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Spring Training for the D-backs: Purgatory Week

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Isn't it time for the first game yet? Apparently not. That won't be happening until next Thursday, when we finally get to see our boys in action. And, as we all know, nothing is more meaningful than a Spring Training  box-score. Especially one from the first week. To be honest, all we'll really have to offer here until then is regurgitating second-hand reports and news from those lucky enough to be on the spot - the ones actually watching the bullpen sessions and workouts. Still, you know it must be approaching spring when hotclaws is making macros...

After the jump, we'll look at some news, including Brandon Webb's latest efforts, and the first time we'll get to watch the Diamondbacks, if you're not planning to go down to Tucson. And I trust you are all as deeply-stoked as I am about the season premiere of Police Women of Maricopa County on TLC tonight...

Brandon Webb said that he "figured some things out" with his mechanics in Tuesday's bullpen session, during which he threw 42 pitches. "It’s been so long since I’ve been on the mound. I feel really good when I come off here just throwing on flat ground and long-toss, just mechanically sound. I feel like I have a lot of power. When I get on the mound, I think my timing is off. My foot is down and my arm’s still back. It’s just going to take some time I think to get all that." Though the practice was closed to the press, Steve Gilbert reports Webb threw only fastballs off the mound, throwing his other pitches on flat ground. One wonders whether Webb will be ready to take his turn in the rotation [over the weekend-ish], or will be held back for a bit.

Nick Piecoro notes that this session - like all his bullpens - have been in private. Josh Byrnes says, "Obviously there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny to it... He has a high standard for himself and his career. After a 10-month absence of throwing off the mound, I think he’d rather relearn it with a little less attention paid to it. Everyone says he’s right where he needs to be... The health of his arm is very good." That said, I think we'll all be a little more comfortable when we can see the "turbo sink" mentioned by Mel Stottlemyre, rather than just hearing about it. There was another session today, in which Webb threw another 45 pitches, mixing in some of his off-speed stuff and working out of the stretch for the first time. He said after it, "Today was by far the best day.. It’s starting to come out good. I feel like every time I’m getting somewhere. I’ll eventually get to where I want to be."


Justin Upton takes batting practice, as shot by Nick Piecoro

Nick also has a bit more information about Socrates Brito. "Junior Noboa, the Diamondbacks’ director of Latin American operations, said Brito reminded him of a young Bernie Williams. "One difference is this kid is a left-handed hitter and Bernie Williams is a switch hitter," Noboa said. "He’s got some power now at 17 and I see him in the future to be able to hit for more power."" Well, we are far more interested in whereabout he fits into the list of best-named prospects in the Diamondbacks' system. Here's our list of the top five for Arizona from last season - in what spot would you place Socrates Brito?

  1. Jhoan Pimentel
  2. Tyson Van Winkle
  3. Roque Mercedes
  4. Vincent Bongiovanni
  5. Bayron Zepeda

Left-handed relief prospect Jordan Norberto comes in for a lot of love, and the control issues which plagued him in the minors (40 walks in 68.1 innings) seem to be resolved. Said AJ Hinch, "He can command it a lot better. He’s got swing-and-miss stuff and he’s added miles per hour over the past few years as he’s matured. He’s got weapons. Now, how to use those weapons is the key to going from a minor league prospect to real major league potential. It’s good to see him grow." Odds against him making the major-league roster for Opening Day, but he may not be long for the minors if we need a lefty in the bullpen.

Wednesday saw the first full workouts. and looks like Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall were down in Tucson; Nick and Steve Gilbert have quotes from them. Nothing particularly startling: season ticket numbers look to be about the same number as last year; there's going to be a Tucson Fan Appreciation Day on March 28th; we have high expectations, etc. Seems that we did offer the first pitch on Opening Day to Randy Johnson, but he had already planned a trip with his kids.  Said Hall, "We plan to do something with him. Definitely a first pitch. We look to having a special night and tribute for him, just as we still owe Gonzo one. You know, a true retirement night. We’re starting to think about making the plans to do just that for both of them." A double number-retiral game perhaps?

From comments by Kendrick, it also looks like Miguel Montero might be the next in line for a contract extension. "He's certainly a guy that we have a lot of faith in for the future. So, yeah, I think there's potential opportunity to sign him for more than just a single year." This appeared to come as a pleasant surprise to Miggy, who responded when told of this, "I haven't heard anything. I don't know anything about it. If you know, let me know. If they're thinking that way, that would be good. I like Phoenix. I'd like to stay here for a while." Hopefully, he won't succumb to the Curse of the Contract Catastrophe, like a number of other extended D-backs.

Spray-chart

Couple of Sabermetric links of interest. TexasLeaguers.com now has a pitch/Fx database for batters. The potential for using this almost scary, as it allows you to break down the results of pitches by pitcher (left- or right-handed), pitch-type (fastball, change-up, curve), pitch-count and date range. So, if you want to know the results of southpaw curveballs thrown on a 1-2 count to Mark Reynolds in September... You now can. The above chart is actually for Special K, but it's actually the result of all changeups put into play by Mark last yearr - and it's not very pretty .The same link also gives you the location of the pitches he swung at, the pitches he took, and whether the latter were balls or strikes. I think I'll be using this tool a good deal in the upcoming season.

And then there's the Sabermetrics Library, a project in which our expansion siblings at Drays Bay have been heavily involved. It's a fabulous resource for those interested in the topic, regardless of your level of experience. If you want to know what BABIP is, and why it's important, you can find out. There's an explanation of what all the important statistics mean, and for those who want to find out more, appropriate links to get more in-depth information. There's also cool snippets like the number of PAs when samples become reliable for hitting stats - to my surprise, it wasn't the same for all of them. It's the kind of website you want to curl up with, in front of the fire, a mug of steaming cocoa next to you.

The MLB Network has come up with their list of spring training games to be covered - 78 in total, three a day for most of March. I've combined their list with that of Fox Sports Arizona, and here are dates, times and channels for all the Diamondbacks games fans can catch between now and Opening Day. Games marked with a * are to be shown live. Roll on March 10th!

Date      Time         Game
March 10  1:00 p.m.*   Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers [MLB]
March 20  1:00 p.m.*   Arizona Diamondbacks @ Seattle Mariners [FSAZ, repeat on MLB at 7pm]
March 24  1:00 p.m.*   Arizona Diamondbacks @ Chicago White Sox [MLB]
March 29  8:00 p.m.    Arizona Diamondbacks @ San Diego Padres [MLB]
March 31  1:00 p.m.*   Arizona Diamondbacks @ Colorado Rockies [FSAZ]
April 2   6:30 p.m.*   Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs [FSAZ]

Finally, it's good cause time. MLB are doing their now-traditional Mother's Day event, in support of the fight against breast cancer. There's an online contest for each team, to nominate an honorary bat girl for the day. Testimonials can be submitted by an individual (or on behalf of someone else) who had or has breast cancer, or is an advocate/supporter of the cause. The winner will be recognized during their Club’s scheduled Mother’s Day celebrations, with each Honorary Bat Girl having an opportunity to take part in pre-game activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive two tickets to the game and pink MLB merchandise. The rest of us, well, we get to enjoy the sight of professional sportsmen using pink bats.