hardball Times Season Preview which is now out, and available from all major bookstores and the usual retailers., as well as through the publisher's website. I will admit to having a vested interest, having written the preview chapter looking at the Arizona Diamondbacks, but please do not hold that against the volume. :-) There are 29 other writers who offer their own perspective on the local teams, and make for a fascinating insight into the rest of the major-leagues. There's also the Hardball Times projections and essays on rookies to watch, fantasy baseball and injury analysis. If you buy just one book to which I contributed this off-season...it'll have to be this one, because that's the only one.

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