The Diamondbacks are so new you can hear them squeak. General manager Kevin Towers, manager Kirk Gibson, four members of the coaching staff, and 21 of the players on the 40-man roster will begin their first full season in Arizona this spring as the D-backs look for a way out of the NL West cellar after spending the last two years there.
Towers, hired September 22, needed only two weeks to remove the interim label from Gibson, who was promoted from bench coach when manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes were fired July 1. (Jerry Dipoto, who served 12 weeks as the interim general manager, remains in the front office as the vice president of scouting and player development, Towers' right-hand man.)
Alan Trammell (bench), Don Baylor (hitting), Eric Young (first base), and Charles Nagy (pitching) joined the coaching staff, and Matt Williams moved from first base to third. Only bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock, who has been with the team since its inception, remained in the same position.
Promising to strengthen the bullpen and cut back on strikeouts (the D-backs set a major league record with 1,529 last season), Towers made short work of his to-do list. He traded third baseman Mark Reynolds and his three straight seasons of 200-plus strikeouts for bullpen arms David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio on the first day of the winter meetings after opting to decline first baseman Adam LaRoche's option, making LaRoche a free agent.
The D-backs turned to the free agent market for their closer, right-hander J.J. Putz, and the third base platoon of Melvin Mora and Geoff Blum. Towers also added free agents Xavier Nady to play left field and/or first base, backup catcher Henry Blanco and infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist. Rotation candidates Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga and first baseman Juan Miranda were acquired in trades.
Nady, too, will start. It is just a matter of where. Brandon Allen and Miranda, both left-handed hitters, are the first base candidates entering camp, but Nady is certain to play at least some there. That would leave fourth outfielder Gerardo Parra or Bloomquist to play left, though Allen has shown an ability to play that position as well.
Right-handers Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy and left-hander Joe Saunders are locks for three rotation spots, and Duke, Galarraga, Barry Enright and Aaron Heilman will vie for the other two spots. Heilman, a free agent after spending last season in the bullpen, re-signed when he was told he would be given a look as a starter.
Putz, Hernandez, occasional closer Juan Gutierrez, and Sam Demel have secure spots in the seven-man bullpen, but it may be a dogfight after that among righties Mickolio and Esmerling Vasquez; lefties Mike Hampton (in camp on a minor league contract), Rule 5 pick Joe Paterson, and Jordan Norberto; and possibly Heilman and minor league invitee Micah Owings. A former D-back, Owings signed a minor league contract and also might spend some time at first base in order to get his bat on the field, Towers said.
--The D-backs, who considered using a humidor in 2011 in order to cut down on the offense at Chase Field, have put the idea on the back burner but still will consider it in the future, according to team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. Colorado is the only major league park to use a humidor, which keeps balls from drying out and thus flying farther. Chase Field was the third-most hitter friendly park in the NL last season, behind only Colorado's Coors Field and the Cubs' Wrigley Field. Chase was second in the majors in 2009 and led the majors in 2008.
--RHP Armando Galarraga and umpire Jim Joyce, whose missed call cost Galarraga the 19th perfect game in modern major league history June 2 of last year, have authored a book along with Daniel Paisner about the game. The book is titled "Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History." A Major League Baseball spokesman said the commissioner's office is looking into the arrangement between Galarraga and Joyce, AOL FanHouse reported.
--The D-backs planned to open the $100 million spring training facility they share with Colorado when pitchers and catchers report February 13, one day before workouts were scheduled to begin. The D-backs shared a Tucson facility with the Chicago White Sox from 1998 to 2008, before the White Sox moved to suburban Phoenix, beginning an exodus that ended with the D-backs and Colorado leaving Tucson this spring. The Rockies had played at Hi Corbett Field.
--After general manager Kevin Towers finished his offseason moves, more than half of the D-backs' 40-man roster is new this season. The D-backs have 21 newcomers this spring, including the four pitchers -- Sam Demel, Daniel Hudson, Carlos Rosa, Joe Saunders -- they acquired in midseason moves last year. Towers signed seven free agents, made four trades and added another player via the Rule 5 draft.
--The D-backs will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their 2001 World Series title on September 9-11, the final three games of a four-game series against San Diego. The team will wear purple-and-white throwback jerseys September 9, players from the title team will be in attendance on September 10, and first responders such as firemen and policemen will be honored on September 11 in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
DIAMOND STAT: 2 -- Major league parks more favorable to hitters than Chase Field from 2008-2010, Coors Field (Colorado) and Wrigley Field (Chicago).
QUOTABLE: "Seeing how strong our offseason focus was on changing the coaching staff and improving the roster, the humidor project dropped down the priority list significantly." -- D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall, postponing the option of adding a Coors Field-like humidor to Chase Field this season.
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