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Lazy Sunday afternoon?

Well, not so lazy, I guess: I've been fairly productive, actually, got three film reviews written, and called my parents in Scotland, to speak to them before they depart for their latest holiday in Sri Lanka [I know - not our kind of holiday destination either. We think they're really undercover agents for MI6]. The backyard also got tidied up in preparation for next Saturday's barbecue. Or is barbeque? Or perhaps even B-B-Q? Dammit, I don't know: it's not something that you need to know how to spell in Britain.

That's because there are only about two days per summer where outdoor cooking of any kind is a viable proposition, and you never know when they'll be. Such events are, in general, therefore doomed to fail. I recall, vividly, standing around a barbecue as a steady drizzle descended, muttering encouraging comments like, "I think it almost caught light that time." Okay, Arizona might tilt too far the other way: during summer here, you don't actually need a barbecue to cook burgers, since the bonnet of your car will do very well. But, in general, it's definitely a better climate for that kind of things.

Two Cactus League games to report on, from yesterday and today. Saturday's game proved very disappointing for Enrique Gonzalez: he got thrashed about by the Brewers, as we blew a 6-1 lead, going down by the odd run in seventeen. Dana Eveland got the start for Arizona, against his old team, and pitched solidly enough, allowing one run on three hits over three innings. But EnGon got lit up, to the tune of nine hits and seven runs (six earned) in 2.1 innings, thanks in part to two homers. Valverde came in and while his line looks okay (one hit and two walks in 1.2 innings), he surrendered the lead, as part of the Brewers four-run sixth. Cruz took the loss, giving up a walk in the eighth, which was followed by an RBI double.

Our offense delivered a better fate, pounding out 17 hits. Callaspo went 3-for-4, including a homer, and Byrnes, batting leadoff, had a pair of doubles and two RBI. Hairston and Drew each went 2-for-4, with Hairston getting his third of spring. Tracy added his first shot of the season, a three-run shot off Brewers starter Jeff Suppan in the third. The signatory of the biggest contract in Brewers history (four year, $42m) struggled through three innings, allowing five runs before his team-mates bailed him out. We had the tying run at third in the ninth, with one out, but Turnbow retired the next two to preserve the win for Milwaukee.

That poor outing may not have totally condemned Enrique to Tucson, though it probably can't have helped his cause. Bob Melvin has been cautious, saying nothing will be decided until starters begin to go five innings or thereabout, after Wednesday's off-day. Said Melvin, "Two- or three-inning stints aren't as good a read, because a lot of times, you can get away with two pitches, whereas [for] a starter going into the fifth inning, all your pitches come into play. That's when we start taking a little bit [of a] harder look at the competition." Here are the lines posted by the candidates thus far, usual warnings apply for the tiny sample size:

          IP  H BB  K ER
Eveland  6.0  6  0  2  1
Ed.Gon   5.0  6  1  2  2
En.Gon   5.1 10  0  1  6
MacLane  6.0  5  4  3  2
Nippert  4.0  2  1  3  0
Owings   4.0  3  2  4  1

Thus far, EdGon has done nothing to dissuade anyone from thinking he'll be the permanent number five, not least because he's out of options so can't be sent to Tucson without being placed on the waiver wire - and that ain't gonna happen. A little more interesting when things get down to the temporary replacement for the Big Unit. Eveland has been perhaps the most impressive so far, but he's far from a lock, with Nippert and Owings in the same area. Nippert has more experience; Eveland would be another left-hander. Owings doesn't appear yet to be on the 40-man roster, but we do have a spare slot.

Today, we faced our divisional rivals in the Padres, which may explain why most of our regular pitching staff (not least Brandon Webb) were not to be found. No point giving the Padres any more at-bats against them, than absolutely necessary. So, it'd be little surprise if there was much checking of the scorecard at Tucson Electric Park this afternoon, for the following names: MacLane, Carrasco, Smith, Peguero, Bajenaru and Daigle. That entire lineup had 13.1 innings of major-league exposure last year - and all but one of that came from Casey. Doesn't seem a good omen for him making the 25-man roster on Opening Day.

MacLane pitched two innings, and was ho-hum, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk. Carrasco followed him, and did strike out four in his two frames, getting the victory, but also gave up two runs, on two hits and a walk. After Smith, Peguero pitched a perfect seventh, and Bajenaru struck out two, round a walk and a hit. Daigle did let the Padres score twice, but both were unearned, thanks to an error from left-fielder Brown.

Byrnes batted leadoff again (sigh...), and had another good day (double sigh...), going 3-for-3, including a wind-assisted homer, scoring twice. Hudson went 2-for-2, and had a pair of walks (now, that's a leadoff hitter - look, I'll repeat it in bold) and had a pair of walks, while Barden also had two hits. But Arizona seemed to get a lot of help from the Padres, and we only notched five RBIs, despite scoring ten runs. Seven walks in total for the Diamondbacks, and Upton stole his first base of the year, though later hit into a double-play.

There was really a game and a half today, with Brandon Webb and others taking part in a 'B'-squad game in the morning. That seems standard practice for Melvin, as Hernandez 2.0 will experience the same thing tomorrow, as his team-mates play the Rockies. There's no official box-score available, but Webb pitched four innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks against a strong White Sox lineup. He said, "I walked a couple again. I don't know where that's coming from. And I threw a couple of pitches I probably wouldn't have thrown in a regular game, made some mistakes." The walks are a bit odd: all told, including today's B-game, that's five in nine innings, way more than usual. But it's far too early to panic.

In the same game, Chris Snyder went 3-for-4, with a walk, two RBIs and two runs. He came a triple short of the cycle, but never gave that serious thought, saying "I think the last triple I hit might have been in Little League, if I hit one there." We scurried to the record books, and found he is, in fact, mistaken. Snyder hit, not one but two of them in Lancaster during his time there in 2003. Since then, however: 1140 at-bats, 282 three-baggers.

Finally, Jack Magruder in the Tribune looks at our rotation, finding it "among the most durable in baseball." Eight pitchers in the majors have made 101 or more starts since 2004: four of them will play for the Diamondbacks this year. Interesting comment from pitching coach Bryan Price: "We had a lot of games that unfortunately got out of control in the first half of the season in the first two or three innings last year, and that really put us behind the eight-ball." Anyone who remembers our first-inning troubles (outscored 144-70 there last year) will know that's something we definitely want to avoid.