After coming into camp as the hot favorite for the #5 spot in the rotation, Billy Buckner's stock has been dropping faster than [insert topical reference, probably related to...oh, health care, here]. Today's outing proved little different, as he allowed five earned runs in less than four innings, meaning his spring ERA continued to head the wrong way, now hitting the dizzy heights of 11.66. Still, I guess it was an improvement on last time out, when he gave up eight runs in two innings of work?
The other bad bit of news was Justin Upton having to be pulled from the game, having rolled his ankle legging out a hit in the first inning. However, it doesn't seem to be too serious, and he's day-to-day. More on that after the jump.
So, where does Buckner now rank on the pitching depth chart? After today, it seems very likely he won't break camp with the team, and it's more than possible he won't even be called upon come April 17th, when the Diamondbacks need a fifth starter - Kevin Mulvey might get the nod there. Incidentally, to keep on their schedules, Mulvey and Rodrigo Lopez both pitched in minor-league sessions against the Rockies during yesterday's off-day, but I haven't heard any word on how those went.
This afternoon, Buckner got through the first couple of innings without trouble, allowing only one walk and no hits. But the next two frames were a good deal more problematic, Billy being beaten to the tune of seven hits and another walk. "They made an adjustment and started to be really aggressive in the count, so I tried to used my secondary pitches and get ahead with that. I missed down, and put them in some hitters’ counts." Things would have been even worse, had it not been for a couple of stops by Augie Ojeda, playing third-base on the day. He reminded us of why he's on the roster, in particular with a diving stop down the line, off the bat of Andruw Jones, which ended the third inning and saved at least two runs, given the presence of a couple of men in scoring position.
Aaron Heilman and Zach Kroenke got the next four outs without any bother, but Clay Zavada and Blaine Boyer, who followed to the mound, continued their spring struggles. Zavada couldn't escape the sixth, allowing two hits and a walk, with all three men coming around to score. Boyer relieved him, but gave up five hits in 1.1 innings, resulting in a couple more runs for Chicago. All those four pitchers possess Cactus League ERAs of between nine and 10.29; given they were all penciled in for rotation spots before the start of spring, this has not been too encouraging. Leo Rosales pitched a mop-up ninth, posting a zero around a couple of hits - the only pitcher used today whose numbers this spring have not been a cause for concern.
On offense, Arizona started well, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI single by Jeff Bailey in the second, and a solo home-run off the bat of Stephen Drew in the third. Upton had already left by that point, being replaced in the field by Cole Gillespie: it seemed that Upton jammed his ankle, legging out the infield hit to lead off the second. It didn't initially seem to slow him down, as he proceeded to steal second, but that was when he realized it was hurting: "Pushing off, I felt it a little bit. It was one of those things where it was sore enough to come out." He said afterward, "Right now it's just a sore ankle. Obviously, everybody knows it's not the time to really push anything."
Drew also drove in the Diamondbacks third and final run of the day in the fifth, leaving him 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, and a spring average of .432. There's a piece in the Republic that explains a little about the pressures Drew faced last season. While perhaps not excusing his disappointing performance, the strain of a wife teetering on the edge of giving birth prematurely certainly can't have helped his concentration. Said AJ Hinch, "You try not to bring it to the stadium, but sometimes you do. Stephen's a family man and he carried a lot of stress with him last year." Kelly Johnson was the only other batter to have much success, with a hit and a walk.
luckycc dominated the Gameday Thread, with BattleMoses and bcawz some way back, and the only others in double-figures. A good turnout though: pygalgia, DbacksSkins, jobu doll, AJforAZ, snakeoil14 (welcome!), emilylovesthedbacks, Zephon, Baja F1, Rockkstarr12, snakecharmer, venomfan, GuruB, kishi, mfan2010, Azreous, and brian custer were all also present. And that'll do for now. We're now two-third of the way through the Cactus League, so I'll see if I can get an update done on the Heroes and Villains of spring, a little later. Or maybe it'll be a piece on the Fantasy Baseball League, as I've finally come up with the definitive draft date for the top tier.