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Snake Bytes 3/30: Go Smith Yourself

MLB stadiums here until the end of the year.

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Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Arizona Diamondbacks News

[D’] Can D-backs ‘shock the world’ this season? - What do the last two D-backs playoff teams — 2011 and ‘17 — have in common? In both years, Arizona was coming off last-place finishes and little was expected. Well, here we are in ‘21 and the D-backs are coming off a last-place finish and are not among most people’s postseason predictions. The times the D-backs have underperformed came the year after those successful seasons when there were actual expectations. It’s possible this year that the D-backs will get enough from their pitching staff while their key offensive performers rebound and Arizona finds a way to win an NL Wild Card spot.

[Arizona Sports] D-backs P Caleb Smith not concerned with poor last outing of spring - A day after Caleb Smith was named to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation, the pitcher made his final start of spring training against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. It was one to forget for the starter. In 3.2 innings of work, Smith gave up seven earned runs on eight hits, two of which were home runs, in the team’s 7-1 loss. He walked one batter and struck out five. Despite his final stat line of the spring, Smith isn’t putting too much stock into his performance. “I feel like I’m in a good spot. I’ve never thrown good in spring but I feel like I’m in a good spot right now,” Smith said Monday following his outing. “I don’t know. It’s just during spring you’re still working on things even in your last outing,” Smith said of his spring woes. “Still working on things and throwing sequences you normally wouldn’t throw. Whenever regular season hits, you don’t have that luxury of working on that stuff. You have to win ballgames.”

[AZ Central] Diamondbacks boost digital fan experience, masks required at Chase Field for 2021 season - The ballpark’s full capacity of 48,000-plus seats will be reduced 25% or by nearly 12,000 for most games during the season. “We would like to have more fans in here. But we want our fans to feel very comfortable, very confident, especially on their first visit seeing that these protocols are in place,” Hall said. ”Regardless of the size, we will continue to have and enforce those same protocol ... I can’t see us at this point wanting to go zero to 100 so fast. It doesn’t make sense to go without restrictions at this point.” There will be no cash transactions in the stadium to eliminate hand-to-hand contact between fans and cashiers. Fans will purchase items with a debit or credit card. Chase Bank customers will get a 15% discount on merchandise in the Team Shop, and food and beverages sold in the stadium.

Around the League

[FiveThirtyEight] Versatile Infielders Are Baseball’s Secret Weapon - MLB teams are increasingly using their best offensive players all over the diamond, even at critical middle infield positions. No fewer than 34 players got at least 100 regular-season plate appearances while logging time at both second base and shortstop in the 60-game 2020 season. To put that in perspective, back in 1990, just 20 players collected 300 plate appearances over a full season while playing at both second and short. But this, too, understates how often the players most likely to provide key offensive contributions, rather than a defensive security blanket, are used in this role by major league teams now. Of those 34 players in 2020, 13 had an OPS+ north of 100, while those just below that line, Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, are central to the plans of their teams in 2021. Marte is likely to get regular work in center field as well, while Edman becomes the primary option at second for St. Louis after Kolten Wong left as a free agent. Back in 1990, eight of the 20 players in that second/short list topped 100 OPS+, and only four of them were true regulars: Bip Roberts, Kirby Puckett, Jody Reed and Tony Phillips were the only ones to record at least 502 plate appearances, the bare minimum to qualify for a batting title.

[] King Félix opts out - The Orioles brought Félix Hernández, Matt Harvey and Wade LeBlanc into camp on Minor League deals this winter knowing full well all three likely weren’t going to head north with the club come Opening Day. It was just unclear which reclamation projects would, and which wouldn’t, pan out this spring. Things are more clear now that Hernández has opted out of his Minor League deal, the club announced Monday afternoon, bringing Baltimore’s pitching plans further into focus. Hernández, who has been dealing with right elbow soreness since mid-March, simply ran out of time to make the club. Hernández would have earned $1 million had he broken camp with the Orioles. He is now a free agent. The 34-year-old Hernández last pitched in a regular-season game in 2019 for the Mariners, for whom he was a six-time All-Star, a two-time ERA champion and the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner. He competed for a job in the Braves’ rotation in last season, but elected not to play due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Washington Post] MLB, union urge players to get vaccinated and release new protocols as incentives - Major League Baseball and the players’ union sent a memo to teams Monday encouraging players and staff members to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and outlining the ways in which teams can loosen virus-related protocols when they do. The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, urges “all players and staff” to receive one of the coronavirus vaccines, a noteworthy directive because not all players have indicated plans to get the shots this season. It also incentivizes them to do so with protocol modifications for fully vaccinated players and for teams on which 85 percent of Tier 1 individuals (coaches and players, mostly) are immunized... Once players are fully vaccinated, they will be allowed to “gather in hotel rooms and other indoor spaces without masks or distancing” as long as other “non-fully vaccinated individuals are not around.” They can also have vaccinated family members stay with them on the road, will not need to wear masks in weight rooms and will not need to be tested as often, according to the modifications outlined. Once 85 percent of Tier 1 individuals on a given team are fully vaccinated, more protocols will be modified. No masks will be required in the dugout or bullpen. Vaccinated players will not need to wear contact tracing devices. They will be allowed to eat at restaurants and host guests in their hotel rooms. They may even be allowed to play video games in the clubhouse again, a crucial component of any modern-day team bonding.