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Notes from Arizona Diamondbacks spring training

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Madison Bumgarner throws a Bullpen, everyone is atwitter with excitement

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There was a palpable buzz among the media and team personnel crowded around the bullpen mounds as Madison Bumgarner lined up in position A. Video Link here. While he was one of half a dozen pitchers throwing their session at the same time, it was clear who most people wanted to see.

Even Randy Johnson was out, standing alongside Steve Berthiaume and Jody Jackson, watching intently. Madbum’s demeanor was more workmanlike than intense as he went through his session. This was actually his second Bullpen session, having thrown one on Tuesday as well. Said Bumgarner afterwards

“Feels good, you know this time of year especially as you know it’s my 1st one or two pens I know what’s gonna happen, I know not everything is going to be there like I want it to be. But still that’s just something you know is going to happen and you have to try to work through it and get everything dialed in. Obviously it wasn’t where I would want come season or mid season, but the first one and today I had a schedule where I usually would be”

Pretty standard stuff from a veteran pitcher in spring training.

When he was finished, owner Ken Kendrick strolled out to the mound to ask a couple of questions of the coaching staff about the Trackman System tracking every pitch. (See today’s Snakebytes, ISH linked a great article from Nick Piecoro) KK spoke with Madison briefly as well, clearly interested in how his key off season investment was feeling.

Asked how nice it was to throw to a familiar catcher in Stephen Vogt, who was his teammate last year in San Francisco Bumgarner sang Vogt’s praises as a player and teammate and expressed excitement to work with him. You can listen to Bumgarner’s full comments here

Vogt for his part was equally complimentary, gushing about Bumgarner’s preparedness and professionalism. Getting to listen to Stephen talk for a bit, I came away impressed by his sincerity, humility, and positive attitude. Check out the audio file of his comments. I especially liked his candor when addressing his role as a mentor to younger players.

After workouts, Torey Lovullo addressed the media as well. I was able to ask him about Daulton Varsho, who I’ve been somewhat focused on. Specifically I wanted to know if he anticipated Varsho getting any innings other than catcher during spring games:

“Yeah, good question. Yes, I think so. We are outlining a strategy for him, we sat him down and he’s going to get most of his reps as a catcher , we feel like that’s a high priority spot for him. But he’s also going to find his way into the outfield. How we sold it to him is we don’t know where your first big league appearance is going to be. It could be in the outfield, it could be behind the plate, so why not add some things to your tool belt to get you here as fast as possible. So 100% buy in, (from Varsho) he’s that type of guy to begin with. The one part of the equation is we are going to tell him the night before where he’s going to be playing. We don’t want to have him overworked, we don’t want to have him wonder and be curious about it. I believe in the players going to bed at night knowing what they’re going to do the next day is going to help them be the best version of themselves”

Here is the full Lovullo Audio File. Interesting comments on Bumgarner as well

A few other points of interest for me today:

  • Robbie Ray really looks cut compared to last year. This was already written about, but it’s a completely different body than he had last year. Best shape of his life and all that. Remains to be seen if it translates into better command and longer outings. But he’s clearly taking his walk year seriously.
  • I got to stand behind Carson Kelly who was catching Zac Gallen today. Kelly also looks like he’s lost weight and is in better shape heading into the season. He’s intent on avoiding last year’s fade at the end.
  • Gallen has a really deceptive delivery. Much more than I realized. The stuff of course was jumping. He looks like he really wants to hit the ground running in games and put any “5th starter competition” noise to bed early.
  • Kevin Cron and Christian Walker were taking grounders together at first. The coach was hitting them really sharply and both of them scooped up every single one without a miss. It’s really impressive to watch the hand to eye coordination of these athletes.
  • I heard from one insider that Luke Weaver’s bullpen looked great yesterday, he looked just like last year. (I missed yesterday’s workout).
  • The Diamondbacks are partnering with Hermosillo Mexico and the Sonora Sports Commission to sponsor a Half Marathon. This is the third time they are sponsoring the race. It will take place March 1 in Hermosillo and feature 1000 runners from Sonora, Sinaloa, and Arizona. Derek Hall was on hand to speak to the team’s continuing work to grow the team brand and support in Mexico. He mentioned how they jumped at the chance when MLB asked them if they would be willing to play in Mexico. (Vs. the Padres April 18-19 in Mexico City)

I asked him if this kind of activity was an “on ramp” to eventual MLB expansion into Mexico. He indicated it very well could be, and that future MLB expansion could happen in both Mexico and Canada. He discussed how the team will fly straight to Atlanta after the Mexico City series and that it will help show that logistics are no impediment to such an expansion. I was surprised he was that forthcoming about these possibilities.

Just a reminder, fans are welcome to go out and watch workouts and BP and Infield free of charge. It’s a terrific opportunity to get up close, and even get an autograph or two perhaps. Tomorrow is fan fest, but workouts will still happen and players will head over to fan fest after they finish workouts at 11:45. (Workouts start around 8:30 or so)