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AZ 5, Rockies 7 - Back from the Border

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The two halves of the team re-united after the split-squad games on Sunday. Startling to realise that Justin Upton could have used his trip to Mexico as a chance to enjoy a legal drink, something he won't be able to have here in America until August 25th. He'll be facing the Padres on the road that day, so will be able to roam the Gaslamp District, which is the closest thing San Diego has to compare with a weekend in Tijuana. I always say, the best way to judge a city is by its sleaziest area. And let's just say, I did a fair amount of judging when I travelled round Europe in my youth. :-) [Hey, I was on a very slim budget, what can I say? You know where the cheapest hotels are...]

Much as I'm tempted to list my five top European destinations, I think we'd better move on before this becomes another edition of Jim Divulges Too Much Information. Pitching today for Arizona was Micah Ow...no, wait! He was scratched from the start because of what was described as 'general arm soreness'. According to the club, this is entirely unconnected with his DH-ing on Sunday, but I am not entirely convinced by that; let's just say, some of the "first pitch hacking" (TM Thom Brennaman Enterprises, Inc.) made my arms hurt. Melvin said, "He's had some stiffness throwing the last several days, so rather than having him go out there with some stiffness and some soreness we're just going to bump him back to his next start." But, they were happy to let him DH? While I appreciate it's probably a different set of muscles, I'd have dumped the at-bats first.

Replacing him was Dustin Nippert, and the results were singularly unimpressive once again, with three runs on two hits and two walks in two innings, all of them coming on a homer by Hawpe. Going in to this spring, it seemed all but certain that Nippert and EdGon would get the last two spots in the bullpen, with Brandon Medders the odd one out. However, thus far...
Pitcher B: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 ER
Pitcher D: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 6 ER
Pitcher E: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 ER

One of these things is not like the other, children. Said Nippert, "Right now, I'm just trying to establish my fastball. Once I establish that I think my other pitches will come. I'm just not able to throw it for strikes effectively early in counts and I'm getting behind, and then when I am able to throw strikes I'm behind and they are waiting on it." Obviously, we're still talking almost-irrelevant sample sizes, but if this keeps up, it could get interesting.

The rest of the game was an episode of Whose (Pitching) Line is it, Anyway? with the remaining seven innings thrown by people of whom you've probably never heard. In the interests of increasing awareness, here is our handy guide to the non-Nippert pitchers who appeared in today's game:

  • Connor Robertson - The other player we got from the A's, as part of the Dan Haren trade. Had a cup of coffee in the majors last year, but pitched 31 innings out of the bullpen for their AAA affiliate, with a 4.35 ERA.
  • Clint Goocher - Has been stuck in Double-A since the middle of 2004. A starter turned reliever, he had a credible 3.42 ERA for Mobile last year, but will be 26 by the All-Star break, so time is not on his side.
  • Matt Elliott - Struggled a bit in his first full season with Mobile, posting a 4.29 ERA; his control has always been his main problem [100 walks in only 192.2 minor-league innings]. Does strike out hitters at a good rate though.
  • AJ Shappi - Not allowed to say anything bad here, since his #1 fan posts over at DBBP. :-) Also switched to the bullpen last year, and improved as a result, with a 3.66 ERA for Mobile. Only walked 17 in 76.1 innings.
  • Mark Rosen - It seems the entire Mobile bullpen pitched today... 50 games for Rosen there, and at a 3.12 ERA, one of the better arms there, it seems. Good K:BB ratio of 78:22, in 66.1 innings.
  • Chris Kinsey - Hooray! Kinsey played for Mobile, but switched back to being a starter after a bullpen stint in 2006. Went 4-7 in 28 games, with a rather flabby 4.51 ERA, and an indifferent K:BB as well, at 84:60.

At the plate, the entire offense was accounted for by two men. Chris Young got his first hit of the year, with a homer - solo, naturally - in the third, and also doubled home a run in the fifth. Then, in the final frame, Donnie Kelly smashed a three-run homer to right-field, which gave the score a touch more respectability than it probably deserved. Orlando Hudson reached base safely three times, on a triple and two walks, but the side as a whole managed just seven hits. That is definitely a downturn, compared to the ten hits managed in the first four innings alone, during yesterday's game in Tucson.

Robby Hammock wants to be a catcher. No real surprise there, though looking at the career stats, he hits rather better as a left-fielder [.352/.397/.519] than as a catcher [.240/.306/.392]. The former is in only 54 at-bats, however. Seems likely the latter is what'll be his ticket on to the roster, assuming Montero is not ready for action, but it does give us a little more flexibility. On the other hand, it's unlikely Hammock will be gratuitously used as a pinch-hitter, as if he were, and anything were then to happen to Snyder, we'd be left without a catcher. Good comment from Melvin on Hammock's strength behind the plate, that also sheds some light onto the wisdom and guile required by a good catcher.

He doesn't go by the book. He takes in all the variables, the strengths and weaknesses of a hitter and the strengths and weaknesses of his pitchers. If his pitcher's third pitch is a change-up, (Hammock) may work that pitch in early in a game in a situation where you can't get hurt by it. Therefore, there's another pitch a hitter has to worry about, even though he might not see it often.

I wonder if they've ever done any research into what position spawns most baseball managers? I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be catcher. Obviously, it's the case for Arizona, where both Bob Brenly and Bob Melvin are former catchers. Buck Showalter never made it to the majors [seven years in the Yankees farm system instead], but was an outfielder. Didn't realise old Bucky was now working in the Indians front-office, having been fired by Texas in 2006: unlike New York and Arizona, Texas did not win the World Series the year after dumping Showalter...