Two games in the past 24 hours, so double the recappy goodness here. We'll start with last night's loss to the Texas Rangers out in Surprise, where Tony Peña took the loss. He allowed his first earned runs of spring, but saved time by giving up four with one pitch, as he surrendered a tie-breaking seventh inning grand-slam to Texas first-baseman, Chris Davis, after trying to double-dip with his slider. That poor bit of pitch-selection, and the swing of the bat which resulted, sent Pena's ERA from zero to 6.35 in about three seconds, though he did strike out three Rangers' hitters in his two innings of work.
It completely undid a decent Diamondbacks comeback, as we'd come back from 4-0 down after four innings. Eric Byrnes - who, you'll be pleased to hear, made his first somersault throw of the year - had a two-run double as part of a three-run fifth, and Arizona went on to tie the game up in the top of the seventh, albeit not for long. A sympathy run was added in the ninth: Chad Tracy had a pair of hits, though did also ground into a double-play, while Tony Clark continues to have a good spring too. He went 3-for-4 and is batting .375. No stolen-base attempts for the Diamondbacks, and only one walk - Augie Ojeda also made a rare error, while starter Jon Garland did get a pickoff.
Speaking of whom... Five innings, eight hits, two walks, four runs, all earned. Not exactly stellar numbers - his spring ERA is still up above six - but it seems he is continuing to work on new pitches. In particular adding the cut fastball, which has never been a part of Garland's armory, and also throwing more curveballs. This kind of thing is exactly what spring training is for, and is another good reason why numbers here can't be relied upon as any kind of predictor. He said afterwards he's been going through a 'dead arm' period, but "It happens every year. To me, it’s a good sign. If I didn’t get it right now, I’d wonder if something was up.
Conor Jackson was hit on his left elbow by a fifth-inning pitch and was taken out for precautionary reasons in the 5th inning. He was pulled as a precaution and was re-examined this morning. He didn't feel like it was a big deal at the time, saying. "I've been hit in the elbow before...you know there's been worse," and Nick Piecoro confirms everything is fine. He wasn't in the line-up for this afternoon's game, but that was apparently already scheduled, and Jackson could have played had this been originally planned. The news on Stephen Drew, who hasn't played since Saturday, because of an abdominal strain, is vaguer, but manager Bob Melvin reckons he could back in the line-up for Friday's game.
Here are the audio clips, with Jackson discussing his plunking, Garland talks about his "dead arm", but says he is completely ready to go, while Melvin says the arm thing is nothing to worry about, and Eric Byrnes appears fully healthy.
Audio courtesy of KTAR 620
Alex Romero cleared waivers, so has been removed from the 40-man roster and assigned to Triple-A Reno. Here's the reasoning according to GM Josh Byrnes: "He’s an out of options player who was either going to make it or have to go through waivers. I think with the way our roster is shaping up, Byrnesie’s health, it looked like he wasn’t going to make the club. We thought strategically now was a better time to get him through waivers or at least find out. Obviously we still like Alex as a player and it’s a time of year when a lot of guys get through. It’s not the end of the road for him." That said, I imagine most fans hope he's not seen on the roster this season, since that'll mean our four outfield musketeers are healthy and - fingers crossed - productive.
Today's game saw an excellent start by Brandon Webb who went six innings, and allowed only one earned run, on five hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. As if facing Webb wasn't already unfair enough, Steve Gilbert reports our ace is now looking on a new pitch, what he calls a 'batting practice' fastball. You use it in a fastball count, but instead of being 89-90 mph, it's more like 82-84 mph. If all goes to plan, the batter is well out in front, and rolls over on a gentle groundball - but, must confess, I'm not sure what the difference is between this and a regular change-up. Still, if Webb likes it, I don't really care about the specifics!
Said Webb, "That was my best outing in like four years in Spring Training. That was good, they had a pretty good lineup out there today. So it was good to get those outs and get that confidence going into the regular season." It only took Webb 85 pitches to get through six innings, and he needed to finish off his afternoon in the bullpen, to reach the targeted count of 95. It's the last we'll see of him in the Cactus League - his final scheduled pre-season outing would be next Tuesday, but as we are due to face the Dodgers that day, he's being held out of the line-up against our divisional rivals, and he'll appear in a minor-league game that day instead.
Chad Qualls and Billy Buckner finished off the game with three innings of no-hit ball. At this point, Buckner looks likely to be the recipient of another of the remaining bullpen spots, having allowed only four earned runs in his 12.2 innings of work, on just nine hits, with a 9:3 K:BB ratio. On offense, two hits apiece for Chad Tracy and Gerardo Parra, both men each driving in a run, while Chris Snyder had a hit and a walk. Prospective lead-off man Felipe Lopez finally stole his first base of the season after his opening at-bat, and promptly followed it with his second, next time up. "I can do it; I've just got to do it and be committed to doing it," he said.