I feel a certain sense of let-down this morning. When Rogers Hornsby was asked what he did in winter, his famous reply was "I stare out the window and wait for spring." But what do you do when spring rolls around, pitchers and catchers finally report...and the rain falls incessantly for the entire day? Of course, today is something of a false dawn: 'report' does not necessarily mean anything more than a phone-call to say, "Hello, I'm in Tucson." And in the case of Juan Cruz, not even that. He's still in the Dominican Republic, fighting with the government to stop them from building a road through his property. Tony Peña, of course, will be reporting late for his eight-millionth consecutive time: he was apparently surprised - again - to discover that the federal government has the memory of an elephant after you steal your nephew's identity. Suggestion, Tony: start the visa application process early next time. Like the middle of May.
Micah Owings = pitcher, and pitcher alone. That is the decision from Bob Melvin, citing injury fears as the main reason. "With a guy you count on to be out there every five days for you, injury is first and foremost. To put him in another position, doing other things that could affect not only his routine and tax his body, isn't realistic. Now will he pinch-hit? Absolutely." However, they also said he is unlikely to bat out of the #9 hole: in some ways that's a shame, but again, that would likely draw unwanted attention to Owings and perhaps put extra pressure there. However, I'm optimistic that our lineup this year will be more solidly productive than last season and without gaping holes [stares meaningfully at Drew] so that we shouldn't need to move Owings up in the order.
It actually promises to be quite a boring spring-training session, with the roster basically set. The only apparent issue that is in doubt, is whether Chad Tracy will be ready for Opening Day, as a backup corner-infielder. He still has an issue with the blood clot in his knee, and is not able to run - that won't be happening for another week or so. It's therefore still uncertain how prepared he'll be for Opening Day: it may not be a simple case of 'ready' or 'replaced by Robby Hammock'. It may be that Tracy is good enough to go on the roster, but limited to pinch-hitting for the first few games. It feels strange to realize that's likely the most taxing decision Melvin will have to face, after years where there always seemed to be multiple roster spots open for competition. The only possible question is the final bullpen spot, which seems to be between Nippert and Medders; both are out of options, so so one - most likely Nippert - will be in and the other let go.
Both could make it, but only if Doug Slaten is not ready to go, and he is reported to be doing well. While Slaten had similar surgery to Tracy, the reliever has avoided the coagulation issues which have delayed Chad's recovery. Our other injurees will be monitored closely too, no doubt. Leading the pack is no doubt Randy Johnson, who is certainly well ahead of where he was at this time last year. In 2007, he hadn't even thrown off a mound at this stage, but he already has a trio of bullpen sessions under his belt, with no ill effects. And there are expected to be no problems with Orlando Hudson's spring, as he returns from the operation which ended his 2007 season.
There is an issue with Miguel Montero, who fractured his right forefinger when he was hit by a foul-tip during a game in the Venezuelan league. He said, "I'm kind of worried now because it's been two months and it's still bothering me. I thought it would be three or four weeks and it's been eight weeks. It hasn't healed yet. I don't know what's going on. It's something to worry about because a bone doesn't take that long to heal." He isn't capable of swinging a bat at this point, but he was examined by our hand specialist yesterday, who reassured Montero that the healing process is progressing normally.
Speaking of our training staff, Will Carroll has some kind words for our trainer, Ken Crenshaw, describing him as "one of the best in the business". Much of the article is restricted to subscribers - I (fractionally!) helped Carroll out there by providing him with an anticipate line-up and a couple of questions he could answer. But Carroll also says the team are making good use of Crenshaw, "by optimizing what Crenshaw does best, combining the types of players that respond well to his aggressive preventative techniques, unique ideas on conditioning, and giving him just enough physical challenges to keep him busy, but seldom overworked." Let's hope he manages to avoid being overworked again this season. Also worth a read is Nick Piecoro's blog entry on the joys of Tucson.
Tony Clark has spoken about signing a contract with the Padres. According to Clark, he says "It's not about me. It's not about my at-bats. It's about us finding a way to win a championship. If that means 10 at-bats or one at-bat, so be it. If that means 300 at-bats, so be it." So, Tony: you turn down a longer, better-paid offer from the reigning division champions - an outfit likely to be better in 2008 - in favor of a cheap, one-year deal from a third-place team. Ssssssuure, "It's about us finding a way to win a championship." The article also reports he could play left-field. "I've spent some time this off-season working out (in left field). And as I've told (Black), it's simply just to give him an option... If the situation arises, I'm available." Clark has played exactly two outfield innings since 1991, in a game for the Mets. [Of course, the first at-bat saw the ball hit to him!] I think I would enjoy seeing Clark play there. For the Padres.
Speaking of ex-D'backs, Jose Valverde lost his arbitration case with the Astros. He wanted $6.2 million, and Houston countered with $4.7 million; either way, this would have been a sharp increase on the two million dollars he earned with Arizona. However, the arbitrator went with the team, despite Jose leading the major-leagues in saves last year. It will be interesting to compare his performance against those of our (now considerably-cheaper) new closer, Brandon Lyon. I think perhaps that should be one of the 'D-backs Watch' elements for use in the sidebar here. All other suggestions on that front will be gratefully received.
Anyway, that will do for now. Off to see Diary of the Dead along with Mrs. SnakePit tonight. She has some severe qualms about seeing another hand-held video movie, after the disaster for her stomach which was Cloverfield [we ended up just short of an Exorcist re-enactment in the back row]. However, I have heard this isn't quite on the same level, so we are gingerly returning to the cinema for the event. Wish us luck...