To my irritation, I only discovered in the ninth inning that today's game against the White Sox was actually being broadcast live on WGN. Though it's probably for the best, given the backlog of "stuff to get done" which I was carrying - the last thing I really needed was to spend three more hours slumped in an arm-chair. Instead, I wrote a beginner's guide to the Diamondbacks, for AZ Sportshub, got caught up on three overdue film reviews, and polished my upcoming season preview for Deadspin. So I feel somewhat accomplished: and besides, I'll be slumping in an arm-chair tomorrow afternoon anyway.
Tuned in just in time to see Tony Peña mow down the White Sox in order, to save the win by a score of 5-4. [Some familiar faces on the Chicago team: Luis Terrero and Alex Cintron both present - they were 0-for-7 combined] Doug Davis pitched five innings, allowed seven hits and a walk, but struck out four and, by most accounts, pitched pretty well - his stats suffered from some bloops and seeing-eye singles. Lyon pitched a perfect sixth, but Julio blew the lead in the seventh on a one-out solo homer to Erstad. Medders walked on in the eighth, then Peña did his thing very nicely in the ninth.
Chad Tracy had another good day, reaching base safely all four times he came up, on two hits and two walks, driving in two as well - his spring average is now a healthy .317, having gone 11-for-22 since the 15th. Hudson and Hairston each had a pair of knocks and an RBI, while Drew, batting leadoff, stole a base in addition to his two hits. Hudson also made a couple of great plays with the glove, and all told, this seems to have been a solid performance from what was largely our A-team.
And that was only a fraction of the Diamondbacks action for the day: to begin with, it was one half of a split-squad game, with the others playing San Diego. There, Micah Owings had a good showing, pitching four shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks. Doug Slaten pitched a scoreless fifth, but...then got lit up as part of the Padres seven-run sixth, which blew a 5-0 AZ lead. The real damage came on a three-run homer off Castellanos, after Slaten had left, but so far, we've seen little to suggest he has the capacity to be anything more than a LOOGY. Jeff Bajenaru allowed a hit, a walk and three stolen bases in his inning, yet somehow still managed to post a zero.
Young and Jackson were the only two starters to be playing in this, with the starting line-up also including names like Parra, Merrill, Rahl, Santana and Bruce. Still, they performed credibly against a solid Padres team that had Giles, Greene, Gonzalez and Kouzmanoff all present. They only managed five hits, but took six walks (two for Montero) and half the six strikeouts belonged to left-fielder Rahl, who has yet to get a hit this spring.
The third Diamondbacks game, while unofficial, may have been the most important. For that was, of course, Randy Johnson's first appearance, in a morning B-squad game against the W. And here's the neutral report from mlb.com:
Obviously, that's a relief, even if we're still some way off his first appearance in the major-leagues, probably four weeks or so. He'll now be going onto a regular five-day rotation, with his next appearance thus scheduled for Thursday at Chase Field. If that spacing is maintained, then we would indeed be looking at April 18 or 24 for his return (there's no April 23 game). Both games would be against the Padres: the former in Petco, a Wednesday-night game; the latter back in Phoenix on a Tuesday evening.
Looks like our old pal Kim is moving back to the bullpen in Colorado, though he's not happy about it. "It's not right, I think. If they say, 'Competition, do this,' I don't do any 'try.' It's not right. Hopefully, I've talked to my agent, and I'll see. They're trying to [trade Kim] and they're going to find something. I don't know. Hopefully." Hey, maybe we can bring him back to Arizona, to pitch alongside Randy once more? :-) Okay, maybe not...
Seems I set the mark in the "How many wins?" poll question a little on the pessimistic side. Hardly anyone at the moment (save Ben!) is echoing the Vegas odds, which reckon we'll end up under .500. Good to see such enthusiasm and optimism, even if it may be a little too early to claim any degree of confidence in our predictions. Personally, I do tend to think we'll be over .500, but it wouldn't take all that many bad breaks for the season to go down the tubes. [It wouldn't be the end of the world if it did, since our future remains bright for 2008 on. I think contention this year will be more a pleasant bonus than anything.]
Our pitching, in particular, seems thin: we could lose a couple of position players without too much impact, I think, but if Webb or Johnson, say, were to go down, the replacement-level alternatives would be significantly worse. Admittedly, the same could be said for any team (I see the Yankees have, er, lost their Wang for a month or more), and that position strength means we're in better shape than many. Hairston, Callaspo and Montero could probably start on a number of National League outfits and not disgrace themselves.