D'Backs Inside Pitch from Scout.com


Posted May 30, 2005


Koyie Hill went from being handed the job as the Opening Day starting catcher to being awarded a ticket to Triple-A Tucson.    As badly as Hill might feel about his demotion in the Diamondbacks' organization, a move he had to know was coming eventually, he put his best foot forward and tried not to make it personal.

INSIDE PITCH
   "I don't think anybody's ever excited to get sent down," said Hill, who was batting .212 in 52 at-bats, but had only made five starts in May. "It's going to be a good thing because I'm going to go down there and I'm going to play and get back in the swing of things, and hopefully, I'll be back here and be better for it."
   Hill, acquired from the Dodgers in the Steve Finley trade last year, never had a chance. Not really.
   Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin would have preferred to make Chris Snyder his starting catcher right off the bat and he would have, too, had Snyder not had a thumb injury that forced him to miss the last bit of spring training.
   Snyder is way ahead, defensively, so much so that Melvin calls Snyder, who never played a game in Triple-A, already one of the best receivers in the National League. But when the first-year skipper decided to go with both youngsters in the catcher's role, telling veteran Kelly Stinnett he wasn't going to make the club, he indicated Hill and Snyder were better suited for the job than Stinnett.
   Melvin, though, kept sticking with Snyder, who was hitting .216 at the time of Hill's demotion, and Hill quickly got the lay of the land, knowing he had to be spectacular to even be considered to return to the starting job.
   "Early on, I was trying to get five hits in three at-bats," he said. "It's tough."
   Melvin acknowledged he hadn't given Hill nearly enough time to be successful in the role the young catcher was in, but still decided to stick with Snyder. And then, just when Hill seemed to be cranking it up offensively, the Diamondbacks, who already had brought Stinnett back into the organization after his failed try with the New York Mets, purchased Stinnett's minor league contract and said goodbye to Hill.
   "Koyie hasn't been a catcher his whole career. He just needs to play," Melvin said,
   That's what Hill is banking on, like it or not in Triple-A ball.
   "Maybe a week, maybe the rest of the season," Hill said, when asked how long he thought his stay might be in the minors. "It's something I can't control. I'm going to play, have fun, hit the ball, try to win some games and work on my defense."
 
NOTES, QUOTES
   --RHP Brandon Lyon has no immediate plans for surgery and simply plans to rest his ailing right elbow after flying to Los Angeles on Friday to meet with specialist Lewis Yokum, the Angels' team physician.
   Lyon, who was leading the majors in saves (13) when he went on the disabled list on May 13, has a strain in his ulnar collateral ligament that, if it were to get worse, would have to be corrected with Tommy John surgery.
   After studying images of a second MRI, however, Yokum advised Lyon to rest his arm for at least 10 days and stay away from virtually all baseball activity and then see where things stand before deciding what to do next.
   "He reassured me that right now, it's nothing to take too seriously as far as the ligament goes and don't worry about it," Lyon said. "He said to rest things right now and let Mother Nature take over. ... He said you've got to explore every option before you think about any surgery or anything like that.
   "I feel really confident I'm going to come back. I'll be out for a while longer and it'll be OK."
   Lyon might not throw at all for at least two weeks, just to be safe. Once he begins a throwing program, it could be two to three weeks after that before the Diamondbacks feel comfortable running him out in the ninth inning.
   Still, the news was better than he had been expecting. Especially considering he missed all of last season following ulnar nerve transposition surgery.
   "My spirits are up a little bit better than they have been the past couple days," Lyon said.
   --1B Tony Clark hit his fourth career pinch-hit home run on Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers and was batting .368 (7-for-19) with two walks and a major league-leading 10 RBIs in that role.
   The switch-hitting Clark turned around and hit from the right side when left-hander Kelly Wunsch entered the game to face him with the Dodgers ahead 4-2.
   "If they had a middle-hander coming out of there, he was going to be hitting," manager Bob Melvin said, jokingly.
   --Clark's right-handed homer was his first since Sept. 15 last season when he was with the Yankees. He has 196 career homers, which ranks fifth among active switch hitters, and 18th all time.
   --LHP Shawn Estes stole his first career base Friday, swiping second off former minor-league roommate Derek Lowe of the Dodgers in the second inning of Arizona's 7-4 loss at Bank One Ballpark. It was the fourth stolen base by a Diamondbacks pitcher in club history and the first since Brian Anderson did it in June of 1999 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
   --RF Shawn Green eight-game hitting streak was snapped Saturday.
   --CF Jose Cruz Jr. scored his 600th career run when he homered in the first inning of Friday's loss to the Dodgers.
   --LHP Shawn Estes is undefeated in his last seven starts against the Dodgers, going 3-0 with a 5.40 ERA.
   --RHP Javier Vazquez disputed a report on ESPN.com Thursday that suggested the right-hander is counting down the days until he can force Arizona to trade him after the season.
   The report cited unidentified sources as saying Vazquez will exercise his right to demand a trade, but Vazquez called the whole thing bogus.
   Because the Yankees traded him to Arizona in January during the middle of a multiyear contract, Vazquez has the option to ask the Diamondbacks for a trade. If they don't honor it, he would become a free agent in March. When the Yankees discussed dealing Vazquez earlier in the winter, he had indicated he would prefer to remain on the East Coast so he could be closer to friends and family in his native Puerto Rico.
   But since joining the Diamondbacks, Vazquez has not made any public remarks about wanting out of Arizona.
   "It's B.S., man," he said before Thursday's game against the visiting San Diego Padres. "... I never, never even gave a hint to anybody if I want to stay or I want to leave. I'm thinking they're just writing that up because of what happened in the beginning, when the trade happened.
   But right now, I'm not even close to making a decision. To this point, I feel happy here. I'm comfortable here. I've got great teammates. The team's good. I'm having a lot of fun here. So that's why I don't understand why somebody's just going to write that out of the blue."
   --With Brandon Lyon out indefinitely, the Diamondbacks are relying on RHP Brian Bruney as their primary closer, with RHPs Jose Valverde and Mike Koplove working as the primary, late-inning set-up men. Manager Bob Melvin said he plans to stick with Bruney until Lyon's situation becomes clear, even if Bruney has had a tendency to make things a little dicey during some of his first five saves of the season.
   "He's our secondary closer so you're going to have some dramatics," manager Bob Melvin said. "We've had dramatics this year, too, with Brandon at times. It's the nature of the beast down there. You very rarely see a Mariano Rivera in his day or (Eric) Gagne when he's doing his thing and obviously, (Trevor) Hoffman, too. But it's a tough gig. That ninth inning can be tough."
   --RHP Brandon Webb (6-1) suffered his first loss since the opening game of a doubleheader on Sept. 23 at Coors Field. Webb and the Diamondbacks were blanked by Jake Peavy and the Padres 10-0 on Thursday night. Webb fell one victory shy of tying Randy Johnson's club record for consecutive victories, which the Big Unit set in 2000.
   --The Diamondbacks have until Tuesday to sign last year's first-round draft pick, shortstop Stephen Drew, or will lose his rights and the younger brother of Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew will re-enter this year's draft, scheduled for June 7-8.
   Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, have been prepared to do exactly that since contract talks broke off following the Diamondbacks' last contract proposal back in April.
   "We've tried to be open-minded about getting a deal done," Diamondbacks General Partner Jeff Moorad said Thursday. "We've put our best foot forward, but it doesn't happen to be satisfactory to the player."
   --CF Jose Cruz Jr. still isn't in tip-top shape since missing 27 games earlier this season due to a pinched nerve in his lower back and on Thursday, manager Bob Melvin started Luis Terrero in center instead. The move was based partly on a reward for Terrero's game the previous night against the Padres in which he collected three hits, including his second home run of the season. But it was also to give Cruz some extra time off as he gets back into full baseball condition. Cruz will play two straight or three straight, then typically get a day off.
   --RF Shawn Green and his wife, Lindsay, will donate $250,000 to three Arizona organizations: Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation; St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center; and Phoenix Children's Hospital. "The community has been wonderful to me and my family since we arrived," Shawn Green said. "We are very excited for this opportunity to give something back."
   --Arizona was two-hit for the third time this season in Thursday's loss to the Padres. San Diego (April 20) and Pittsburgh (May 7) did it to the Diamondbacks the other two times.
   --LF Luis Gonzalez went 0-for-3 Thursday, snapping a streak of 12 consecutive games in which he had reached base safely via a hit or a walk.
   --Third base coach Carlos Tosca and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock missed Wednesday night's game against visiting San Diego to attend their children's graduation ceremonies. First base coach Brett Butler replaced Tosca at third and hitting coach Mike Aldrete filled in for Butler at first.
   --The Diamondbacks homered three times during a five-run, fifth inning Wednesday in their 12-11 victory over the Padres. Troy Glaus, Tony Clark and Luis Terrero each hit homers in the inning, the 10th three-homer inning for the franchise and the first since Sept. 28, 2002 vs. the Rockies. Glaus and Clark hit back-to-back shots, the first time that has happened since Scott Hairston and Luis Gonzalez went back-to-back July 26 in Houston.
   --Wednesday's game against the Padres drew just 20,769.
   "If we keep winning, they'll come out," manager Bob Melvin said. "There's a lot going on with the Suns and school's not out yet. I could give you the whole marketing spiel if want me to. But we feel like if we keep winning, they'll come out. We have great fans here."
   BY THE NUMBERS: 183 -- Consecutive batters faced by Javier Vazquez without issuing a walk. Vazquez's 46 straight innings without a walk set a team record, surpassing the mark previously held by Curt Schilling (44 innings in 2002).
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've seen an incremental process since spring training. ... He's really been great. It's all about winning now. It's not about him. He's going to do whatever he can to help the team. ... He's really matured as a ballplayer." -- Manager Bob Melvin on OF Luis Terrero, who has received more playing time in the past several days than at any point since the end of last season.


Related Stories
Melvin on Catchers, Managers, and One Run Games
 -by DiamondbacksDaily.com  May 16, 2005
FutureBacks Q & A: Garrett Mock
 -by DiamondbacksDaily.com  May 9, 2005
Stinnett released by Mets
 -by InsidePitchMagazine.com  Apr 2, 2005

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