Mrs. SnakePit's mother turned 78 yesterday, so we took her out for dinner. Have to say, I hope I'm anywhere near as sprightly at her age; she's totally independent and keenly interested in... Well, that's perhaps the only problem. She is a total mark for the checkout tabloids - and she decided, very early on, that since I'm British, I must, therefore be deeply interested in the goings on of the Royal family. I feigned polite interest - a fatal mistake, since six years later, I'm still getting frequent, in-depth bulletins. [We even recorded some of her commentaries and built a website around them: please feel free to check out CarmenRants.com]
Last night I discovered there a topic on which she can expound at even greater length: Anna Nicole Smith. Wow. That's all I have to say. My mother-in-law could recite the entire autopsy report word-for-word, without pausing for breath. Of course, in forty years' time, I'll likely be ranting to disinterested offspring, about how baseball isn't like the good old days, when players just took good old-fashioned steroids, no, sir, these genetically-engineered, vat-grown forearms have turned the game into a travesty and don't even get me started on the Giants' new cybernetic left fielder... By that stage, this blog will probably be available as a holographic presentation, so my elderly sarcasm can be enjoyed in three glorious dimensions.
Speaking of geriatrics with unexpected energy and zest for life... Okay, a lame transition to Randy Johnson's appearance at Chase Field. But, ooh, is there anyone in the National League who didn't get a chill down their spine, looking at the results there? Three innings pitched, the minimum nine batters faced and five of them retired on strikeouts. He only needed 38 pitches for the three innings, 28 for strikes. It looks like Mr. Snappy - the Big Unit's slider - is back in full effect, even though he was helped by a pair of double-plays, and this was not the greatest Padres line-up. Still, the performance can only be good news for us, and an ominous rumble of thunder as far as the rest of the teams in the division are concerned.
The team went down 5-3, with Micah Owings, who followed Johnson to the mound, taking the loss: in four innings, he gave up eight hits and four earned runs, but fanned four and walked none. Seems to me the balance tilted a little further towards Nippert after this performance, and going by the poll results, most of you seem to agree. Elliott and Harville tidied up the remaining two innings. We outhit the Padres 13-12, but were hurt by three double-plays of our own, and also left ten men on base: Snyder was 0-for-4 with six men left, for example. Tracy, however, went 3-for-4 with a walk as well, and Hudson reached three times on two hits and a walk.
Another starter pitched yesterday, Doug Davis having a mediocre game: five innings, nine hits, four runs, all earned. Five K's to one walk, it's true, but not the final tune-up he wanted, in front of a record crowd of 12,917 in Mesa. Worse yet was Carrasco, who gave up four hits and a walk, with a three-run homer to Hoffpauir the only damage. It was almost a D-backs 'B'-squad, with Davis, Brandon Lyon and Miguel Montero the only ones sighted who'll be on the Opening Day roster. Center-fielder Thompson and second-baseman Erickson had two hits apiece, while Montero had a two-run double to give Arizona the lead in the first, though we went down 7-4 in the end. Ria Cortesio, as noted yesterday, worked the game; she was at first base, and was solid by all accounts.
Some interesting movements on the roster yesterday: Eveland and Enrique Gonzalez were both optioned down to Tucson. This basically reduces the candidates for the fifth starting position to Nippert and Owings. In the Tribune yesterday, Jack Magruder speculated that we might keep 14 position players on the roster for Opening Day, and only 11 pitchers, then bring Owings up for the April 6 game. However, based on tonight's performance, it will be Nippert who is more likely to get the call.
There was also the dropping of Krynzel, and the pickup of J.D.Durbin. We have ten days to work out a trade for the former, or else he'll be put on waivers and probably snapped up by someone like the Marlins. He's had a good spring, and there might be someone, lower down the waiver list, that's prepared to offer a bag of balls for him. Given he was apparently little more than a throw-in during the Davis trade, getting anything in exchange would be nice. I guess there is a chance he'll pass through and be available in Tucson, should he be required. No great loss if he doesn't.
It unclogs competition for the roster spots a bit: Salazar, Hammock or Barden seem the candidates there. Looks like there'll be two slots available initially, because it seems Quentin will be joining DaVanon on the DL too, with Melvin giving him only a 10% chance of being ready for Monday. If he doesn't, he'll need to be out at least until April 7. Of the above trio, my guess would be Hammock and Salazar make it onto the Opening Day roster, mostly based on the need for backup outfielders.
As for Durbin, it's a somewhat curious move, as he's out of options too, so either has to stay with the team or they'll have to sneak him through waivers. Nick P reckons Durbin will go into the bullpen, completing the line-up there. His minor-league stats are solid [3.16 ERA in seven seasons, 607:258 K:BB ratio] but he hasn't yet lived up to expectations as a 2nd-round draft pick. Oh, and he's a local boy, out of Coronado High School in Scottsdale.
Amused to read his 2006 season was wrecked by sleeping with his arm hanging off the bed, which screwed up the nerves in it. I often fall asleep with my head on my arm, and know the tingly feeling that produces, so can sympathize. Still, that's reminiscent of Brian Anderson, who missed a 1998 start when his arm stiffened up after he laid it across the back of a cab seat. Or perhaps Jose Valverde, who currently has a blood blister, after slamming his finger in a car door. Are the baseball gods unhappy with Arizona?
The Republic has a big pullout section today on the D-Backs Decade...even though at time of writing, it's actually been less than nine years since their first game. The excuse is this will be their tenth season, and I'm not inclined to argue, since the pullout is definitely a keeper, with a year-by-year summary, and a bunch of other stuff too. That includes the All-Time Team, based on the poll they had on their site: basically the 2001 line-up. There's an online version that's worth a look.
Over at the WSJ, they got a panel of baseball writers together and asked them for their predictions. The highlights:
- Four of the eleven think Arizona will win the NL West
- Joe Sheehan thinks we'll win the World Series - he also reckons we'll have the biggest improvement in our record
- Paul Steiger predicts Webb for the Cy Young; Brandon Stroud goes for Randy Johnson
- The majority (six) pencil Chris Young in as NL Rookie of the Year
- Stroud think we'll have only one All-Star. Presumably, Johnson.
Sportable.com have their AZ preview up as well, though though won't win many friends here with this opening sentence: "When the Diamondbacks take the field next week, you might think they’re the the Houston Astros." Enough, already, with the 'Stros comparisons, okay? But after that, it improves, with kind words about our position players and effective mini-portraits of the team. Though I would probably have added the important word "potentially", to the description of the rotation as "among the best in baseball." And are we really referring to these players as the Baby Backs? That's soooooo 2003! :-) Don't think we ever decided what to call them: I like "Desert Rats" or "Young Bloods" myself...
Oh, and my DeadSpin preview should be going up today, according to Will: I'll add a link when I see it's been posted there.