Staff Surprises; Tracy Ailing


Posted Apr 10, 2006


We're not sure we're ready to, "Take It All Back" but Russ Ortiz and Orlando Hernandez (not to mention Brandon Webb, Miguel Batista and Claudio Vargas) certainly haven't looked like the pitchers we expected to see, and the over/under on the number of times the words, "The Diamondbacks Starters Lead the League in ERA" was at exactly zero, so Vegas is taking a killing there. This is the Inside Pitch.

INSIDE PITCH
The Diamondbacks rotation continues to surprise and impress, and after so many questions and concerns entering the season, Arizona's starters have compiled a 2.43 ERA after six games.
Claudio Vargas turned in the club's fifth quality start Sunday, pitching six shutout innings and allowing just two hits in a 7-0 victory at Milwaukee. Arizona heads home with a 3-3 record following its season-opening, six-game road trip.
The Diamondbacks rank first in the National League with a 2.71 team ERA, prompting manager Bob Melvin to admit, "We've pitched way ahead of our expectations."
Only Russ Ortiz (4.50) has an ERA higher than 2.77 among the starters. Brandon Webb has a 2.77 ERA, and he has two no-decisions despite throwing two of the five quality starts.
"To a man, our guys have come in and thrown the ball over the plate," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "Like a lot of staffs, getting the first one under their belts is sometimes the most tenuous. But our guys have come in and done an absolutely great job at working ahead in the count, establishing a low strike zone and challenging the hitter."
REPLAY: Early on, the Diamondbacks might have tried to be a little too patient with Brewers starter Chris Capuano. But after taking their share of called third strikes, they toughened up when it mattered the most and drew three walks off Capuano in a decisive seventh inning that led to a 7-0 Arizona victory Sunday.
Tony Clark drew a bases-loaded walk, and Capuano, tired and frustrated after having matched Diamondbacks starter Claudio Vargas with six solid innings, threw a hittable fastball to Craig Counsell, who drilled it to center for a 4-0 lead.
It's that kind of patience and tougher at-bats Arizona now has this season, with additions such as Johnny Estrada, Orlando Hudson, Jeff DaVanon and Eric Byrnes able to work the count and force opposing pitchers to drive up their pitch counts.

NOTES, QUOTES
--3B Chad Tracy has been bothered by a slight left groin pull, but it isn't considered serious. With a day off Saturday and the team not playing on Monday, manager Bob Melvin thinks the rest should be sufficient for his No. 3 hitter.
"There are certain guys you can't lose, and 'Trace' is one of those guys," Melvin said.
--Arizona received five quality starts out of its rotation during the season-opening, six-game road trip. The starters have allowed just 10 earned runs in 37 innings, capped by RHP Claudio Vargas pitching six shutout innings and allowing just two hits at Milwaukee on Sunday.
--1B Conor Jackson said he's still not comfortable playing his new position, but despite a few miscues at first, he's been Arizona's most productive hitter. He ended the week second in the NL with a .667 on-base percentage.
"It seems like he's on base almost every at-bat, and when he's not, it's almost a shock," manager Bob Melvin said.
--RF Shawn Green, who has played in an average of 159 games for the past six years, has already missed two games this season -- both times due to managerial decisions when Arizona was facing a left-handed starting pitcher.
--LF Luis Gonzalez hit his 498th double on Sunday at Miller Park, leaving him two shy of becoming the 21st player in history to hit 500 doubles along with 300 home runs. On Saturday, he hit his 318th home run to pass George Brett and move into a tie with Ray Sievers for 92nd on the all-time list.
"He's what, 38 years old? But he's still there, man. He's still got that same swing. He's got pop," Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker said. "You make a mistake on that guy, he's going to stink you. I mean, he's going to hurt you."
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- Earned runs allowed by Arizona's starting pitchers after their first four games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Guys in this game are always looking for some kind of edge, some kind of advantage. I don't know if he did or didn't use steroids. But he wouldn't be the first or last guy to look for some kind of chemical edge to enhance his skills." -- Diamondbacks reliever Terry Mulholland on Barry Bonds, although he think the Giants' slugger is the victim of a witch hunt, seeing that steroids weren't officially banned by baseball until recently.



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