D'you think Edwin Jackson read yesterday's piece, in which I bemoaned our fly-ball tendencies? For he did his best, single-handedly, to rectify that this afternoon, pitching six shutout innings against the White Sox and getting exactly one fly-ball out. Two South Siders went down by the strikeout, but fifteen of them succumbed to the ground-ball, in part, thanks to a trio of double-plays rolled up by the infield over the first four innings.
Meanwhile, Tony Abreu drove in five runs, Mark Reynolds had a trio of hits and Justin Upton exercised his ankle with some gentle trotting around the bases, cranking his team-leading fourth homer of spring at Tucson Electric Park. All told, a solid day's work for the Diamondbacks. Details after the jump.
After some wobbly outings by Edwin Jackson, it was a great relief to see him deliver a much more solid outing this afternoon. Against an almost full-strength White Sox line-up, he scattered five hits - all singles - and three walks over six innings. But ground-balls and the infield defense proved invaluable friends, snuffing out any potential White Sox rallies in the early innings, before they could do any damage. His first - and last - fly-ball out didn't come until the fifth inning, and as a result of the outing, Jackson's spring ERA is down to a much more acceptable 5.50. One more outing for him, and then the games will count.
The final three innings were a mixed bag. Bob Howry pitched the seventh and may be heading in the right direction, this afternoon's zero meaning he has put up back-to-back scoreless frames for the first time in spring. I'd rather that be happening, than any player getting worse. Blaine Boyer pitched the ninth and put up a zero two, but Aaron Heilman gave up the only two extra-base hits Chicago managed this afternoon, a double by Carlos Quentin and a triple to Juan Pierre. That's now sixteen hits and three walks over eight innings of work for Heilman, whose ERA remains stubbornly stuck in double-figures.
The offense got back on track, torching Freddy Garcia for eleven hits and seven runs in five innings of work. Tony Abreu probably had the best day, getting three hits and driving in five runs, with the big-blow a bases-emptying double in the eighth. That came off a name we probably remember here: Tony Peña (and boy, it has beeñ a long time since I've ñeeded to fiñd the locatioñ of that ñ), putting a dent in what had been a rather good spring for our former fireballer. That has taken Abreu's spring average up above .400, and it seems to be getting increasingly-hard for Hinch to leave him off the roster.
Other good days were had by a number of batters. Mark Reynolds went 3-for-3; both he and Abreu also stole a base, but second-base was a double-edged sword for them, as they were both also thrown out there, trying to stretch singles into doubles. Chris Young had three hits of his own, and Augie Ojeda got a couple of knocks as well, the Diamondbacks accumulating fifteen in total. Justin Upton was back in the line-up, and had a three-run homer in the third inning, giving him 16 RBI in 15 spring games. I am therefore expecting Upton to drive in 173 runs over the regular-season. Who's with me? :-)
Some stuff on other pitchers, high and low. Nick Piecoro tweeted, "At minor league camp, Kris Benson pitched pretty well: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K." Well, the tweet as posted didn't contain any actual upper-case letters - those are all my own work. And I managed to miss that Daron Sutton posted some interesting comments from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre on Ian Kennedy last week:
"Ian's a guy that has to pitch to contact. He knows he has to pitch down and he has to mix. He's not an overpowering guy, but he is capable of putting guys away when he gets to 2-strike counts. He's a four pitch mix guy and looking at his secondary stuff, his breaking ball is probably his better pitch. He's not afraid to throw a 3-2 changeup to any hitter. For a young guy, it is impressive how he goes about his business, knowing who he is as a pitcher and how he has to pitch to have success... He just needs to get out there and get innings in at the Major League level and I think he's going to be good for us."
Finally, I've updated the sidebar widget with the current best guess at an Opening Day roster, reflecting the likely composition with four starters and eight relievers, and adding Rodrigo Lopez as the likely fourth starter, given the ongoing issues being experienced by Billy Buckner. Of course, still got some unanswered questions, such as the last position player spot. We still have to see how that is going to shake down.
See those taking part tomorrow morning at 9am for the fantasy baseball draft!