I'm somewhat ambivalent about St. Patrick's Day. The Scottish part of me is somewhat miffed that such a big fuss is made over it, particularly in contrast to the almost-universal ignorance of St Andrew's Day [Andrew being the patron saint of Scotland, whose day is November 30th, should you care...and you probably don't]. He is also well known for his antipathy to vipers, which would appear to make it somewhat blasphemous for any D-backs fan to celebrate his saint's day. Still, it didn't seem to do Arizona too much harm yesterday; some measure of revenge for our slithering namesakes expulsion from Ireland was obtained, as the Snakes prevailed over the Monks on St. Patrick's Day.
Another fine outing for Edgar Gonzalez, who has been the most consistent performer of all our starting candidates in spring training. He gave up one run on three hits over four innings, with no walks and three strikeouts, and overall, has now allowed two runs in eleven innings of work, without allowing a free pass. Good article on EdGon in the Tribune, where he says, "If they need me as starter, in the bullpen, whatever. If they need me to throw more, I’ll throw more. It doesn’t matter to me. You know why? Because I don’t like excuses. I’m always working hard for my job. I want to keep my job. I want to be here, so it’s for that I always have to be ready for anything."
Not so good news for the pitcher who followed him to the mound: Nippert struggled again, his control once more betraying him as he added three walks and five hits in 1.2 innings of work. In contrast to Gonzalez, Nippert has now walked eleven in seven frames - in addition to the fourteen hits. It doesn't seem Nippert is worried, saying, "I guess I might have kind of got away from my fastball this spring, focusing more on my changeup and slider and stuff. I guess it was on the back burner, and when I needed it it's not there. I need to focus a little more on it and incorporate it in with everything else, and I think everything will come along." However, he's now going to work with pitching coach Bryan Price, throwing between starts on flat ground just to work on location, which belies the expressed lack of concern. And with less than two weeks to Opening Day, about time too.
Solid enough after that, as Cruz, Peguero and Robertson combined for 3.1 innings of shutout ball, striking out five in total. With an off-day today, the team also pitched Doug Davis in a minor-league game against the White Sox - though since the lineup for Chicago apparently included Jim Thome, this must be some new definition of "minor-league", with which I was previously unfamiliar. He allowed two runs over his five innings, one of them a home-run to Thome. He struck out four and, perhaps most importantly of all, he did not walk a hitter, something that's been a problem over his previous appearances this spring.
At the plate, Trot Nixon finally broke out of his slump - despite, or perhaps because of, getting heckled by a bunch of typically-classy Yankees fans at TEP, who apparently didn't get the memo that the Yankees are training in Florida this year. As they have ever spring since 1952. "If you want to get me right, bring in some Yankee fans," he said. I dunno, do we think it's worth it? He had a homer, a double and drove in four runs for the Diamondbacks, in a good day for the offense, who pounded out 15 hits. That also included two each for Hudson, Oeltjen [starring in the current Hollywood smash, Oeltjen Hears a "Who?"*] and Kelly, while Hammock reached twice, on a hit and a walk.
Fulsome praise from Melvin for Nixon afterwards - more than I'd say is deserved, but I've only seen two games and stats that are still sub-Ueckerian. "The more he's here, the more comfortable he is... He brings some credibility. He's a proven winner, he's been on a championship team, and that goes a long way. All these guys know who he is. He's a tough guy, he works hard, and he has an outstanding work ethic. The guy just wants to be out there for every inning of every game. It rubs off on our guys. They see the way he commits to his work. All those things rub off." Let's just hope the .194 average doesn't. But with Tracy out, I think we are more or less stuck with Nixon as a lefty off the bench.
Couple of familiar names for the Padres. Tony Clark played first-base for San Diego, going 1-for-3 with a strike-out. And was somewhat startled to see Edgar Gonzalez come up to bat for them as a pinch-hitter in the seventh - had there been a trade in the middle of the game? No, this was just the elder brother of their first baseman, Adrian, whom they signed to a minor-league contract over the winter. Could get confusing in 2008, just like the Luis Gonzalez affair from a couple of years back. Last season, among the 1,174 MLB players, there were only two pairs with the same name, both with an Arizona connection: Chris Young (SDP and ARI), of course, but also Tony Peña, who played SS for the Royals as well as pitching out of our bullpen.
On the season-ticket sales front, Mike D. in the D-backs office says things are going very well. As of last week, "Our season ticket package revenue is 263% higher than last year at this time. To put that into perspective, we've nearly doubled our entire season ticket revenue from all of 2007, and it's only March 12." The club will be holding a season-ticket telethon during Wednesday night's game against Seattle, as part of a push towards 15,000 tickets. The current figure is 14,250 [including the combined figures of partial packages] - it's only the second time in franchise history the number has increased from one season to the next, the first, obviously enough, being after the World Series win.
Certainly, with the increase in gap between season-ticket prices and single-game prices, the incentive to buy a package is greater. [Though we are working with Mike on a scheme that might help out with single-game ticket purchases...] So if you're contemplating getting seats with your tax refund, calling 602-514-8400 during Wednesday's telethon would be a good time to do so: you'll also get a FSN Arizona T-shirt and have the chance to win autographed memorabilia. We'll be having the 'draft' for tickets from our season-ticket share next week, I believe: I think I might just skip the Cubs series this year, having seen quite enough of them and their supporters at Chase in 2007.
My Deadspin D-backs preview is now up. I peeked into the comments with some trepidation, but they've been surprisingly gentle, save the odd disgruntled Cubs fan. I think sneaking it out there the day after the NCAA brackets were announced probably allowed it to fly under the radar - it's was pushed off the front page of the site within hours. Best comments to date appear to involve my nationality: "I'm looking forward to this year's cricket preview, written by some dude in New Jersey," and "I expected more usage of the letter "u" from a native Brit." I've got at least two more of those damn previews to do for other sites: d'you think anyone would notice if I just recycled them and maybe just re-arranged the odd paragraph?
* Not to be confused with the upcoming drama based on the Denver Club sex-scandal, Helton Hires a Ho**.
** SB Nation attorneys here. We would just like to point out that Mr. McLennan's statement above was made purely for satirical purposes and does not in any way imply that Todd Helton has ever paid for sex. We accept that Mr. Helton is a fine, upstanding member of the Rockies team, who could probably kick our lawyerly asses from here to Coors and back again. He just happens to have the closest name to "Horton".***
*** Way to go, lawyers, killing a joke by over-explaining it. :-)