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Cactus Closure

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Well, that's the Hot Stove out of the way - and with three days to go, too. It seemed like such a good idea, when I started it, all the way back on November 10; suffice it to say, I'll be happy if I don't see another warm cooking implement until this November. But just about everything is now set, bar some minor roster adjustments: all that stands between us and our first game is a couple of contests against some second-rate outfit called the Yankees. :-)

Looks like we'll be bidding farewell to Luis Terrero and Koyie Hill, as both are unlikely to find a roster spot, and neither have any minor-league options left. Terrero has already been placed on waivers, and we'll see whether anyone pounces: I suspect they might, even though his spring numbers have been less than stellar, and most other teams already have their rosters set. This move frees a 40-man roster spot, almost certainly for Terry Mulholland.

I suspect we are hanging on to Koyie Hill until the last possible moment, to see if we could work out a trade with someone - anyone! - rather than having to dump him on waivers too. Milwaukee and Boston are reported to have sent out feelers there. But part of the problem is, every other GM will know the situation in Arizona, so why bother to give us anything, when you can just wait and have a chance at picking Hill off the waiver wire for nothing? I suspect that's probably going to be what ends up happening.

With the departure of Bajenaru for Tucson, the last spot in the bullpen is now down to Daigle or Aquino. Both men have factors in their favour: Aquino is already on the 40-man roster, but we saw him pitch in the big leagues last year, and the results were pretty dreadful, while Daigle is an unknown, at least in the new, improved Casey v2.0. Both have pitched well this spring, but I am not convinced this is other than some kind of desert mirage. Either way, it may end up being a short stint with the winner, or possibly Brandon Lyon, getting sent back down to Tucson when Brandon Medders recovers. He faced opposing hitters for the first time, and reported no problems - April 8 is his earliest date to come back, although it might be a little beyond that.

Quickly cranking back the time machine to Wednesday's game, we suffered a 6-10 loss to the Rockies, DaVanon had three hits, and Jesus Cota a two-run double. Cruz pitched three hitless innings, and I would not be at all surprised if he ends up in the rotation before very long. Hopefully replacing Ortiz: of the eight hits Russ surrendered, six went for extra bases, so you know we weren't talking bloops and bleeders.

He wasn't the only D'backs starting pitcher who sucked that day. Somewhat more worryingly, Brandon Webb allowed seven earned runs on eleven hits over five innings against a team of White Sox minor leaguers. Pitching coach Bryan Price was less concerned: "The only thing he couldn't do was have them hit it where we had somebody standing. We accomplished what we wanted... The line score wasn't drastically different from the one that he had against Milwaukee in his previous start, but the quality of his start was way better."

Since the birth of his daughter, Webb has fallen apart in his lines - many more of these, and we should be checking Reagan for a Satanic birthmark on the back of her neck... Hey, you give your daughter a name that's part The Exorcist, part the President who viewed nuclear war as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, whaddya expect will happen? Let's just hope Brandon isn't scheduled to pitch on 6/6/06, or all hell might break loose. Literally. 8-) Maybe that's another factor in favour of Aquino, given Mrs. Daigle, Jennie Finch, is due to pop a sprog out in about three weeks. One new Dad on the roster is enough!

Thursday brought another rough outing by a member of our rotation, Orlando Hernandez getting cuffed about to the tune of nine hits and two walks over four innings. The Cubs sprinted off to a 4-0 lead, thanks to homers by Ramirez and Jones, rolling thereafter to an easy 7-4 victory. Vizcaino loaded the bases in the fifth but escaped without damage to his ERA. Aquino allowed one hit in the sixth and on the basis of this showing will get the final bullpen spot, as Casey Daigle followed him and gave up five hits in two innings - though only one run resulted. Melvin says the decision had basically been made, however, just not announced.

We were severely out-pounded, 16 hits to six - Estrada went 2-for-3 with a home run, while Byrnes had a two-RBI single, and Hill a sacrifice fly. The brightest spot was, again, our patience at the plate. We got nine free passes: the 5-6 spots (Gonzo, his LF replacement Garrabrants, and Tony Clark) went 0-for-2 with six walks. On the other hand, the 1-2 (Counsell + Gil) were 0-for-5 with four K's, and we also loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but failed to score.

And that brings the Cactus League games to an end. I'm not certain whether the Yankee games are included in spring training stats (those may just cover the Cactus League games), so I'll hold fire on the overall Heroes and Zeroes until I see that. Overall, a decent performance from our hitters, and the prospects almost without exception lived up to, or surpassed, their billing. The pitching, on the other hand - sheesh. None of our starters managed a spring ERA under 4.50, and three were at 6.30 or worse. The overall ERA? 6.32. I know, I know: small sample size. But it's the nine-innings sample size, starting Monday, which concern me the most...