Cousell Returns; Fifth Starters Battle

Cousell Returns; Fifth Starters Battle

Craig Counsell sees game action for the first time since being diagnosed with a labrum tear, but insists he'll still be ready for opening day; The #5 spot in the rotation is up for grabs, with as many as five legit candidates, but Brad Halsey and Claudio Vargas have emerged as the front runner, and BoMel has said he's pretty sure he knows who's getting the job. PLUS: Medders pain free; Gonzo on hitting lefties; Andy Green's fear factor.

    Craig Counsell made his Cactus League debut for the Diamondbacks on
Tuesday, going 1-for-4 and scoring a run as Arizona's designated hitter
against the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz.
    Counsell, the Diamondbacks' starting shortstop, is working his way
back into game shape after missing most of the spring rehabbing a
"SLAP" tear in his right labrum. He had previously hit in a few games
at minor league camp.
    He is scheduled to be Arizona's DH Wednesday against the Athletics
in Phoenix and then will make his spring debut at shortstop during a
split-squad game Thursday night in Peoria against the Mariners.
    "I need to get into game situations like this," Counsell said. "It's
fun to be out there, and I had fun today, more than anything. It's
great to be out there with the guys and to feel like a major-leaguer
    Counsell reported no pain in his throwing shoulder, but the bigger
test will come Thursday when he's forced to make throws in game
situations. He only began making throws to first during pregame
fielding work Tuesday.
    He reiterated, however, that he will be ready to play on Opening Day.
    "I'm a little behind everybody as far as being in game shape. That's
where I've got to catch up," he said.

    --LHP Brad Halsey, vying for the No. 5 starter's job with RHP
Claudio Vargas, shook off Tuesday's rough effort against Seattle, in
which he allowed three home runs and seven hits in five innings. He's
working on throwing his sinker low and away to right-handers and is
making adjustments on other pitches, confident that working on those
issues in games is more important than getting results.
    Manager Bob Melvin concurs, and that's partly why Halsey is seen as
having the edge over Vargas for the No. 5 role. Melvin said he
basically knows who is going to get the job, but he doesn't plan to
announce anything with his rotation until Friday at the earliest.
    --LF Luis Gonzalez hit his second home run, belting a 3-0 pitch from
Seattle LHP Jarrod Washburn over the fence in right field. Manager Bob
Melvin has tried to get his No. 4 hitter as many at-bats against
lefties as he can this spring, knowing that it helps Gonzalez when he
faces right-handers.
    "I'm kind of a handsy hitter, I get my hands going and it helps me
out against right-handers because I tend to try to do too much with
them," he said. "Against lefties, I'm staying back more."
    --RHP Brandon Medders threw his second bullpen session, and once
again reported no problems with the aggravated muscle group strain near
his right scapula. He threw 35 fastballs and is on schedule for another
side session Thursday.
    --Manager Bob Melvin, the Mariners' skipper in 2003 and 2004, on
Seattle star Ichiro Suzuki: "You never have to worry about him. He's
ready to play, and it's never for a lack of preparation. ... He's just
easy to manage. You just kind of pat him on the back and say, 'Way to
    --Triple-A Tucson manager Chip Hale on 5-foot-9 INF/OF Andy Green,
the Pacific Coast League's reigning MVP and a player who is expected to
be on the Diamondbacks' five-player bench to open the season: "If you
look at him, you probably wouldn't fear him. But with a bat in his
hands, he can do an awful lot of damage." Recommended Stories

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