There's more power in the lineup and more
stability on the pitching staff and as the Diamondbacks report to camp, they
expect both areas to make them forget about last season's disastrous 51-111
finish in a hurry.
"That team isn't here anymore," left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "This is a completely new team."
Gonzalez is the only projected starter in the field that returns
from last year's Opening Day lineup, but the Diamondbacks have retooled and
reloaded in drastic fashion, starting with their offense and starting
The Diamondbacks are without Richie Sexson (free agency) and
Randy Johnson (dealt to the Yankees), but they've added power in new third
baseman Troy Glaus and right fielder Shawn Green and brought in stability to
the pitching staff with the likes of Javier Vazquez, Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes.
They've shored up their defensive concerns in the field with the
additions of shortstop Royce Clayton, second baseman Craig Counsell and center
fielder Jose Cruz Jr. Second-year man Chad Tracy, meanwhile, moves from third
to first and, according to manager Bob Melvin, could put up big numbers
hitting behind the big bats in the heart of the order.
The Diamondbacks do have some concerns that might need to be
addressed, however. Ortiz, No. 2 starter Brandon Webb and Estes combined for
336 walks last season, and that number has to decrease in a big way. The
bullpen is decent, but it's young and isn't awe-inspiring.
Arizona's youthful roster in 2004, the result of a dizzying
series of injuries, contributed to much of the team's woes, but most of the
kids have been replaced with veterans. But there are at least three key areas
being predominantly filled by young players, and Arizona can't afford much
growing pains at any of the positions:
Right-handed Greg Aquino notched 16 saves as a rookie last
season, and the one-time shortstop is manager Bob Melvin's full-time closer,
assuming he can carry the load.
Tracy was plagued by error problems last season as a rookie at
third, and he hasn't played first base on a consistent basis since early in
his collegiate career.
Then, there are two other neophytes -- Koyie Hill and Chris Snyder --competing for the starting catching duties. Both are competent but
unpolished, especially with handling a mostly veteran starting rotation.
"It shouldn't take us long for everybody to get on the same
page and build some chemistry together," says Ortiz. "Some teams, it
takes longer. But I feel pretty good that we'll get to know each other well
and establish some good consistency, even with so many new faces."
WHERE, WHEN: Tucson Electric Park, Tucson, Ariz. First exhibition
game is March 3 against Chicago White Sox.
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Manager Bob Melvin, first year, 156-168 during
last two seasons as Seattle Mariners manager, returns to Arizona, where he was
bench coach from 2001-02; pitching coach Mark Davis, hitting coach Mike Aldrete, bench coach Jay Bell, third-base coach Carlos Tosca, first base coach
Brett Butler, bullpen coach Chuck Kniffin.
TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: 1B Chad Tracy finished ranked in the
Top 10 in 10 different offensive categories among all rookies last season and
should benefit greatly if he his sixth in the lineup behind sluggers Luis
Gonzalez, Troy Glaus and Shawn Green. Tracy is a solid contact hitter who bats
for average and sprays the ball to all three fields, and manager Bob Melvin
thinks Tracy could shine as bright as anyone in the D-backs' revamped lineup.
The signing of backup 1B Tony Clark should take some pressure off Tracy and
also push him a bit at the same time.
TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: 2B Craig Counsell entered spring training
with the keys to the starting job even though he may be better served as a
super-utility player coming off the bench. He can be a clutch performer but
needs to prove he can still be productive on a daily basis if it means keeping
two younger second basemen, Matt Kata and Alex Cintron, on the bench.
--CF Jose Cruz Jr. was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a straight-up swap for LHP Casey Fossum. The Diamondbacks also
received financial compensation to help defray part of the Cruz's $4 million
salary in 2005.
"Jose is a switch-hitter, a solid major league ballplayer
and an excellent outfielder," GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "He's also
--C/INF/OF Robby Hammock was designated for assignment and became
a free agent, but the Diamondbacks were negotiating with his agent, Bob
Garber, in an attempt to sign Hammock to a minor-league deal to keep him in
The club wasn't particularly happy with Hammock's decision,
however, to continually postpone surgery on his right shoulder to repair a
torn labrum. Hammock twice backed off the idea before finally getting the
procedure done less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to
--LF Luis Gonzalez (right elbow), 3B Troy Glaus (right shoulder)
and 2B Matt Kata received medical clearance to report and work out with
pitchers and catchers.
--In addition to the recent signing of RHP Jose Jimenez, the
Diamondbacks added two more veterans to help beef up the bullpen during spring
training -- lefty Donovan Osborne and right-hander Juan Acevedo.
"It gives (manager) Bob (Melvin) more options when he puts
the bullpen together," GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Errors committed by Jose Cruz Jr. in 524
career games as a center fielder.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We saw him a lot and he did an excellent job
in right field for the Giants (in 2003), and playing right field in San
Francisco is just terrible." -- Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola jr. on the
acquisition of Jose Cruz Jr., from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Cruz will be
Arizona's new starter in center field after being dealt from Tampa Bay for LHP
ARRIVALS: RHP Juan Acevedo (free agent), 1B Tony Clark (free
agent from Yankees), SS Royce Clayton (free agent from Rockies), INF Craig
Counsell (free agent from Brewers), CF Jose Cruz Jr. (trade with Devil Rays),
LHP Shawn Estes (free agent from Rockies), LHP Brad Halsey (trade with
Yankees), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Angels), RF Shawn Green (trade with
Dodgers), RHP Jose Jimenez (free agent from Indians), RHP Russ Ortiz (free
agent from Braves), LHP Donovan Osborne (free agent from Yankees), RHP Adam Peterson (trade with Toronto), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent from Royals), RHP
Javier Vazquez (trade with Yankees).
DEPARTURES: INF Carlos Baerga (released), RF Danny Bautista (free
agent, signed with Devil Rays), INF Craig Colbrunn (free agent), RHP Mike Fetters (released), LHP Casey Fossum (traded to Devil Rays), Andrew Good
(released, signed with Tigers), C/INF/OF Robby Hammock (free agent), 1B Shea Hillenbrand (traded to Blue Jays), LHP Randy Johnson (traded to Yankees), RHP
Matt Mantei (free agent, signed with Boston), LHP Shane Nance (non-tendered),
INF Tim Olson (non-tendered), LHP Stephen Randolph (traded to Cubs), RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Scott Service (released), 1B Richie Sexson (free
agent, signed with Seattle), RHP Steve Sparks (free agent, signed with San
--RHP Javier Vazquez vows the Yankees will regret the day they
traded him, and he should flourish with all the extra offense in the D-backs'
lineup. Vazquez battled some second-half problems with his mechanics but is
convinced he's worked out the kinks this winter. He should have plenty of
motivation in 2005.
--RHP Russ Ortiz might have been the most unheralded signing off
the offseason. All he's done since making it to the majors is average 15 wins
and 200-plus innings a season without ever landing on the disabled list. Needs
to cut down on his walks (he issued 112 in 2004, second-most in the NL).
--RHP Brandon Webb moves down a spot in the rotation, where there
will be less pressure than last season -- he was No. 2 behind Randy Johnson in
2004. Webb and his sinker should benefit from an improved defense up the
middle of the infield, and that extra confidence should curtail his walks (an
NL-leading 119 last season).
--LHP Shawn Estes gives the Diamondbacks a more-than-serviceable
starter in the No. 4 spot, something they sorely lacked last season. His ERA
should fall now that he's leaving the thin air of Coors Field, but he, too,
needs to lower his walk total (he ranked third in the NL with 105).
--LHP Michael Gosling heads a list of several potential
candidates to nail down the No. 5 spot and must show in spring training that
his un-nervy makeup sets him apart from the rest of the pack. A key will be
the continued development of his off-speed pitches.
There's no Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling on this staff, but
there is strength in numbers at the top four spots. The only potential
derailment here is the threat of issuing too many walks. The threesome of
Ortiz, Webb and Estes issued a staggering 336 last season, and that number has
to come down significantly. The top four can chew up lots of innings, however,
which should save an otherwise young bullpen. Look for hard-throwing RHP Ramon
Antonio Pena (formerly known as Adriano Rosario), LHP addition Brad Halsey and
possibly, RHP Oscar Villarreal, a reliever, to enter the mix if LHP Mike
Gosling fails to nail down the No. 5 spot.
--RHP Greg Aquino converted his first 10 save opportunities after
injuries derailed Matt Mantei, Jose Valverde and a host of others, and after
finishing with 16 saves he won the job as closer and will be manager Bob
Melvin's stopper barring any unforeseen developments.
--RHP Mike Koplove was nearly dealt to the Dodgers as part of the
Randy Johnson trade, but both he and the Diamondbacks are happy he's back as
the club's tricky setup man. He struggled during parts of last season but
finished strong by allowing just one run over his final 9 1/3 innings of
relief, spanning six games.
--RHP Jose Valverde is coming off shoulder surgery to repair a
torn labrum and drew positive reviews on his three sessions off the mound
entering camp, but there have to be some concerns. He can't be happy about
losing out on the closer's job, either, but if he reports with a good attitude
and a healthy arm, things should take care of themselves.
--RHP Brian Bruney held the opposition to a .189 average,
third-best among big league rookies in 2004, and his fastball is devastatingly
hard to hit. He needs to continue to develop his off-speed stuff to augment
his fireball, but he's a capable and improving late inning guy who can
complement Koplove and Valverde as setup men and might push Aquino if the
converted shortstop fails to hold down the closer's role.
--LHP Randy Choate returns in a lefty specialist role and must be
more effective this season, even if he wasn't all that bad in 2004. He has
allowed only two home runs since Sept. 14, 2000 -- a span of 137 visits to the
mound totaling 127 innings.
--LHP Brad Halsey doesn't throw all that hard but has a nice
assortment of pitches that makes him attractive in a bullpen role if he can't
win a spot as the No. 5 starter.
--RHP Edgar Gonzalez couldn't buy a break as a starter last
season, going 0-9 with a 9.32 ERA in 10 starts in 2004, and should benefit by
serving as a long reliever.
This was supposed to be the club's greatest strength last season,
but the bullpen fizzled with a 17-31 record and a 4.69 ERA. There hasn't been
a ton of improvements made here, really, but the Diamondbacks did invite three
veterans to camp (LHP Donovan Osborne and RHPs Juan Acevedo and Jose Jimenez)
with the hope that at least one of them can re-emerge and provide some
experience and help. Arizona could be asking a lot from Greg Aquino as its
closer, but he seems comfortable and confident in the role. RHP Adam Peterson,
acquired from Toronto in the Shea Hillenbrand trade, could make things
interesting in camp if his fastball and slider lives up to expectations.
--CF Jose Cruz Jr., acquired from Tampa Bay for LHP Casey Fossum,
gives Arizona a nice option at leadoff, where he has hit successfully in the
past. With so much power behind him in this lineup, his .333 on-base
percentage from 2004 should balloon.
--SS Royce Clayton still has good speed and is highly underrated
when it comes to advancing baserunners, especially when he bunts. He drove in
54 runs last season for the Rockies and likely will draw more walks (he had 48
--LF Luis Gonzalez is returning from Tommy John surgery on his
right elbow, but the left-handed slugger wasn't nearly as affected at the
plate by the torn ligament in his arm as he was defensively. He's got big
protection behind him and his home run totals, which have declined every year
since he clubbed 57 in 2001, could improve. His run production -- he's
averaged 115 RBIs a season in Arizona until shutting it down early in 2004 --
has never been a question mark.
--3B Troy Glaus is said to be completely recovered from shoulder
surgery, which hampered much of his 2004 season, and he's expected to provide
big numbers in the heart of the order as the new 40-home run man with 1B
Richie Sexson having flown the coop as a free agent.
--RF Shawn Green must be licking his chops in the fifth spot,
where he figures to get tons of chances to drive in runs. Green came on strong
during the second half of last season with the Dodgers, and he has hit
particularly well at Bank One Ballpark in his career.
--1B Chad Tracy hit .285 as a rookie last season and has already
been compared to such consistent hitters as Wade Boggs and Mark Grace. Tracy
has added some weight and hopes to improve his power game, but Arizona will be
happy every time he slaps a single or double to the gaps. He could also rack
up the RBIs as a sleeper in the 6 hole.
--2B Craig Counsell returns to the Diamondbacks, where he was a
fan favorite, and is a strong hit-and-run man who also finds ways to get on
base. He does the little things at the plate that managers and coaches love
and could bat leadoff instead of seventh, depending how Bob Melvin wants to
--C Koyie Hill is coming off a pretty severe ankle injury but is
ready to go and will have to fight off fellow youngster Chris Snyder for the
starting job. Snyder might have more pop in his bat, but Hill isn't lacking
and he's a gritty and tenacious hitter whose overall game makes him a valuable
Manager Bob Melvin hasn't tipped his hand on a couple of spots in
the batting order and was mulling over whom to hit leadoff -- Jose Cruz Jr. or
Craig Counsell. If it's Counsell, then expect Chad Tracy to slide to the
seventh spot with Cruz batting sixth behind the big left-right-left
combination of sluggers Luis Gonzalez, Troy Glaus and Shawn Green. Though
penciled in as the backup catcher, Kelly Stinnett could get more at-bats if
youngsters Koyie Hill or Chris Snyder start off slowly. Overall, Arizona has
plenty of offense and can put up a lot of runs quickly, which should help an
equally reloaded starting rotation.
--C Kelly Stinnett signed on as a free agent from Kansas City and
is expected to be the backup to one of two youngsters slugging it out for the
starting job (Koyie Hill and Chris Snyder). The loser goes to Triple-A.
--2B Matt Kata could push Craig Counsell for a starting job in
time but figures to comes off the bench for now. He's coming off shoulder
surgery and is hungry to make a name for himself.
--SS-2B Alex Cintron lost his starting job at short to newcomer
Royce Clayton and spent the latter part of 2004 at second base, making him an
effective utility man, especially as a switch-hitter with the ability to drive
--1B Tony Clark joins the Diamondbacks as a free agent and will
back up Chad Tracy, who's making the move from third base to first. Clark
still has some decent power and can be a late-inning threat when Arizona needs
some quick runs.
--OF Luis Terrero has all the tools in the world but just needs
to harness them. Once he does, he could be an All-Star. The Diamondbacks just
don't think he's ready to handle the starting gig in center right now. But
he's got speed, power and one heck of a strong arm.
--OF Quinton McCracken is a versatile player who stands a strong
chance to crack the 25-man roster as an extra outfielder. He's a good
hit-and-run man, a fairly patient hitter, and can give corner men Luis
Gonzalez and Shawn Green the odd day off.
--OF-INF Scott Hairston came up the ladder with everything on his
side but might have gotten too comfortable too fast. The Diamondbacks are
convinced he's a major league-ready hitter (he hit 13 homers in 2004 as a
rookie), but he needs to focus on his defense, especially now that Arizona
will ask him to play the outfield and spend less time at second base, where
there is a logjam.
--OF Doug DeVore was a bit of an anomaly last season (he hit just
.224), but he's capable of driving in runs, is solid defensively in left or
right, and has a strong and accurate arm. He'll have to really shine to make
the Opening Day roster, but he's able.
The Diamondbacks' bench is more athletic and diverse as well as
younger and healthier. That should be a huge plus as the season drags on.
There is better depth here, with infielders Matt Kata and Alex Cintron capable
of playing every day, if needed. The 6-foot-7 Tony Clark provides good
defensive and extra pop off the bench, and there is speed in the outfield with
extras Luis Terrero and Quinton McCracken.
TOP ROOKIES: LHP Michael Gosling went 9-5 with a 5.82 ERA at
Triple-A Tucson before his late season call-up, and he was impressive in four
starts for the Diamondbacks (going 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA). Look for either him
or hard-throwing RHP Ramon Antonio Pena to battle hard for the No. 5 starter's
job. Pena missed most of last season after it was learned he used a family
member's identity (he formerly pitched under the name of Adriano Rosario to
appear younger than he actually was). Elsewhere, two top prospects in the
organization -- OFs Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin -- will be watched
closely but won't be rushed until they are ready. They're not too far away,
SPRING FOCUS: Just how much run production can the Diamondbacks'
truly expect from the G-Force, the left-right-left slugging combination in the
middle of the order consisting of Luis Gonzalez, Troy Glaus and Shawn Green.
Each of them has undergone significant arm surgeries, but they all are said to
be fit and ready to go. The only real jobs up for grabs is at starting catcher
(Koyie Hill or Chris Snyder are the candidates) and the No. 5 starter (lefty
Michael Gosling heads a list of at least four viable options). Will RHP Javier
Vazquez, the new No. 1 starter, fit in and adapt after being dealt by the
Yankees? There remained some talk he could be traded because of contract
concerns. The rest of the starters, meanwhile, will need to cut back
significantly on their walk totals from last season.
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.