Who's on First?

Who's on First?

A little over a month into the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks' three-headed first base monster has not been productive. While manager Kirk Gibson doesn't plan on making changes anytime soon, it may be hard to ignore a couple of alternatives toiling in the farm system.

A condensed version of an old Abbott and Costello routine can sum up the Diamondbacks' first base situation: "Who's on first? I don't know."

Russell Branyan, Juan Miranda, and Xavier Nady have each played the position this season for Arizona, but none has done it regularly.  Manager Kirk Gibson mixes and matches them in an attempt to find the best way to replace Adam LaRoche, who departed via free agency after hitting 25 home runs in 2010.

None has started as many as half the games. Miranda is batting .228 in 14 starts, Branyan is at .240 in 10 starts, and Nady is hitting .244 in nine entering the D-backs' off day Monday.

The group has two home runs and 10 RBI, and Miranda also has a home run as a pinch-hitter. The D-backs rank 15th in the NL in both categories. Thanks to Miranda's 11 walks and Branyan's five doubles, their on-base percentage and OPS are in the middle of the pack.

Miranda, obtained in an offseason trade with the New York Yankees, started four consecutive games before pinch-hitting Sunday, the first D-backs' first baseman to start four in a row this season. He had a home run and a double among his four hits while also walking four times. Nady was signed ostensibly to play left field, but he has not played there in the regular season after showing diminished arm strength in the outfield this spring.

Gibson said he wants to settle on a starter, but has not been able to isolate one yet. He also said he does not believe the intermittent playing time should have an effect on performance.

"It's everybody's responsibility to be ready to play and make the most of your opportunities," noted Gibson. "It's a long season. I think if somebody would use that as an excuse, that's not the type of player I'm looking for."

"Things have a way of happening. People get hurt, people get moved, you get up and you get on a roll and you earn some time."

Should the first base triumvirate continue to falter, the D-backs have a pair of interesting in-house options.  Brandon Allen is on the 40-man roster and batting .284 with 23 RBI for Triple-A Reno.  While Paul Goldschmidt would need to be added to the 40-man roster before joining the Diamondbacks, he is arguably the best hitter in Minor League Baseball right now.  He is batting .347 and leads the Southern League in homers (12), RBI (32), walks (28), OBP (.485), and SLG (.752).  Goldschmidt was a favorite of Gibson's during spring training.

"At this point, we're not there yet," said Gibson. "I don't look at it as a problem. Just moving around a bit right now. Everybody should be ready to play and I don't expect to hear any alibis."

SNAKE BYTES

--2B Kelly Johnson, batting .175, missed his second consecutive start Sunday to spend work with hitting coach Don Baylor, and manager Kirk Gibson said he believed three straight days away (counting Monday's off day) could help Johnson through. "It's really kind of got him right now, so we've got to try and stop that process," Gibson said. "We're going to try to stop that type of (negative) momentum that he has right now. Johnson has four hits in his last 31 at-bats, with one home run and one RBI.

--C Miguel Montero committed two errors in the San Diego series over the weekend, giving him seven for the season. Only Washington SS Ian Desmond and St. Louis SS Ryan Theriot, with eight apiece, had more in the NL. Cubs SS Starlin Castro also had seven. Six of Montero's errors have been on throws, and the other came when he was when he was called for catcher's interference against San Diego LF Ryan Ludwick with two out in the 11th inning Friday. That loaded the bases, and a walk to the next batter forced in the winning run.

--After having his streak of 13 consecutive NL quality starts (11 in 2010, two this season) snapped April 15 and losing his first four starts, RHP Daniel Hudson is back on track. Hudson has won his last three games with three consecutive quality starts in victories over Philadelphia, the Cubs and San Diego, giving up six runs in 20 innings. "I kept saying it was going to even out in the end," said Hudson, who has made five quality starts in seven outings this season, tied with RHP Ian Kennedy for the team high. The rest of the rotation has six combined. The D-backs are 10-6 when they get a quality start, 5-12 when they do not.

DIAMOND STAT: 12 -- Runs the D-backs have scored for LHP Joe Saunders (0-4, 5.72 ERA) in his 39 1/3 innings this season.

QUOTABLE: "I'm not looking for alibi-makers, excuse-makers. I know it's tough. I understand, too. The thing about it is, you work hard, you keep your mouth shut and you wait for your turn." -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, on limited playing time for his three first basemen.

MEDICAL WATCH:

--SS Stephen Drew (groin tightness) did not start May 8 after being removed from the May 7 game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Drew tweaked the injury as the middleman on a double play in the last of the third. It is the same injury that caused Drew to sit out the May 4 game.

--INF/OF Willie Bloomquist (right hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 22. He hit in a simulated game May 1 and likely will do that again before going on a rehab assignment. He was eligible to return May 7, but the D-Backs wanted to make sure the speedster would not be hampered in steal attempts.

--LHP Zach Duke (broken left hand) was hit by a line drive March 12, and he went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He had a bullpen session April 26, the first time he had thrown off a mound since suffering his injury. Duke pitched in a simulated game May 4. He was scheduled to throw 30 pitches in an extended spring training game May 9, his first game since breaking his hand. He will make two or three appearances in extended spring training before beginning a rehab assignment, manager Kirk Gibson said. He is targeting the end of May for his return.

--INF Geoff Blum (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. Blum underwent successful arthroscopic surgery April 26, and he is expected to be out until at least early June.


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