There is a growing rumbling that maybe - just maybe - Russ Ortiz, Arizona's $8m man, might not make it onto the 25-man roster for Monday. Now, I admit that the evidence for this is scanty, and a huge dose of wishful thinking is involved. But what was once unthinkable is now definitely being thought - and in perhaps more realistic terms than a spirit of wild optimism. Even Gambo says, we "simply cannot afford to go through another season with Russ Ortiz pitching like garbage."
Gambo reckons Ortiz should get five starts, but there are hints that action might be taken even sooner than that. For example, the total failure by Byrnes to address the issue during yesterday's chat, when Ortiz is the elephant in the room as far as most passionate fans are concerned. I've little doubt the questions were asked - that they weren't mentioned at all, is possibly very interesting.
Then there's tonight's starter: Kevin Jarvis, a man who is not supposed to have the slightest chance of being on the 25-man roster, and was supposedly assigned to minor-league camp earlier in the day. So what was he doing starting the penultimate game of spring training? And finally, we have the comments, supposedly made by Thom Brennaman and Mark Grace during last night's game.
I didn't hear these, so this is third-hand, but Brennaman apparently hinted that shocks may be in store regarding the 25-man roster. While this was fairly vague, Grace then chimed in that it didn't matter who was guaranteed what, contract-wise. Which would seem to point the finger of that particular topic firmly at Ortiz, as I can't think of anyone else in danger of being sent down like that.
We'll see what happens - it still seems a long shot, and I won't actually believe this until I see Ortiz's sorry ass heading to Tucson for the summer. [I imagine if it does go down, we'd put him on waivers, no-one will touch him with a barge-pole, so he'll then get sent to the Sidewinders.] Of course, the honourable thing to do, would be to refuse the assignment and let the team off the hook. But hey, in his shoes, I wouldn't walk away from the $25m Joe Jr. and his cronies committed to paying him.
In the game itself, it was strangely like 2005 all over again last night, as our bullpen once again failed to hold a late lead. We were 5-3 up in the eighth inning, but Mulholland, Lyon and Valverde couldn't hold onto it, allowing two home runs among three hits and a walk, and allowing the Yankees to come back to victory. Early on, both teams were living dangerously, with neither Wang nor Jarvis particularly effective: each allowed seven hits and a walk, over four and five innings respectively. Their defenses helped out enormously, with the teams combining for five double-plays, including a rare, double-play sac. fly, that got Hudson picked off first, but allowed Counsell to score from third.
Hudson did, however, go 3-for-3 with an RBI, while Counsell had two hits and scored three times, and Koyie Hill also went 2-for-2 after replacing Snyder in the 6th inning. At the other end, Byrnes went 0-for-4 with three K's and a failed sacrifice bunt, sending his K:BB ratio for spring all the way out to 13:1. He did make a catch which brought him into close, personal contact with the outfield wall, and that probably won't be the last!
I splashed out $14.95 - I guess we can thank sportsbook.com, at left, for their kind sponsorship of this! - and bought the MLB Audio package, having discovered that XM's Online version doesn't include the baseball games. It's not bad, though the audio quality is pretty poor: even on a broadband connection, it's like listening to the games in a drain. However, how good does it need to be? Also, unlike XM, it offers both home and road feeds, so I can opt to listen to whichever I fancy.
One promising feature is, it offers an archive of previous games, although I haven't had a chance to explore this yet, so don't know what exactly it covers. It'd certainly be interesting to listen again to some of the memorable moments of D'backs history, such as Randy's perfect game, or of course, the 2001 World Series. And, perhaps, some of the disasters too - the back-to-back hammerings from the Mets last year, or even Opening Day - just to get oneself prepared for traumas yet to come!
Some discussion over whether Jerry Gil might make the team as the utility infielder (and occasional outfielder), in front of Andy Green. Both have been hitting well, but Green, the early front-runner, has made six errors and is probably weaker defensively. On the other hand, Gil's inability to take a walk seems inconsistent with the espoused team philosophy, of "work deep counts and put the ball in play". Or perhaps they will both make the team, and the "guaranteed" contract referred to by Brennaman and Grace was maybe Easley?