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Variety is the spice of life.

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I love our weird little existence. We started the evening by watching Eat Your Heart Out, a film about a cannibal hooker. Then we went to a synagogue to celebrate Purim - okay, we were only there to lend support to a comedian friend of ours (non-Jewish too!) who was performing there. And we finished the night at The Sets, watching local gods of the electro-industrial scene, The Strand and N17. That's what I call a wide and varied evening. Anyway, the Arizona Diamondbacks will not be going through 2007 undefeated, losing by the odd run in eleven to the White Sox today.

Doug Davis started, allowing one run on two hits and a walk over two innings, striking out one. Carrasco followed with exactly the same line, and Medders pitched a scoreless fifth. But Murphy took the loss for two runs, one earned, in his two innings of work, though Jeff Bajenaru impressed no-one in the eighth, giving up four hits and two earned runs. Jackson went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Chris Carter also was 2-for-3. The game ended when Rich Thompson was thrown out at the plate, trying to score the tying run. Ah, well: can't win 'em all. With that, we shrug and move on.

Did A-Rod nearly become AZ-Rod? That's the startling claim of a report on Sports Illustrated which says, "People familiar with trade inquiries made for Rodriguez last summer tell that no fewer than eight teams -- some of them shocking -- asked about him. One person with connections to the Yankees identified the teams as the Angels, Dodgers, White Sox, Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Indians." Now, it's obviously impossible to say how far this went: it could simply have been a polite enquiry, simply JB doing due diligence. He said, "The amount of discussions we have with clubs, we probably talk about every player on every team to some degree of seriousness. But I don't really want to discuss that or the nature of it in much more detail."

Fairly glad it didn't work out, given A-Rod can simply walk away from his contract after 2007, from whichever team has him. But it's interesting, in the context that it indicates Tracy's position at third may not be entirely secure, with the team apparently open to alternatives. The reason for this is clearly visible in his career splits:
Tracy vs RHP: .311/.369/.508 = .877 OPS
Tracy vs LHP: .228/.282/.349 = .631 OPS

And that's after three more or less full seasons, now with 413 PAs versus southpaws, so it's increasingly-difficult to claim small sample size as a defense. Last year's stats (.231/.281/.346) showed little or no signs of improvement either. As somebody said yesterday at TEP, one more season with those kind of figures, and Tracy will be fit for nothing more than platooning, rather than being the offensive cornerstone we hoped for after 2005.

Crank up Wild Thing, as we check in with Jason Neighborgall, our third-round draft pick in 2005, who can bring it at 102 mph. In two seasons since, he has pitched 35.2 innings, striking out 45...but the problem is, he has walked ninety-one with forty-five wild pitches, resulting in an ERA of 14.83. The Republic holds out hope. "This spring, working with Diamondbacks Double-A pitching coach Dan Carlson, he has "simplified things."... He threw a handful of side sessions and, Carlson said, has shown "dramatic improvements." He threw to hitters for the first time last week and came away encouraged. "(The hitters) were talking about how lively his fastball was," Carlson said."

I'd probably be a good deal more excited if I hadn't also found this quote: "I think this summer he did a lot of soul searching and accepted that his control issues were his problem, not somebody else's. He came the fall with renewed confidence and renewed commitment, and now we're seeing the results." The bad news is, that comes from back in March 2005. So probably not coming soon to Chase, it would appear - but if he does, they might want to extend the netting behind home plate, and make sure he pitches on Batting Helmet giveaway night.

Speaking of troublesome pitching prospects, the team sent Josh Byrnes and a couple of executives to call on first-round pick and long-term holdout, Max Scherzer. However, they said they weren't negotiating, just letting him "get a feel for our organization. We are proud of who we are and of how we can develop pitchers into major leaguers. We wanted a guy at his age to see the kind of team he could be playing on in the next couple of years." Whether that will be enough to get Scherzer to convince his Satanic agent, Scott Boras, that he doesn't really need a $5m signing bonus...only time will tell. We've still got till May 31st to sign him.

The line there that got me raising a quizzical eyebrow, however was, "We are proud of who we are and of how we can develop pitchers into major leaguers." This is an area where the D-backs actually appear to have been pretty deficient to date: our track record seems closer to throwing our hands in the air when a pitcher has any kind of problem, then letting another team fix them and reap the benefits. See John Patterson, Brian Bruney or (in my worst nightmares) Russ Ortiz for recent-ish examples. That hardly seems the kind of performance I'd be trumpeting to a prospective, ah, prospect: I'd go with "We're much better now." :-)

New poll up, replacing the one on who'll hit the most homers this year. Quentin was the choice of 43% of voters, with last year's champion, Eric Byrnes, languishing on 9%: perhaps an indication people reckon he'll be traded before season end? The new question is, who should bat lead-off? Callaspo did so at Tucson yesterday, and I think he would be a good choice. But as he's not expected to be an everyday starter, I've excluded him, and left the choices limited to the five most obvious candidates. [Sorry, Tracy, Jackson and Snyder, this is not your poll either!] And my latest column as AZ Sportshub was posted late Thursday, in which I listed my top 10 D-backs prospects yet to be seen in the majors.

Quick hits on our pitchers. It's reported Hernandez 2.0 is working on a sinker, to go alongside his four-seamer. He pitched them in Friday's game at Tucson, but I can't say we really noticed much, so seems that's still a work in progress. Maybe Webb can give him some tips in that area? Johnson's latest bullpen session went well; another one is scheduled for today. And congratulations to Jose Valverde, whose wife, Luisa, gave birth to a daughter, their first child, on Wednesday night. No wonder Jose looked so cheerful playing with the kids at the Fan Fest on Saturday. He's getting a couple of days off, but was scheduled to pitch again on Saturday in Tucson.

Interesting article on Tony Clark, who 'fesses up like the big man he is, and admits that last season, "I had a bad year. I didn't do my job. Indifferent to my at-bats, indifferent to the injury. I just didn't get it done." No argument here; he had a dismal 2006 and much more is expected in 2007, even as a part-timer. There was also this fascinating little section, which should be filed under Clubhouse Chemistry, giving a nice little insight into what 'Veteran Presence' means.

Already this spring, for instance, he's had to sit a couple young players down and preach the importance of accountability. He wouldn't name names, or even discuss the exact situations, but it was clear the problems have been fixed... "There are expectations with respect to how you carry yourself as a ballplayer on and off the field, how we go about our business, how we commit to any one particular task at any particular time during the course of the day. When internal distractions or external distractions deviate or lend itself to you not being where you need to be or committed to what you need to be committed, then something needs to be said. But I'll treat you as a man first."

Especially given the very young team we have this year, it could make sense to have someone like Clark to speak softly and carry the big stick in the locker-room. Though I don't tend to expect much trouble from the kids this year: they'll probably be a good deal easier to keep in line, than the 2001 version of the team (about whom I heard some, er, stories on the Tucson trip). Certainly, if the 6'7", 245-lb Clark talked to me, he would have my full attention. :-)