Although he knew he had a partially torn ligament in his right throwing elbow
entering last season, Luis Gonzalez
often joked that, unless his arm
completely fell off, he wouldn't try to let the injury bother him.
But after eventually shutting things down and undergoing
"Tommy John" surgery on Aug. 2, in which it was learned the ligament
was completely torn, Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks plan to be a lot more
cautious heading into spring training.
In meetings with manager Bob Melvin
and head athletic trainer
Paul Lessard, Gonzalez resigned himself to the fact that he likely won't play
in nearly as many Cactus League games in 2005 in order to lessen strain on his
arm. He'll get plenty of at-bats -- his hitting wasn't nearly as affected as
his throwing from left field was -- but most of his bat time will come in
minor league games and on back fields as the club's spring headquarters in
"He's learned through injuries now that he has to be
honest," Melvin said. "Before, he could have a bone sticking out of
his leg and 162 was always on his mind. He wanted to play 162 games, and
that's because he's an accountable guy. ... We're definitely going to monitor
how he feels each and every day, and if I feel it's not worth running him out
there one day to make some throws because we're risking some down time, then
I'm not going to do it."
Gonzalez, who played in all 162 games during the 2000 and 2001
seasons, still managed to play in 105 games in 2004 despite his ailing elbow.
His rehab is slightly ahead of schedule, at least in his eyes, and he's been
playing catch and throwing from short distances without any problems. He threw
a football the other day and said, "I felt like Tom Brady
there," referring to the Patriots' quarterback.
The surgery hasn't affected his hitting whatsoever, and Gonzalez
said he expects that he and fellow sluggers Troy Glaus
and Shawn Green
put up big numbers in Arizona's quest to turn around last season's 51-111
"I'm excited. There's no doubt about it," he said.
"I'm ready to get back on the field. I know I'm not going to be a full
year recovered from the surgery, but I'm glad I did it when I did. I probably
should have done it earlier, but looking back at it, I wanted to be out on the
field. I'm just glad I got it done, and I feel good now."
As for any hindrance he might be in the outfield with his arm,
Gonzalez said he guarantees his throws will be better and stronger than they
were last spring. With the ligament fixed, he won't be playing mind games in
his own head and can trust his arm again. He is working hard to strengthen his
right shoulder, which atrophied a bit because of different throwing motions he
made to compensate for the strain on his elbow.
"He was never Andre Dawson
to begin with," Melvin said
of Gonzalez's arm strength. "Left fielders, as long as they charge the
ball and hit the cutoff man right away, guys aren't going to be going first to
third in your face. They're not going to be going second to home when they're
at third and you've got the ball. As long as he gets it to the infielder,
we'll be able to deal with whatever limitations he has out there."
--LHP Randy Choate
and RHP Brandon Lyon
skipped arbitration by
agreeing to new deals with the Diamondbacks. Choate signed a two-year deal
worth $1.3 million, and Lyon agreed to a one-year deal worth $330,000 in base
pay plus incentives that could earn him $500,000.
RHP Mike Koplove
and LHP Casey Fossum
, meanwhile, remain
arbitration eligible and had yet to come to terms.
--RHP Jose Jimenez
, who went 1-7 with eight saves and a 8.42 ERA
last season for Cleveland but before that recorded 102 saves over four seasons
with Colorado, signed a minor league contract with Arizona and will get a shot
to make the team out of spring training.
"What interests us about him is that he has closer
experience on his resume," GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "We don't see
him as a closer ... but it's an opportunity for us to look at him for six
weeks and see how our bullpen fits together."
Right-handed Greg Aquino
, who set a club rookie record with 16
saves in 2004, enters spring training as the club's closer.
--The Diamondbacks planned to revisit contract negotiations this
week with shortstop Stephen Drew, their first-round pick in last June's draft.
--LF Luis Gonzalez, asked how a team that lost 111 games a year
ago can possibly win the NL West the following year: "Well, I don't think
that team is here anymore. I mean, if you look at it, there might be a handful
of those guys who are still left. You look at this year's lineup, there might
be one or two guys in it from last year. The rest is new faces. They're new
faces but with a lot of experience at this level."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The only returning player on the field to be
in the Diamondbacks' Opening Day lineups in both 2003 and 2004 is LF Luis
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no doubt in my mind we can come
close to reversing our record." -- RHP Russ Ortiz
on the Diamondbacks'
chances in 2005 after finishing last in the majors with a 51-111 record in
RHP Jose Jimenez was signed to a minor league contract with a
chance to make the club in spring training.
The Diamondbacks signed RHP Brandon Lyon and LHP Randy Choate,
avoiding arbitration hearings with both players.
ARRIVALS: RF Shawn Green (trade with Dodgers), RHP Javier Vazquez
and LHP Brad Halsey
(trade with Yankees), LHP Shawn Estes
(free agent from
Colorado), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent
from Atlanta), SS Royce Clayton
(free agent from Colorado), INF Craig Counsell
(free agent from Milwaukee), C Kelly Stinnett
(free agent from Kansas City),
RHP Jose Jimenez (free agent from Cleveland).
DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Johnson
(traded to Yankees), 1B Shea Hillenbrand
(traded to Toronto), RHP Casey Daigle
(designated for assignment,
moved off 40-man roster), 1B Richie Sexson
(free agent, signed with Seattle),
RHP Shane Reynolds
(released), RHP Matt Mantai (free agent, signed with
Boston), RHP Andrew Good
(released, signed with Detroit), LHP Shane Nance
(non-tendered), Danny Bautista
(free agent, signed with Tampa Bay).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Diamondbacks still want a major league center
fielder, and their top target is Oakland's Eric Byrnes
FREE AGENTS: RHPs Shane Reynolds, Steve Sparks
, Mike Fetters
Scott Service; INFs Greg Colbrunn
and Carlos Baerga
The Diamondbacks offered arbitration to 1B Richie Sexson, but he
left as a free agent and signed with Seattle.
IN LIMBO: SS Alex Cintron
Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base and
will compete with Counsell there now that Clayton has been signed to play
MEDICAL WATCH: LF Luis Gonzalez, who underwent Tommy John surgery
to repair a torn ligament in his right throwing elbow, will be watched closely
in spring training to make sure he has recovered.