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Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 9 - Back to the Future?

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It would have been nice if Randy Johnson had received this level of run support last season: we scored as many runs today as in any two of his games last year, put together. Bit of a wild one down in Tucson. 30 hits, nineteen runs, four errors and each side blowing two leads, with the Diamondbacks scoring three times in the top of the ninth to snatch an improbable victory. If that's any kind of indicator as to what we can expect once the season starts, it's gonna be a wild 2008.

The first inning went very smoothly: 16 pitches, one hit and ended with the strike-out of Matt Holliday. No problems there. The second inning...not so much: the first four batters all reached, including a three-run homer on a 3-0 pitch to Chris Iannetta. 33 pitches there, and Johnson was yanked, having reached the scheduled 50-pitch mark a little earlier than he and Bob Melvin would probably have liked. As with all Spring Training games, the results are probably not as important as the execution, so let's turn to Johnson for his comments after the game, courtesy of Nick Piecoro:

Obviously the results weren't great but even in years past I'm not looking too much at results, I'm looking to gain some endurance and stamina and work on my location while monitoring my back at the same time. Minus the results today there were a lot of positive things but as competitive as I am I'm still disappointed I would pitch like that... I've got a long ways to go but I'm just happy I was able to get out there and feel pain-free... Tomorrow will be a big day as well. I'm not walking on eggshells. I've had six months to heal. It's like night and day compared to how I felt last year at this time when I only had about three and a half months. Time makes all the difference.

Emphasis added, but assuming Johnson is not just saying what he thinks we wnat to hear, that seems like good news. His next scheduled start will indeed be on Saturday in Tempe, so you'll be getting an eye-witness report from that one. Despite that three-run second inning, Arizona still had the lead, having leapt out to a four-run lead in the top of the first, with a two-run homer by Stephen Drew the most productive blow. However, the Rockies continued to come back, getting to Tony Peña and Max Scherzer to build a 6-4 lead by the end of the fourth.

Arizona scored three times in the sixth, including a solo homer by Chris Burke [another two hits today, to bring him up to .400 on the season], but Fruto couldn't hold the 7-6 lead and the Rockies plated two on three hits to retake the lead once more. Things loooked bleak for the Diamondbacks as they trailed 9-7 in the ninth, but we clawed our way back once more, with our third inning of the afternoon scoring three runs or more, to make a winner of Billy Buckner, and Robertson duly vacuumed up the save. The offense pounded out a total of 16 hits, with two apiece for Young, Kelly, Nixon, Burke and Salazar, with Jackson reaching safely twice, on a hit and a walk.

In the light of Johnson's start, good bit in the San-Diego Union Tribune focusing on Randy Johnson and his back. He is particularly frank about the 2007 success, and how their success has left him with a burning desire to be a bigger part of it this year. I think we'll leave the final words after today's step on the road to recovery, to the man himself:

I was happy that the team did so well, but personally, it was very, frustrating. For one thing, to put all the time and effort into coming back, then have it happen again was difficult. And then to not be able to help out in what was going on, that was really hard. I was still coming to the ballpark, dressing out, watching and talking up the guys. What they were doing was unbelievable. The way they were winning was unbelievable. I couldn't have been prouder of them, especially since they were so young. It just made me feel like I could've been helping, but I couldn't. We did something that wasn't supposed to happen. Maybe this year we can make it happen because it's supposed to happen. I know one thing. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't think I could still pitch. I may not throw as hard as I did before, but if I'm healthy, I can pitch. And I can help.

It's not often Gaslamp Ball and AZ SnakePit have much in common, but I think we were both equally shocked - shocked! - albeit in different directions, by the news that Eric Byrnes' wife, Tarah, used to be one of the Pad Squad, the San Diego equivalents of the Rally Backs. Really. I share your sense of betrayal at the news that Arizona "fan favorite" Byrnes is, literally, sleeping with the enemy. And a Padre at that: surely he could have found someone nice in Denver, if he wanted to play away from home? There's probably now a plush rainbow unicorn sitting on the dresser by the bed, and he's likely also being forced to set up a MySpace profile as we speak. "Say it ain't so, Jo...er, Eric." :-)

Fun story in the Republic, about signing day down at TEP on Friday. That's where the players come in and get to put their names on all the balls, bats, jersey and sundry memorabilia that the club will use for charitable purposes in the coming year. So if you were at Friday's game, and the players seemed a little bit reluctant to sign your baseball cards... The reason would be because they'd already signed a grand total of 7,525 items that day! Though the workload was far from equitably split: prospect Wes Roemer, for example, had only six balls to sign, probably less than a minute's work.

At the other end, poor Justin Upton had 288 baseballs, 61 bats, 120 photos and 39 jerseys: including team items, that's 508 pieces, most on the team, so it's clear they expect him to reach superstar status in 2008. Webb would likely have come top, except they only got him to sign six bats - and I have to say, an autographed Webb bat would be an unusual thing to have hanging on your wall! He was top in balls (312) and jerseys (50). Oddly, Micah Owings only had to sign 15 bats; I'd have had that down as a more highly-coveted item for fans. Here's the overall top ten in items signed:

  1. Justin Upton: 508
  2. Eric Byrnes: 496
  3. Brandon Webb: 488
  4. Chris Young: 487
  5. Orlando Hudson: 458
  6. Stephen Drew: 451
  7. Conor Jackson: 401
  8. Mark Reynolds: 395
  9. Randy Johnson: 375
  10. Micah Owings: 371

Today's comment starter. Over at Royals Review, they've come up with a list of seven rule changes they want to see [link opens in convenient new window]. Which ones do you agree with and/or are there any others you would choose to impose?