Another SS on the Shelf; Jackson Hot
AP Photo

Posted Mar 23, 2006

Stephen Drew may be getting closer to the opening day roster simply by staying out of the training room; D'Backs are taking no chances with Craig Counsell; Orlando Hudson is getting the fans excited about defense; Miguel Batista is getting back into MLB shape after his WBC stint; All eyes on BoMel as a starting five announcement is forthcoming.

   For a team with so much depth at the shortstop position that it had to
move a productive backup in Alex Cintron, the numbers are starting to
dwindle for the Diamondbacks.
   They're still treading somewhat gingerly with Craig Counsell, the
projected starter, as he returns from a three-week rehab program to
strengthen the area around the torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder.
   And on Wednesday, an MRI revealed that Counsell's primary backup, Damion
Easley, has significant tendinitis in his right elbow and will be sidelined
for at least the rest of the week. Easley has been having problems with the
elbow for the last several days and has been trying to play through the
   "We're going to try and get him some at-bats somewhere," manager Bob
Melvin said, "but he won't be in the field for at least the next three days.
We just need to calm it down."
   Counsell, meanwhile, will make his first appearance of the spring at
shortstop on Thursday in Tucson, Ariz., during a split-squad game against
Colorado. He originally was scheduled to play in a split-squad game Thursday
night in Peoria, Ariz., but Melvin will manage in Tucson and wants to see
Counsell play.
   With the team trying to be cautious with Counsell and now Easley on the
shelf, the bulk of the starts right now at shortstop will fall to prospect
Stephen Drew, along with Jerry Gil and Alberto Callaspo.
   "It's not like we're going to run 'Couns' out there every day," Melvin
said. "We were going to give him some off days against left-handed pitching,
so yeah, it's a little bit of a concern right now."

   --Manager Bob Melvin could be ready to announce his starting rotation
Friday. RHP Brandon Webb already has been named the Opening Day starter, but
it isn't clear who will follow him among RHPs Russ Ortiz, Miguel Batista and
Orlando Hernandez. LHP Brad Halsey and RHP Claudio Vargas are vying for the
No. 5 spot, with Halsey seen as the likely choice. Vargas could start the
season in the bullpen, as he has been a reliever in the past.
   --RHP Miguel Batista made his second start of the spring, and his first
since throwing a combined 3 1/3 innings for the Dominican Republic in the
World Baseball Classic, and he showed good command of his pitches during
three innings against Oakland. He allowed three runs on six hits, but he
didn't walk a batter and said his arm strength should be just fine by the
start of the regular season.
   --2B Orlando Hudson drew a standing ovation from the crowd at Phoenix
Municipal Stadium on Wednesday when he raced over to the first base foul
territory to track down a high pop up in the second inning. A Gold Glove
winner last year with Toronto, Hudson dove and made a spectacular catch just
to the right of the Oakland dugout.
   --1B Conor Jackson has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games at a .467
clip (14-for-30) with six doubles, a triple, two home runs and 8 RBIs. He
hit both homers Wednesday against Oakland.
   --LF Luis Gonzalez on SS Craig Counsell, who makes his first appearance
in the field Thursday after having spent three weeks rehabbing a slight
labrum tear in his right shoulder: "He's big for us with what he brings to
the table. Not just health-wise, but his attitude and his approach to the
game. He's been around, he's played for a long time, and he knows how to get
the job done no matter what. For our team, that's the guy we look to be one
of the jump-starters for our lineup, for our clubhouse. He's the glue."
   --3B Chad Tracy is hitless in his last 12 at-bats, but he's still hitting
.353 this spring.

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 -by  Mar 20, 2006

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