Here's Arizona's starting line-up for this afternoon's final Cactus League game in Tucson against Colorado:
Our other pitchers were Augenstein, Roemer, Schlereth and Norberto - a group of arms about which it was once said, "Who?" In contrast, the Rockies lineup looked close to full-strength - Spilborghs, Stewart, Helton, Atkins, Hawpe, Tulowitzki, Barmes, Fasano, Roe - so this loss probably falls into the 'lightly irritating' category, rather than any kind of stinging defeat. Still, been nice to win today since it's the last time we'll face Colorado until...ah. That'd be Monday. Never mind...
I'm not really inclined to go into much detail about this contest, since only two of the players seen today (Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds) will likely be in the Opening Day line-up - and only four of the 22 to get into this afternoon's game will even be on the 25-man roster (the above duo, plus Miguel Montero and either Josh Whitesell or, more likely, Ryan Roberts). It was Upton and Reynolds, however, who had the only two extra-base hits for the Diamondbacks: J-Up had a two-run triple in the third, while Special K doubled and walked. John Hester went 2-for-2 at the plate, while Gerardo Parra and Josh Wilson had a hit and a walk apiece. We ran wild, stealing four bases, with Reynolds taking both second- and third-base. The pitching: let's just say "Meh" and leave it at that, shall we, though Daniel Schlereth did throw a scoreless eighth.
It leaves the Diamondbacks' collective team ERA at the end of the Cactus League as an unhealthy 6.71, and Bob Melvin said, "We didn’t pitch very well this spring. We expect when we get our 25-man roster together we should be a little crisper and expect our pitching staff to be a strength like it normally is..., especially our starting pitching. That is the way it has been around here for awhile." Well, actually the story says "around her" which is either an amusing typo or a psychologically intriguing Freudian slip by Melvin. It is probably true to say that the pitching has been inconsistent, especially out of the bullpen - I'm probably more worried about that than the rotation. More on that tomorrow, however, as we scope out what we have learned from spring training.
James Skelton will be remaining a Diamondback, as the team came to an agreement, effectively to trade pitcher Brooks Brown to the Detroit Tigers, rather than returning Skelton back to the team from whom he came in the Rule 5 draft. The catcher/infielder was re-assigned to Double-A Mobile, which seems a good deal closer to the right level than breaking camp with the big league team. He can now develop some more - and will certainly get more playing time there than he would have as Arizona's 25th man - and I'm sure our minor-league guru Zephon will be keeping an eye on him during the coming season. Brown is still kinda young - 23 - but looks set to be repeating Double-A himself, for whom he started 26 games last season, going 6-15 despite a better than league-average 4.18 ERA.
Still about 3,000 tickets left for Opening Day, which is somewhat surprising - however, a 12:40pm start on a Monday when the schools are all in session is always going to be a tough sell. In this economy, it's particularly hard to justify taking a day off for a baseball game - not that this stopped me from planning to do so of course, even though I won't be going (I need to keep an eye on things here). However, my work helpfully rendered that decision moot, by switching my days to Tuesday-Saturday, beginning next week, so I get a three-day weekend anyway! But if you want people to attend a game, schedule it when they can go. To quote then Cubs manager Lee Elia's famous post-game tirade [NFSW. Unless you work for Tony Soprano], "That's the criteria of them dumb 15 motherf_cking percent that come out to day baseball. The other 85 percent are earning a living."
Finally, if you haven't already checked it out, take a look at the new, redesigned Baseball-Reference.com - for example, here is the new version of the 2008 D-backs page. When you start clicking through, you'll find it has even more frickin' information than previously: want to know what winning percentage a team of nine Conor Jacksons would post, given average defense and pitching? It's .611. Who led the team in first-pitch hacking last season? Mark Reynolds, who swung 31% of the time. Who threw most first-pitch strikes for us? Dan Haren: 66%. Expect me to be data-mining from this furiously in the coming season. Excuse me. I think I now have to go change my underwear.