The Diamondbacks' comprehensive spring training remake was heavy on the little things that manager Kirk Gibson believes are essential toward changing the results -- situational hitting, holding runners, doing the little things.
While the he D-Backs led the National League in home runs and runs this spring, they also had the highest ERA and had the most strikeouts, their twin bugaboos in a 2010 season that resulted in the firings of general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch at midseason.
"I'd say disappointing," new general manager Kevin Towers said of the D-Backs' 12-25 exhibition record. "I think we did some things well, but we didn't have too many clean games this spring. I don't know if the guys were tight because of all the competition at all the different positions. I was hoping to finish the last week-to-10 days with some momentum going into the season. It didn't happen. There's nothing we can do about it."
Despite their offensive numbers this spring, the D-backs know they are not built to bash. Towers began his rebuilding process by adding arms to the bullpen, his M.O. during his years in San Diego, and that is still the way the D-backs plan to get out of last place in the NL West for the first time since 2008.
It will not be an easy task. The West has produced two of the three
National League teams to have played in the World Series the last four years and is home to defending champion San Francisco. Colorado, their season-opening opponent, made the Series in 2007 and is considered a top contender in the division this season.
Gibson has said the process of redefining the D-Backs could take years -- he mentioned five years on Monday -- but it is clear that no one wants to wait that long.
The D-backs have finished last in the NL West with 95 and 97 losses the last two seasons.
"My hope is that it's a fundamentally sound club, which has not been the case this spring," said Towers, whose team committed 43 errors, tied for the most in the majors. "I wouldn't say we're a juggernaut of an offensive club;
we'll score enough runs.
"Ultimately, our margin for error is small, so we can't give extra outs to the opponent and we can't run into outs on the basepaths. Pitchers have to throw strikes. The ball needs to be in play. If we do all those things, I think we'll be fine. If we fall short in those areas, we're going to struggle."
--RHP Kameron Mickolio won the final spot in the Diamondbacks' bullpen in a competition with RHP Esmerling Vasquez, who was optioned to Class AAA Reno. Mickolio, 6-foot-9, is eight inches taller and gives the D-backs another look. "Mickolio
has a little different deception," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Maybe we'll use
him a little more toward right-handers." Mickolio and RHP David Hernandez made the team after being acquired for 3B Mark Reynolds at the winter meetings.
--RHP J.J. Putz pitched in exhibition games against Mexican League teams Monterrey and Quintana Roo on Tuesday and Wednesday, his first back-to-backs this spring, and pronounced himself ready for the start of the regular season. "I think this was a really good confidence builder all the way around, health-wise, stuff-wise," said Putz, whose appearance Tuesday was his first since March 18. He felt back tightness warming up two days later, and there was some initial concern about whether he would be ready for the start of the regular season.
--SS Stephen Drew (lower abdominal strain) underwent an MRI that was negative Tuesday, but he is still listed as day-to-day and is unlikely to play
in Friday's opener at Colorado. Drew first felt the injury March 17, and it has bothered him off and on the rest of the spring. INF/OF Willie Bloomquist is the likely Opening Day starter at shortstop.
--1B Juan Miranda beat out 1B/OF Brandon Allen for the other first base spot alongside veteran 1B Russell Branyan. Miranda, obtained by GM Kevin Towers in one of his first offseason trades, was out of minor league options and Allen had one remaining, but manager Kirk Gibson said that was not an issue.
--INF/OF Ryan Roberts, who hit .519 this spring, made the Opening Day roster for the second time in three years after being the final cut in 2010. A spot opened when INF Geoff Blum (knee) was placed on the disabled list. Blum is expected to be ready sometime in the first homestand, which begins April 8. LHP Zach Duke (broken hand) also will open the season on the disabled list. Duke is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken hand.
DIAMOND STAT: 9 -- Consecutive spring training losses before the D-backs scored four runs in the ninth inning for an 8-5 victory over Seattle on March 18.
QUOTABLE: "It is not because we were afraid of losing him. It is because we think he has earned the right to play." -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, on the decision to keep 1B Juan Miranda on the season-opening roster rather than expose him to waivers.
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