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Yesterday proved rather busy. I helped Mrs. SnakePit's mother move in the morning. I found this list which ranks stressful live events on a scale from 1 to 100, but I think there must be a mistake: it ranks "change in residence" only as a 20; below, for example, "son or daughter leaving home," which merits a 29. When the SnakePitette left recently, it was hardly stressful at all - mind you, it was her third such departure, so we're getting used to them now. In comparison, spending your day moving someone else's stuff...at the very least, my muscles will remind me of that for several days to come.

After that, we had a big IZW show over in Mesa at night, though I did get to pop into Bookman's and picked up some obscurist second-hand DVDs cheap. AZDarkKnight and his family popped in for the show: didn't really get a chance to speak to him, he left quite quickly after the event, but that may have been because of our heavyweight champion getting flung into their row of chairs. If we'd known that was going to happen, we'd have sat you somewhere else. :-( Sorry! As a result, spare time - or, at least, spare time with an available Internet connection - was basically absent. Double entry today, however; first, a quick catch up on D-backs news, and later the third part of the community projections, concerning our starting pitchers. Before we get started, this headline in today's Republic is a hands-down winner in the 2008 category for Stating the Bleedin' Obvious. "Safety of shark-diving tours in baited waters questioned." Surely not...

Yesterday's game was a pretty lacklustre effort by the Diamondbacks, in particular from the offense - when Augie Ojeda is the only man who has any hits through the first six innings, you know it's not a good day at the plate. Kudos to the Littlest Ballplayer for sticking it to his former team, though these are muted somewhat by his questionable attempt to score from third on a pop-up to second-base. That would have been doubtful if executed by Bonifacio, never mind someone who's legs are rather shorter, and he was easily thrown out. Kelly came is a pinch-hitter for Lyon, walked and added a single, but Arizona were not helped by hitting into three double-plays; as well as Ojeda's PIDP, we also had an LIDP and a more conventional GIDP.

Owings, having skipped his last start, returned to the mound; unfortunately the results were very poor, especially in a second inning that saw the Cubs plate four before Micah was finally removed with two outs, when he was originally scheduled to pitch another full frame. He never even got to bat, being lifted before his spot was reached. He was due to bat 7th, ahead of 1B Brito and CF Salazar in the starting lineup. Owings allowed five hits and three walks in only 1.2 innings, but refused to blame the layoff: "Arm felt great, body felt pretty good. I'll take that." He added, "I think I was a little quick on my front side, kind of carrying the ball a little bit, coming across my body. It's something I'm going to resolve quickly."

Things did perk up for our pitchers the rest of the way, starting with Reid Mahon, who struck out the last batter in the second. You might not have heard of Reid now, but mlb.com say, "he throws a sinking fastball in the range of 90-96 mph." He only allowed two homers in 66.2 innings last year, in A, A+ and AA-ball: are we perhaps looking at Webb 2.0? We can but hope... The bullpen made the Cubs post nothing but zeros the rest of the way and the final combined line was impressive: three hits, one walk and nine strikeouts over 7.1 innings. Peguero and Qualls were particularly sharp, each pitching a perfect frame with a pair of K's. Thanks to those who joined me in the Gameday Thread; Peachy, isoldout, soco and a slightly-buzzed, presumably at the game, shoewizard.

The big news is that Johnson will make his spring debut tomorrow, facing the Rockies down in Tucson. He had a side session before yesterday's game in Mesa, but had no comment for reporters afterward. "This is exactly where we kind of had it mapped out to be, but we weren't going to get too far ahead of ourselves," Melvin said. I believe the team have asked the Rockies to use the DH in the game tomorrow, and Colorado have obliged, so that will keep Johnson from having to take any swings. He still has yet to take any fielding practice; if the Rockies were feeling cruel, they might look to drop down a few bunts towards the pitcher's mound tomorrow. Surely they wouldn't be that cruel. :-S

That would make Johnson perhaps a week behind the other pitchers, so he'd probably miss no more than one start, all being well. Of course, a lot will depend on how things progress from there. The Big Unit's next scheduled start could well be Saturday, and we'll be at that game, so will have to see if we can get some video of Johnson pitching. If he keeps pitching on a five-day rotation, he'd get a total of four starts while the Cactus League is on, with the last coming on March 25th. The Diamondbacks can probably organize something down at minor-league camp to polish Johnson off, until he's ready to go.

Miguel Montero is getting better, and has been cleared to take part in "light activity" for another week; he won't be given the go-ahead for full baseball activity until next weekend, at the very earliest. Opening Day remains unlikely: according to Melvin, "Once he gets in some games and if he feels comfortable real quick and is doing enough to keep himself physically in shape, then it's just based on how many at-bats we can get him without rushing him." It still seems probable that Robby Hammock will start the season on the roster, as backup to Snyder.

The Tribune also discusses batting order, and says "The D-Backs front four appears fairly set - [Chris] Young, Orlando Hudson, Conor Jackson and [Eric] Byrnes." Beyond that, there seems to be more question-marks; generally, I'd say something like Reynolds, Upton, Snyder and Drew. But with Drew the only full-time left-handed bat in the lineup, they may want to have him higher in the line-up than his production would generally merit, to avoid a chasm of unremitting right-handedness between switch-hitter Hudson at #2, and Drew at the bottom. This is where the losses of Montero and Tracy will hurt; Jeff Salazar may get more starts while those two are unavailable, simply to get another southpaw in the lineup.

Listening to today's game against the Mariners. Seattle have just retaken the lead, on a bases-loaded single, and are ahead 4-3 in the middle of the fourth. Brandon Webb is pitching for the Diamondbacks today, and the results have been poor: in four innings of work, he has allowed eight hits and four runs, though struck out five. Arizona has had only two hits, but one of those was a double by Jeff Burke which cleared the bases and gave us a 3-2 lead in the second. I'll keep listening, since it'll give me something to do while I work on the pitching projections...

Today's comment starter: who do you think will win the NL Central? Are the Cubs going to repeat their division title, on the 100th anniversary of their last World Series victory? Or will the Brewers avoid their disastrous second-half slump - they were 7.5 games up at the end of June - and ride their fearsome offense to their first post-season appearance since 1982? And do the rest of the teams, none better than 78 wins last year, have any realistic chance at all?