The first weekend of spring training is over, and boy, was it nice to find baseball news in the paper without having to hunt it down. the Diamondbacks successfully navigated it without major issue - Randy Johnson didn't break his hand playing with his kids, for example. [Can I just say, if the Griffey household is anything to go by, "rough-housing" has clearly gone hardcore since I was a child. I blame MTV.] So, let's go through our pitchers, and see what we have to report, shall we? Nice overview in USA Today, where we learn that Dana Eveland has his name tattooed across his upper back. Or maybe it's Doug Davis's name: the English in that paragraph is a bit tortuous, to tell the truth.
Anyway, we'll start with the ace of our rotation, Brandon Webb, who intends this spring to work on getting his changeup ready. "It was a really big pitch for me late. It was working real well. To get that going early and consistent, and if it was as good as it was last year, it was a huge pitch for me." And how did our Cy Young winner get to him home in Ashland this off-season? He drove there in a rented RV - and came back that way too, sleeping at truck-stops. You can take the boy out of Kentucky... :-)
However, Webb is just too quiet and unassuming to get much press. Inevitably, Randy Johnson gets most of the column-inches, speaking to the press at some length, even managing some jabs at fellow veter-ace, Roger Clemens: "Is he coming back? I think I could pitch a half-season. I don't think I'd even need surgery to do that." Another name from the past came up too: "he recalled former Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Mark Connors asking him to go one more inning "after 140 pitches and my arm dragging...That's probably why I've had all the surgeries I've had," he said."
A spot of research nails down the particular game to which he refers: July 30th, 2000, the only time he passed 142 pitches during the two seasons Johnson and Showalter were here together. That day, he threw 162 pitches against Florida, allowing two runs over seven innings, leaving with a 3-2 lead... Which Mike Morgan promptly blew, allowing three hits and two walks while retiring only two hitters in the eighth. Bet you that hurt more than Johnson's arm. I've been unable to check for sure, but I believe it's the most major-league pitches in almost fourteen years, since Tim Wakefield threw 172 for Pittsburgh, in ten innings of work on April 27, 1993.
I was also intrigued by his comments on the NY media perception of him: "The one thing that didn't sit very well is, `Oh, he's surly' and all that. Well, you're damn right if you're going use me as a floor mat and not going to know me, then yeah. I don't want to sit down and give you my time if you have your mind made up of your perception of me." Think his scary mound persona is largely to blame there. It certainly puts the fear of god into me. We may have Chad, Conor and, hell, O-Dawg, but it's Mr. Johnson to me, thankyouverymuch. Not that said media liked his comments. Witness this prime whining from the NY Daily News:
Johnson was judged here the way everybody is, on results. This is still a results place and Yankee Stadium is still a home office for that, the way it is the home office for tradition and World Series titles and the biggest money and all the rest of it. If Johnson had delivered the way he was supposed to, and that means winning the most important games he pitched for the Yankees, it would not seem so important to him that some of the people criticizing him didn't get to know what a swell guy he really is...
It wasn't the media's job to find out what he thought about global warming or Britney Spears or Barack Obama, but to write about what they were seeing on the pitcher's mound at Yankee Stadium... He says he pitched hurt and didn't want to talk about that at the time. Then don't talk about it after you're out of the room. If he pitched hurt and that is a reason why his results were what they were, then that is on him, not the people covering him or the people rooting for him, not on me or "Mike and the Mad Dog" or anybody else. It was on him. So was the incident with the guy carrying that camera, and the way he wanted what he wanted when it came to catchers. So were those Game 3 results...
This isn't about New York, and it isn't about the coverage he got here. It is about the way he pitched here. They always want you to get to know them better when they start to lose their fastball.
Ooh, get back in the knife-box, Mr. Sharp. Though it must be said, the Big Apple is not the only city where ill is spoken of the departed. Melvin manages to criticize Johnny Estrada by not talking about him: "I'm not going to talk about Johnny, but some catchers have their own ideas. Some guys are a little more apt to want to work with their pitchers as opposed to get frustrated with them." Snyder seems to concur: "You either get along with [starting pitchers] or get tired of them. If you get tired of them, you have problems. I think there were some issues with that last year."
Anyway, I digress: good to see I'm hitting my spots there this early in spring training. :-) Johnson is throwing from 150 feet, got through about 90 pitches on Saturday and reckons he could be on the mound now, but is taking things carefully. Josh Byrnes said the debut could be during our first homestand (April 9-17): see previous comments on the subject which suggest either the home opener, or the Dodger series vs. Gonzo, as the most likely dates.
After his flashy entrance by limo on Friday, Hernandez 2.0 seems to have vanished under the radar. Let's therefore move right along to Doug Davis. There was a note of concern as he missed his first bullpen session on Saturday with a stiff back. He didn't think it was of any concern, saying "it happens about twice a year". Hopefully, that is indeed the case: he played catch yesterday, and all being well, he'll be throwing off the mound today or tomorrow. Definitely too early to be pushing things at all.
Down at the back end of the rotation, EdGon is Samson, not having cut his hair since last September. "When I came back up I pitched well. I decided it was a good luck charm for me. So I didn't cut it," said Gonzalez, who reported to camp with six-inch hair that spilled out of his cap." And EnGon cut back on his workload this winter, at the request of the club. They think the 60-70 innings he threw in 2005-06 winter ball, may have contributed to him wearing down during last season.
Got my first trip to Spring Training pencilled in: March 2nd, down in Tucson, along with Shoewizard, TAP (co-admin over at DBBP) and Scott, who publishes the unofficial D-backs program. Should be a fun time, even it will be the furthest I've been away from Mrs. SnakePit, who's working that day, since we got married. :-( I shall clutch a photo of her tenderly between innings. ;-) Photos and stuff will follow, I've no doubt. And please continue to vote in the poll: at the moment, it looks like I'll be wearing #17 this year, though Drew is not far behind.