Hitters see live pitching for the first time
After the long, dark winter, half the Diamondbacks batters got to face their colleagues for the first time. As Steve Gilbert put it, "Bats get broken and hitters get a bit grumpy," with the hitters a little behind in terms of readiness, due to the extra days of practice the pitchers have had. Tyler Skaggs got praise for his curveball, saying "I feel like the curveball is coming along well this year and that's usually the last thing to come, so that's good. I've got good feel with it." He thought starting his throwing program earlier this year, was perhaps responsible for that. Heath Bell also started early: "That’s because I sucked last year, and I really wanted to be ready for this year," he said.
Early pitching schedule (somewhat) sorted
The starters for some of the first games have been announced, though curiously, the question of who will be pitching the very early ones - from February 23rd through the 26th - has yet to be decided. From the 27th, however,, the order will be Brandon McCarthy, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley. That would imply the early spots might be taken by the various contenders for the #5 position: Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado. However, in the early going, where starters typically only go a couple of innings, it's equally possibly they simply piggy-back behind one of the established starters.
Adam Eaton: leadoff man
Not that Kirk Gibson would ever go anywhere near that far before the first game of spring, naturally - right now, you can have a roster spot when you pry it from his cold, dead fingers. But if you know Gibby, what he said is as close to a ringing endorsement as you'll ever get. ''You could see the kind of element that he could bring to a team. 'We've never had a leadoff hitter since I've been here. That's exciting... Now that's for him to go earn, though. 'I'm not going to give that to him today.'' Kevin Towers was less cautious: 'I'd like to give it to Eaton just because of the speed dynamic that he brings... We've got good contact hitters right behind him. You can hit and run, you do a lot of things."
As Nick Piecoro points out, Eaton wasn't actually a leadoff hitter until fairly recently - he hit in the #3-spot right the way through college and up until Double-A. Though he always had speed (44 SB in 133 games at Rookie and High-A levels), it was when he moved to Reno that he settled in at the top of the order, under the tutelage of manager Brett Butler (who is 25th on the all-time stolen-bases list). Said Eaton, "He’s one of the premium leadoff hitters ever to play this game. It was a huge benefit for me to listen to him on a day-to-day basis and every day pick something up from him."
Best shape of their lives: Gluten-free edition
A couple of D-backs pitchers have changed their diets, and appear to feel all the better for it. The first to announce the change was Trevor Cahill last week, who said he had cut out certain dairy and gluten products after tests revealed a potential "sensitivity." He commented: "I know a lot of guys have done it to mixed results. Some guys get it and don't really follow it. I kind of followed it and I've felt like I have more energy. It's been tough, but I feel a lot better. I'll just stick with it until it doesn't work anymore, I guess."
Now, it appears that closer J.J. Putz has also gone down that route, avoiding gluten and dairy, and has lost 15 pounds this winter as a result, without the need for any additional exercise. "I feel amazing," he said. "I'm up at 5:45 a.m., wide awake jumping out of bed. When I lay down to go to bed at 11, I'm out. I don't move when I sleep, I have energy all day... It's going to be tougher during the season with the food choices. Oh, I'll find a way to do it. You just do what you've got to do."
Rod Barajas: From gas-pump to the World Series
Great story by Jack Magruder covering the history of Barajas, who is competing with Wil Nieves for a roster spot as backup to Miguel Montero. In early 1996, he had gone undrafted and was working at a filling station, when he was invited to a tryout camp after scout Luis Medina called his college (where Medina had also gone), inquiring about prospects. He was signed the next day, and the rest is, as they say, history. "I was going to keep trying, keep playing, and if I did get that break and a team would take a chance to sign me, then I would try to take full advantage of it. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. But I knew given that opportunity I would be able to do something," said Barajas.
More stats from the booth?
Seems like we may be hearing more about BABIP, OPS and other stats from the new guys in the booth, Steve Berthiaume and Bob Brenly. Speaking to the East Valley Tribune, Berthiaume said, "Someone out there is going to do it, and I'd like it to be us. We have an opportunity to become a leader and set the tone for the type of broadcast we want and sort of a fresh start here for the Diamondbacks." Brenly, who hosted a show on WGN discussing the "new math", appears to concur with his partner: "There are a lot of people smarter than me who've learned the value of advanced metrics."
The week ahead
Gilbert laid out the schedule for the week ahead: The other half of hitters will get to see live pitching for the first time today. There will then be a relatively light day of training on Tuesday, and full workouts on both Wednesday and Thursday. Friday will be a little bit different, as they squad will play a situational game among themselves, designed to help them work on specific situations. That will get them ready for the spring opener at Salt River Fields, against the Rockies on Saturday.