And so endeth more than 64 years of spring training baseball in Tucson. John Hester becomes the answer to a trivia question, making the last out in the formal history of the Cactus League in Pima County. While it's not impossible teams will come back for occasional visits in future seasons, these will be the spring training equivalent of drunk-dialing your ex-girlfriend for a booty call.
Colorado came out victorious in the last of Tucson, pipping Arizona by the odd run in seven. Kris Benson struggled with his control, walking four in 4.2 innings, and that was one of the themes of the day, as our pitchers handed out eight free passes in all. Failed fundamentals were also unfortunately on view, with a number of incidents which suggest we could still be provoked into throwing things at our TV sets by the 2010 Diamondbacks. Details after the jump.
First of all, memo to our fielders. I know it may look really "cool" to catch a ball one-handed, but any hipness points such attempts may gain are flushed down the sewer, and then some, when the ball clangs off your glove. While there's a case to be made that conditions may have played their part - neither of today's examples, by Justin Upton and Kelly Johnson, were scored as errors - few things infuriate fans more, that what appears to be casual play. If AJ Hinch would fine players for unnecessary one-handed catches, it may or may not do anything for the team's fielding percentage, but it'd certainly help fans' blood-pressure.
And then there's Chris Young, who contributed not one, but two entries to the Hall of Infamy [Spring Training Wing]. To quote kishi's report in the Gameday Thread, "Pop-up around home plate landed just out of the catcher’s reach, in fair territory. But, for some reason, CY just stood at home until they picked up the ball and threw him out." And in the fourth, while he drove a run in with a single, he seemed to think the throw from the outfield was going home and got himself nailed, over-running first. The good news is, said Hall wing will be boarded up after Saturday, but it's definitely not quite the crisp, fundamentally-sound baseball we wanted to see.
Benson got the start for Arizona, and we continue to shuffle the deck as far as possibilities for a Webb replacement go this season. He walked the first batter he faced on four straight balls, which pretty much set the tone of the afternoon's proceedings. He allowed a two-run single in the first, but then settled down a bit, until the fifth, when he was lifted with two outs, after walking the bases-loaded. One thing noted by Jack Macgruder, during Fox Sports Arizona's game chat, was that Benson was keeping the ball down - only two of the 14 outs recorded were in the air. He allowed five hits, and it was the free passes that hurt.
Said Hinch, "He looked tired by the end. "He got up to 75 pitches on a minor league back field but that’s different than here" - Benson threw 84 pitches this afternoon. He seemed fairly content with his performance, and three runs over five innings is not a horrible performance from your #5 starter. Afterward, Benson commented, “I didn’t want to end the game the way I did, but at the same time I know I’m a couple of starts away from where I want to be... My stuff isn’t major-league ready, but I can definitely contribute to this team, and I definitely have experience that can help this team.“
Following him, Clay Zavada entered, walking in a run before ending the fifth, and TJ Beam extended the Rockies lead to 4-1 in the eighth. Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman followed with scoreless, if imperfect in the former's case, innings of work. It's encouraging to see that the results for both men seem to have improved of late, as we head toward the end of spring training: Howry has allowed only one run in four outings since March 18th, and Heilman one in five innings since the disaster which was the game against the Royals, after which his Cactus League ERA was 14.40.
Offensively, we pretty much played the Rockies to a tie, each side managing seven hits, two of them for extra bases. Augie Ojeda had a couple of knocks, while Upton had a hit and a walk. Arizona came back to make a game of it in the ninth, thanks to an RBI double by Rusty Ryal and a Colorado error that put the tying run on base. However, Hester left the comeback just short, closing the book on Tucson spring training just after 4pm, in front of a crowd announced as 6,817 on a breezy day at Hi Corbett. Hester was also the last out at TEP yesterday.
Over 300 comments today - albeit thanks to a late burst from Rockkstarr12! BattleMoses, kishi and snakecharmer headed the rollcall, with Turambar, 4 Corners Fan, pygalgia, Amit, emilylovesthedbacks, soco and snakeoil14 also putting in their two cents. Split-squad game for Arizona tomorrow, but with rain forecast all day it might be a bit iffy. That could mean Edwin Jackson throwing elsewhere, in order to keep him on his normal rotation, with the second game of the season scheduled for five days from tomorrow.