He's baaaaack! Yep: Captain America, Flipper, The Pop-Up Toaster or simply Eric, our outfielder made his return to the line-up today, playing center-field and going 0-for-3 with a trio of flyouts to left [he'll be in LF tomorrow, and will likely see time at all three spots before long, in preparation for spelling everyone in the regular season]. He didn't get the chance to retire any batters in his four innings of work in the field, but did have to chase down a double to the gap during the second, and there was a triple over his head in the third. He joked afterwards, "I turned and ran, but the quarterback overthrew me. I have to question myself on playing too shallow after those balls got over my head." Still, Byrnes was satisfied: "It felt good. I'm excited to be back out there after nine months. Obviously, I would have liked to have squared up a couple of those balls. But I took a few good passes."
That's probably more than can be said for our defense, with Arizona committing three more errors, all from the left side of the infield. Stephen Drew opened that tally in the second inning, and Mark Reynolds added two more in due course, leading to three unearned runs on Jon Garland. Otherwise, our starter did struggle somewhat with his control, walking three in four innings, but only one of the four runs he allowed was earned. Good to see seven of the twelve outs recorded by Garland coming on the ground, compared to four in the air [the last one was a K, in case you were wondering]. Here is what he and Byrnes had to see about their outings today after leaving the game:
Audio courtesy of KTAR 620
Not a great deal of offense once again, with just six hits. Chad Tracy had two doubles, and is hitting a solid .355 on the season. He also scored our only run, being driven in by a Tony Clark single in the fourth, while Justin Upton drew two of the Diamondbacks' three walks. We did get Miguel Montero back, having returned from Venezuela after the unexpected death of his father, and he doubled in the ninth inning, as a pinch-hitter for Tracy. He seems glad to be back. "It keeps my mind a little busy. It's tough, but it's life, and you've just got to keep going. There's nothing we can do. It was just his time." Sad, nonetheless.
On the mound, Scott Schoeneweis and Tony Peña continued their springs with a scoreless inning of work each. On first glance at the boxscore, it looks like they're both equally impressive, with zero Cactus League ERAs. However, neither Schoeneweis nor Daniel Schlereth make it into the mlb.com spring stats for some reason, despite having pitched six and five innings respectively. SS's actual ERA is now 6.00 and Schlereth's 3.60, though Peña is a legitimate zero despite eight hits in 4.1 innings - his K:BB ratio is a nice 6:1 thus far. More on that tomorrow, however, as I look at the spring stats so far. Bobby Korecky was definitely not impressive, allowing three hits and two walks during the seventh and eighth, with an Angels hitter crossing the plate in each frame.
Bob Melvin announced the rotation, which can only be regarded as the least monumental news of the week. I'll forgive you if you struggle to stay awake for the rest of this paragraph, since it's entirely predictable. Brandon Webb (gasp!) will get his fourth Opening Day start for the team, with (shock!) Dan Haren following him. Doug Davis (stop the presses!) and Jon Garland (film at 11!) will be the #3 and #4, though Melvin didn't seem to think there was much of a gap between that pair. Finally, Max Scherzer (oh, I give up...) will be the fifth spot, but isn't needed until April 14, so may or may not be on the Opening Day roster.
Couple of links to finish things off. Dan Bickley thinks the Diamondbacks need a star, 'someone on the field to be more popular than...Mark Grace.' [Pauses to bang head on the table] It's precisely that kind of talk that gets fourth outfielders with TV shows signed to $30m contracts. I'm sure the Cubs have plenty of stars though... Over on ESPN, a much better story from Jerry Crasnick: D-backs digest disappointing season, and says that "Improving selectivity at the plate a priority for Arizona's young free swingers." No question there.