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A viewer's guide to Arizona Diamondbacks non-roster invitees, part two

In this section, we take a look at the left-handed pitchers and the slew of potential catchers outside the 40-man roster, who received invites to Salt River Fields this spring.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Left-handed pitchers

Justin Marks

Most of our other NRIs, when you Google them, the page is about the first thing to appear. Not so here. Marks is a stock-car driver and a Hollywood scriptwriter (he calls himself one "you've never heard of"), before he's a baseball player. This will happen, when your major league experience is one game, which didn't go well: four hits and three walks in two innings for KC last April. He subsequently bounced through the A's and Rangers after the Royals DFA'd him, before signing as a free-agent with the Diamondbacks in November. While he's still youngish, at 27, a 5.08 ERA in Triple-A last season doesn't bode well, especially since he was almost exclusively a reliever.

Dan Runzler

NRIs with World Series rings aren't common, but Runzler won one with the Giants in 2010.  He had a meteoric rise to the majors in 2009, playing through four different minor-league levels, on his way to a September call-up where he had a 1.04 ERA over 11 appearances. He was also solid in 2010, but the following year his ERA ballooned to 6.36 in 31 games: he believes that happened "after injuries to his lat and shoulder subconsciously made him change his mechanics." September 2012 was his last appearance in the majors, and he apparently spent the last half of 2014 in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes, though I couldn't confirm whether he pitched for them.


Gerald Laird

Okay, maybe NRIs with World Series rings aren't that rare, as here's the second today: Laird played in and won the 2011 fall classic, while with the Cardinals. He almost got another the following year with the Tigers, but they lost to the Giants, and made the post-season again in 2013 for Atlanta: can't be many players who've reached the playoffs in three consecutive years with three different teams. With 12 major-league seasons under his belt, Laird is the most experienced of the non-roster players, but the last time he reached even 200 PAs in a year was back in 2010. With an OPS+ of 82 since, think veteran presence along the lines of Henry Blanco.

Blake Lalli

A familiar name from the minor-league reports last year, as Lalli played 93 times for the Reno Aces. A undrafted free agent signed by the Cubs, he's like Tuffy Gosewisch, in that Blake didn't make his major-league debut until he had already turned 29, though makes Tuffy look like Mike Piazza, with a major-league OPS over 22 games of .278: he's still awaiting his first major-league home-run. Heck, he's still awaiting his first major-league extra-base hit: since the D-backs came into birth, there have been only 12 longer major-league careers without an XBH. Even for Reno, his OPS was .713. What I guess I'm saying is, he's not in spring training for his bat.

Peter O'Brien

I think what we've seen in spring training more or less coincides with the scouting report. Small sample size, yet the bat seems about there - 4-for-12 with a pair of walks. But his throwing still appears to leave a good bit to be desired. Still. it's something which can certainly be worked on, and will improve with experience. Through age 24, O'Brien's age this season, Miguel Montero had thrown out only 18 of 83 base-stealers, a 22% rate: four years later, he was nailing them at a 42% rate. So, patience, patience - and, did I mention, patience? If 2015 is a learning experience for O'Brien, I'm perfectly fine with that. A few errant throws are unlikely to be the difference-maker this year.

Jordan Pacheco

The most familiar name to Diamondbacks fans, thanks to 47 appearances for the Diamondbacks last season. However, not one of those was at catcher, which may appear to make his listing in this category on our page of NRIs, dubious. However, while he only became a full-time catcher with the Rockies before the 2014 season, that was easily his most frequent position in the minors (304 of 396 games). Said Pacheco, "It was my main position and only position for five years straight. It was the position that got me to the big leagues and I worked at being the best receiver thrower and blocker I could be." It remains to be seen if he figures into Arizona's plans there.

Matt Pagnozzi

Born in Miami... Arizona? Yep, TIL there is a Miami in Arizona: it's a copper mining town, near Globe. He went to Highland High School in Gilbert, then Central Arizona College before being drafted by the Cardinals in 2003. He has spent part of five seasons in the majors, but never reached 50 PAs; last year, he got the ultimate cup of coffee with the Brewers, appearing in a single game, without coming to the plate. He is the only position player in the NL since 2010 to do that. Matt is the nephew of Tom Pagnozzi, who was also a catcher, and won three Gold Gloves with St. Louis in the early nineties.

Mark Thomas

It hasn't been an easy road for Thomas. In July 2013, he was suspended by MiLB for 50 games, for "a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse." Mark then spent 3½ months in a drug treatment facility. He called the experience "Very tough — tough on my body and tough on my mind — and I wasn't in the right place...  I was dealing with a lot of personal demons." The D-backs signed him that winter, while he still had 10 games suspension to serve, but his manager in Mobile, Andy Green, said "We're an organization that wanted to give him an opportunity to move in the right direction. He's taken advantage of it."