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A somewhat soggy spring now underway for the D-backs

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"Today is the first day that we can build toward getting back to where we belong. I wanted to make sure that our players understood my intensity, my fire, my belief in this team and also let them understand that everything counts -- our preparation, our PFPs, our team fundamentals, our batting practice, when we show up at the ballpark, everything counts and helps build toward winning or losing."
  -- manager AJ Hinch

I don't know about you, but there's always a certain sense of let-down at this point. We've been looking forward to this, as the end of the long, dark off-season - pitchers and catchers report! And they do, and... Well, not very much at all. It's almost a fake start to the season, as if the players saw their shadows and decided to go back into their burrow for another six weeks. It doesn't help that the weather (at least, here in Phoenix) has been distinctly unspringlike too. Still, it is another milestone on the road to Opening Day, and it also means the flow of information over which we can chew should become more than the trickle we've endured over the past three months.

So, after the jump, we'll take a look at the first events of spring training, and what news came out of the opening weekend of camp.

A good place to start might be Nick Piecoro's list of spring training cliches, with the stories that just about every team can expect to see over the next few weeks. For example, "It wouldn’t be spring training if we weren’t talking about somebody who spent a lot of time on a new workout regime or changed his diet and believes he has come into camp in the best shape of his life or is feeling better than ever." This could perhaps be filed under Maoist-style self criticism, as on Friday, Nick's blog included the news that "Esmerling Vasquez went from 180 pounds to 195 after working out this off-season with Ivan Noboa, the brother of Junior Noboa, the Diamondbacks’ director of Latin American operations." But see how many of the others you can spot. Collect the set!

The main bit of "real" news to come out was that Dan Haren is going to be the Opening Day starter this year. The early announcement served several purposes according to AJ Hinch. "I wanted to lift the cloud and the burden and be done with it. I wanted to reward Dan Haren with the start, let him know at the beginning as we map out his Spring Training. I wanted to relieve Brandon Webb of the pressure of a deadline and lift the weight of having him be our Opening Day starter as a huge burden for him. Finally, I wanted the team to know we have a plan and be done with it."

It also means, if I read the schedule right, that the team can ease Webb back in: Webb starts game #3, and the off-days then line up to give him the possibility of ten days between outings. Both Webb and Haren seemed at ease with the decision. Said Webb, "I definitely think Dan deserves to get the ball on Opening Day. He had a great year. I'm happy to be starting anywhere. If it's Game 3, great. That means I'm out there playing. Anywhere for me is good." Haren stressed that Opening Day "is just one of 162 games. When it comes down to it, we need Webby to be there. This team is only going to go as far as he takes us."

Speaking of injuries, looks like we've already lost one player for a bit, in the shape of shortstop Pedro Ciriaco. He's got a partially torn ligament in his left thumb, which he suffered during winter ball, when he dove back into second-base. It means he will probably miss everything but the last week of spring, and so be somewhat behind the curve. I'd imagine, as a result, he is likely to miss the start of the Reno Aces season, which begins on April 8th. Ciriaco has been replaced in camp by non-roster invitee, Ed Rogers.

And speaking of shortstop prospects (hey, I am on fire with the segues today), Nick reports that we made a stab at Dominican Edward Salcedo, though lost him to the Braves. We apparently offered a million-dollar signing bonus,  a lot more than we've ever offered an amateur free-agent as a bonus. Josh Byrnes said, "We got to see him a lot, got to see him in game situations and got to know the kid a little bit. Part of it is the volume of information." However, the word is we got to sign 17-year-old outfielder Socrates Brito. We have a Stanford graduate as a manager, and this is what happens: Socrates on the team. I'm probably not the only one who immediately thought of this Python sketch.


"It’s the turbo sink. It’s there. The arm-slot is the same. The delivery is the same. It looks like the old Webb."
   -- pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.

The video of Dan Haren's bullpen session was shot by Nick Piecoro, who also has footage from the bullpen sessions for Chad Qualls, Ian Kennedy and Juan Gutierrez. However, perhaps the most important thing there is the quote, above, from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. regarding Brandon Webb's sinker. If that is indeed the case, it would be a huge boost to the team for 2010. Stottlemyre also had positive things to say about Qualls, on his way back from knee surgery: "He was excellent. There wasn’t any hesitation at all."

Contract talks are apparently ongoing for Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton - the former seems to be much further down the road, which isn't surprising. The talks look to center on whether to buy out two or all three of his arbitration seasons which run from 2011-13. No monetary figures have come out, but Reynolds said "I know they're getting into pretty heavy talks right now and hopefully in the next couple of weeks" a deal will be reached. "There is motivation on both sides to get it done so hopefully it's going to be sooner rather than later." He also addressed the strikeouts.

I've got to be more patient, I've got to really zone in and wait for my pitch and cut down on the strikeouts, an all-around better player and more of a complete hitter than kind of an all-or-nothing guy... Yeah, that's who I am but there's always room for improvement," he said. "I've got another year of maturing under my belt ... and I'm learning a lot along the way.

Maybe the quote above should go on Nick's list of spring-training perennials, since I seem to remember hearing something similar at about this point every year. I guess we will see what transpires: in 2008, his efforts to reduce the K's lasted two weeks before it became, "Strikeouts are going to be there. I've accepted it. I don't care what anybody writes about it or anybody says. It's just me." And by the late 2009, that had mutated into "So what?" But if we get 40 HR and 100 RBI, the K's matter less. Hinch agrees: "As long as it doesn't take away his strengths, we're going to address it. There were times last year that the strikeouts started to build up on him when he could have had productive outs or productive run-scoring opportunities. Those are the ones we'll focus on."

Upton, meanwhile, seems to be in the 'exploratary talks' side of things, saying, "Whatever happens will happen. Until you really hammer something out, it's not something you get excited about." Upton added, "They've expressed that they want to do something, and I've said I'm interested, but that's kind of dialogue between my agent [Larry Reynolds] and the team. The biggest thing for me to get back down here and being with the guys." Fangraphs.com did some number crunching, looking at comparable players and Upton's projections, and came up with a number of five years, $58 million as a possible answer. Sounds about right to me.

I think that's the bulk of the major stuff covered. If you want more of the spring training minutiae, then you should be sure to check out the blogs of reporters Nick Piecoro and Steve Gilbert, where you can find out details like where Miguel Montero spent his winter.