Not many times you'll score runs in six different innings, hit three home-runs and still end up losing. I guess that's some comfort to be taken from this afternoon's loss to the Brewers, as the bullpen had another little seizure, coughing up six runs in three innings, to allow Milwaukee to come back from 6-2 down in the middle of the sixth - Doug Slaten 'celebrated' his securing of a roster spot by allowing four hits, a walk and four earned runs in the seventh. That helped to spoil a good outing by Dan Haren, who finished off his pre-season with five innings of two-run ball, on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He has probably been the most impressive of all our starters this spring, not least for a phenomenal K:BB ratio of 34:4. That's a rate of more than one per inning, and gives him the most strikeouts in the majors this spring, by quite some way [next is Matt Cain's 28].
About the only knock on Haren's performance in the 2009 Cactus League would perhaps be that he has allowed a few too many long balls [another one today, basically his only mistake, responsible for both the runs he allowed and giving him a total of five in 30.2 IP], but since the walks plus hits allowed barely outnumber the innings he has thrown, it certainly seems like he's all set. His comments afterwards echo that: "I feel like I've made 10 starts this spring. It's been a long spring, and it's tough to get the adrenaline going here at the end. I mean, I'm definitely ready for the real thing to start." He eased up a tad in his final warm-up outing, from the seven innings last time, throwing just shy of 70 pitches; with 49 strikes, and looked very nice doing so. Here are his thoughts on the last outing, and how he feels heading into the regular season.
Audio courtesy of KTAR 620
Arizona had a 4-2 lead when Haren left the game after five innings, and added two more in the top of the sixth, on Felipe Lopez's two-run homer, his first of spring. That was our third long-ball of the game, following solo shots to Chad Tracy and Tony Clark, but the Brewers came back immediately. Jon Rauch surrendered his fourth homer of spring to the first hitter he faced, leading off the bottom of the sixth, cutting the lead to one run. Poor pitch selection there, Rauch serving up an 0-2 fastball down the middle, and he was only saved from allowing another two-run homer by a fine Upton grab at the fence. However, there was no more damage, and it did reduce Rauch's ERA. Albeit to 15.12.
Worse was to come, in the shape of Slaten. However, it's probably worth going through the course of that inning in some detail.
RHB - full-count walk
RHB - 3-1 single to left
RHB - 1-0 single to right, misplayed by Romero into a two-run double
LHB - first-pitch single back up the box by Craig Counsell on a fastball up
LHB - Comebacker to the pitcher, get the man off third in a rundown.
RHB - 1-2 breaking ball, two-run double to the wall in center.
RHB - 2-2 groundball to Roberts at second
LHB - 0-1 slider back to Slaten for the out at first.
Two of the three lefties were retired, compared to only one of the five righties. We trust he will be used with a bit more discretion in the regular season.
On offense, a few things to note - Justin Upton really didn't look good in his at-bats,going 0-for-3 and popping up to Fielder at first, with men on the corners and one out in the third. Grace and Sutton were speculating that his bat is taking too long to get through the zone, causing him to miss pitches he should be able to hit. Upton is hitting .196 this spring, and time is running out for adjustments, from someone we expect to be a major offensive contributor as of Monday. Lopez had two hits and drove in three runs, while Clark had three hits. Chris Young and Haren each had a couple of knocks, and Tracy had a walk in addition to his homer, though did also hit into a double-play. Alex Romero had his first error of spring.
As already noted below, James Skelton has failed to make the Opening Day roster with Arizona: it looks like, despite his on-base skills, the lack of offense against major-league pitching is what doomed him. with just six hits in 40 at-bats this spring. Even some positional flexibility - he saw time at second, third and in the outfield too - wasn't enough to save him, and I suspect management decided that every spot on the roster is going to need to be productive, even the last one. Skelton now has to go through waivers (it's unclear whether this has already happened), and if no-one wants him, has to be offered back to the Tigers for $25,000. Nick Piecoro reports a trade is possible, with th Tigers getting a different player back. Ryan Roberts is probably the favorite to grab the final spot, though he two Joshes, Whitesell and Wilson, are still hanging around.
Speaking of Nick, he'll be doing an online chat Monday at 11:30 am, before our Opening Day game. Might be fun to see how that goes, see if some of the - how shall I put it - 'characters' from AZ Central show up. Probably wisely, it appears to be moderated: "Your comments are published at the Writer's discretion. The Writer can view all comments sent to them but only they can publish your comments for everyone to see." Finally, Fox Sports AZ have announced they will be screening 142 of the Diamondbacks games in high-definition: all 73 home games they are showing, and 69 of the road ones. That's a marked increase on last year's total of 84 - this Saturday's exhibition game at Chase against the White Sox will also be available in HD.