New third baseman Melvin Mora likes what he sees in his first spring training with the Diamondbacks, leading him to believe there is a way out of consecutive last-place finishes in the NL West.
"We don't have a big name, a guy who is going to hit 50 homers here," Mora said. "But like I told everybody, if we do what we are supposed to do and we pitch, we can do damage to anybody. There are a lot of young guys here, but they know how to pitch and they know how to play."
Mora, 39, was signed to play third base on the first day of the winter meetings, hours after Mark Reynolds and his 121 home runs over the last four seasons was traded to Baltimore for relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio. Mora
enjoyed his best seasons from 2003-05 in Baltimore -- he was named to the AL All-Star team in 2003 and 2005 and won the AL Silver Slugger award for third basemen while hitting .340 with 104 RBI in 2004.
If that seems like ancient history, Mora had a strong second half with Colorado in 2010, hitting .307 with six homers and 31 RBI after the All-Star break as the regular third baseman when Ian Stewart went down with a rib cage injury. He hit .285 with seven homers and 45 RBI for the season.
"He likes to have fun. He likes to play the game, more than anything,"
said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, who is expected to find time at third base
also for utility man Geoff Blum. "He's very confident. I've watched him
for years. I know what he's capable of. He's going to get his at-bats, trust
Mora attributes his longevity to lessons learned from observing former teammates Jeff Bagwell, Robin Ventura, Rickey Henderson, John Olerud and, of course, Cal Ripken Jr.
"When I got to Baltimore, forget it. Cal Ripken Jr. ... how he prepared himself. How he played without getting hurt. Everything comes from your health. How you eat. How you sleep. If you don't get good sleep at night, you are going to get to the ballpark exhausted. That's going to hurt your career. You make sure you discipline your body, you discipline your food, you discipline your sleep. You want to play for 20 years, so you try to do the little things," he said.
--2B Kelly Johnson will play for $5.85 million this season following a career year in 2010 and could find a welcoming free agent market in the offseason considering that Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks signed a four-year, $38.5 million extension after posting numbers similar to Johnson's last year. Johnson entered 2011 determined to resist the temptation of looking back or ahead, however. "In baseball, there are two kinds of people -- guys who have been humbled or guys who are about to be. To sit back and admire a season or a week or an at-bat is foolish," he said.
--LHP Joe Saunders broke out a new pitch, a cut fastball, in his first start of the spring. He threw three in 1 2/3 innings against San Francisco and said he plans to work on it throughout the spring as a pitch to offer right-handed hitters who stray too far out over the plate while going after his fastball/changeup/curve repertoire. "It puts another pitch in the hitter's mind. I didn't throw them for strikes, but I thought they had some decent action on them. It's a work in progress. If you have three pitches, it's better than
two-and-a-half pitches. It's a good pitch. It obviously worked for Andy Pettitte for a good amount of time," said Saunders, with RHP Daniel Hudson perhaps the top two candidates to start the regular-season opener April 1 at Colorado.
--LF/1B Xavier Nady homered in his first spring training game Friday but took it easy on his arm while making five throws from left field. "I hate to say it, but it's still going to be an issue," said Nady, who underwent the second of his two Tommy John surgeries on July 8, 2009. "I'm a lot more behind than I think. Not just from a physical standpoint but from a mental, especially when you haven't aired it out almost two years. That's a big hurdle. Eventually it should be a non-issue all season." He missed the rest of the 2009 season after the surgery but returned to play 28 games in the outfielder and 52 at first base for the Cubs last season. The D-backs signed him as a free agent in the offseason to be their starting left fielder.
--Roland Hemond, a special assistant to D-backs president CEO/Derrick Hall, has been selected as the second recipient of the John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to baseball during a seven-decade career in which he has served as general manager of the Chicago White Sox (1970-85) and Baltimore (1988-96). The award will be presented during the Hall of Fame ceremonies on July 23.
DIAMOND STAT: 3 -- Cut fastballs thrown in the first spring start by LHP Joe Saunders, who is thinking about adding
the pitch to his repertoire
QUOTABLE: "In baseball, there are two kinds of people -- guys who have been humbled or guys who are about to be. To sit back and admire a season or a week or an at-bat is foolish." -- 2B Kelly Johnson
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