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Down to the wire...

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Always good when fans of the team on the other end of a trade are upset about it. It makes me feel much more confident, especially when prospects I know little about are involved. So, I'm pleased to read the Fish Stripes take on the Julio deal:

The organization is going to pay Julio $2.1 million to walk batters and throw gopher balls, it's what he has done in the past, just because they think we need someone has been in the closer spot before. I still don't see it. If the front office wanted an experienced closer, it seems to me that the money would have been better spent on a pitcher who could... you know, actually close out a game. Since Julio is now a Marlin, I will let this drop, at least for now. And cheer him on with all my voice but the logic of this is still baffling to me.

Otherwise, reaction to the trade seem somewhat muted - perhaps because we've been expecting it since the end of last season. It seems much less worthy of discussion than, say, Carlos Quentin's injury or Randy Johnson's recovery. I think many fans had already written off Julio, as far as contributing to the team during 2007. So this news is simply the confirmation of these expectations. We do, however, still wait for official word on how much cash went with Jorge: the East Coast media are generally reporting a significantly higher value than the Arizona press, presumably both sides trying to spin the deal in the best light for their team. We'll see who was right...

With Enrique Gonzales swinging from brilliant to awful in his last outing, the final, albeit temporary, spot in the D-backs rotation appears still to be up for grabs at the moment. Here are the stats of the remaining four contenders: I've excluded Edgar Gonzalez from the list, as he seems to have locked in the permanent spot which was available, and also new boy Petit, since he doesn't appear to be seriously getting considered. Only "official" games are included in these numbers, not B-squad contests.

          IP  H BB  K  ER   ERA
EnGon   19.1 24  3  9  14  6.52
Owings  14.0 11  6 11   3  1.93
Nippert 10.2  9  7  7   4  3.38
Eveland  8.0  9  4  2   2  2.25

No real doubt, Owings has had the best spring, though I still have some qualms about using him. Does he have enough pitches to go through a lineup at least three times without getting lit up? I'm not sure about that, but maybe his last spring training start might give us a clue regarding this. Hefty K's for Owings, which does suggest he's got something going for him: what, and how much, I'll leave to those who've seen him pitch more often than...never.

Neither Nippert nor Eveland seem to have got enough innings under their belt yet: unless you take those B-games into account, and if spring stats are meaningless, spring B-games are even more so. I think the rain-outs over the weekend have probably hurt them. Eveland will start today, but I think his destination is likely to be the bullpen, where we could use a long reliever. I think he's more suited to the role than Owings. Nippert still has a year of options left, so that will probably be used. He's not getting any younger though, and will turn 26 in May. I'd like to see Nippert get a good shot this year - if for no other reason than the SnakePit sponsors his page. And all the good D-backs are now taken. :-)

EnGon just hasn't been consistent enough this spring to get the nod. Admittedly, more than one-third of those earned runs came in just an inning of work today, but I seem to recall the "one bad frame" was his undoing a fair bit last year too. Particularly the first, where opponents batted .370 against him, and he allowed 25 runs in just 18 appearances. That contrasts sharply with the five second-inning runs he allowed, also in 18 appearances. Similarly, in those eighteen opening frames, he also allowed 13 walks and hit two batters: that compares to 21 walks and 2 HBP combined for innings 2-9. Until he can prove his ability to stop the bleeding, I'd rather see him in Tucson.

Interesting artice on CoJack, and his attempts to incorporate a toe-tap move into his swing. However, as someone expected to lead the team in average this year, he's not doing too much: "If you can incorporate the toe-tap, get a little more movement back, you're going to sacrifice a couple of things. You might strike out a few more times, might get fooled on a couple of more pitches. I'm trying to keep the same swing, but just incorporate a little more juice behind it. Just get those doubles maybe going over the fence... If you do the opposite where you try for power before you learn how to hit, you're going to struggle," he said. Very sensible, sir: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Just stumbled across a particularly irritating puff piece on Gonzo: "Guess who's the new most-popular guy in Dodger blue?" This is, apparently, because he bought 30 pizzas for his team-mates. Ooh, the generosity. The guy's a frickin' gazillionaire: I worked it out, and that's about the equivalent of me going to the vending machine and buying a Twix for the office. Go nuts, boys... It also makes much of him hitting .300 this spring - though since the article, he's slumped back to .265. Which is 24 points lower than he hit for Arizona last spring, and we know how that ended. Aargh. Such lacklustre writing is tough to stomach, coming from a supposed professional, but given where Reaves' tongue apparently was, I'm impressed he could reach the keyboard.