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Spring in our Step

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We're almost two weeks into spring training, but neither of the two major issues which it was supposed to settle, have really progressed much.

#1 Who's going to be the main catcher?
Kelly Stinnett is almost guaranteed to be the backup, but which of our young prospects will get the nod? Chris Snyder or Koyie Hill? It's still likely to be Hill, and he has hit .412 so far...but Snyder is hitting better still, at a very impressive .462. Stinnett, incidentally, is in the middle at .429. Admittedly, we're talking a small sample size - none of them have more than 17 AB's - and this is spring training, but you'd have got good odds against all three of our catchers hitting over .400 after fourteen games. Doubt this will be the case in the regular season though.

Behind the plate - rather than standing beside it - the word is that Hill may have caught up with Snyder, who was generally regarded as being the better defensive catcher before training started. Hill has impressed the D'backs staff by communicating well with the pitchers, and that's one of those intangibles that could well have a bearing. He'd better make the most of it, as I fully expect Snyder to be the Opening Day catcher come 2006.

#2 Who's going to be the fifth starter?
The last slot in the rotation was totally up for grabs: Casey Daigle, Michael Gosling, Brad Halsey, Edgar Gonzalez, Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal. Brad Halsey (whom I keep wanting to call "Dean", for reasons which will be familiar to fans of Re-Animator) became the front runner with five-innings of one-hit ball. Then he actually got a start: three innings, five hits, four runs. At least the competition has been thinned out somewhat, with Daigle one of six pitchers sent packing from the island - the tribe has spoken... The stats on the other five so far:
                IP H ER ERA
Gonzalez  1.0  0   0 0.00
Cormier   5.2  4   1 1.59
Halsey     8.0  6   4 3.38
Gosling    6.1 10  6 8.53
Villarreal  5.2  7   6 9.52
[Apologies for the wobbly formatting - haven't worked out how to do a fixed-size font yet!]

For me, it comes down to Cormier and Halsey at the moment: Edgar Gonzalez hasn't seen enough work to make me think they're looking at him as a starter (though I'm not 100% sure of the ESPN stats - there's another "E Gonzalez" in camp, Enrique, who posted a 23.60 ERA before getting dropped), while Gosling and Villarreal have been less than impressive. Cormier has slightly more major-league experience (45.1 innings vs. 32), but neither set the world on fire last year (ERAs of 8.14 and 6.47).

There was one other comment on the cuts that bears mentioning: regarding 35-year old lefty reliever Donovan Osborne, Melvin said, "This is a veteran guy who really is a class act. We wanted to give him some time to go out there and hook on with somebody else. If you go down to the end like that with a veteran guy, he's got no chance to go somewhere else. In that respect, we're trying to show him a little respect. It's tough to release a guy like that who's been such a good soldier here; he does everything that we're about, and he works his butt off. That was a very difficult one." Of course, you could argue that keeping him dangling on is crueller still, and with an ERA so far of 18.00, I hope this really wasn't a difficult decision at all.

Being fair to Osborne, he only pitched three innings (gave up seven hits and two walks though!). Other departees include Justin Wechsler, who got exactly two innings of work and allowed one hit, and Dustin Nippert, whom I don't think got to throw a pitch at all. Nippert was coming back from Tommy John, and I know spring training is as much a nod to the future, plus pitchers were likely monitored in bullpen sessions, etc. but I can't help wondering whether the likes of Wechsler couldn't have spent their time more productively elsewhere.