State of the Diamondbacks' Bench

Is Alberto Callaspo the next super-sub?

Andy Green went to Japan and Damian Easely's on the Mets, so who is going to fill their spots on the Arizona Diamondbacks' bench? ALSO: An update on Jose Valverde and the closer situation.

INSIDE PITCH

   He's been studying a new language, embracing a new culture, and in January, he and his wife will be welcoming their first child. Life has been fairly frenetic this offseason for the versatile Andy Green.

   It began at the end of the 2006 season, really, although his journey
didn't start officially until the Diamondbacks recently granted him his
release, allowing the infielder and jack-of-all-trades to sign with the
Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League.

   After spending the past year as the 25th man on Arizona's roster -- which got him just 86 at-bats -- Green was looking for a fresh start
and a meatier role following his breakout season in 2005, when he was
named Most Valuable Player of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

   "A lot of people look at a jump like this to Japan as a stepping stone, but I'm not looking at it that way at all," said Green, 29. "I'm
going over there to try and help that team repeat as Japanese league
champions and take every step as it comes. It starts with embracing Japan,
the culture over there, the way they train."

   Green likely will spend most of next season at third base, although he's capable of playing both middle infield positions and the corner
outfield spots as well. He didn't get much playing time with the
Diamondbacks in 2006 primarily because Arizona was rock-solid up the middle with Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson and the shortstop tandem of Craig Counsell and Stephen Drew.

   "I have nothing against the Diamondbacks," Green said. "In my heart,
did I wish I had more of an opportunity so I could run with it? Sure.
If I had a chance to play on a consistent basis, I feel confident I
could have proven I deserved to play. But I refuse to be bitter about it. There are too many people out there like that."

   At 5 feet, 9 inches, Green has always had to scrap and claw a little
harder than most. But two years ago, after hitting .343 for Triple-A
Tucson and leading the PCL in hits (182), runs (125), doubles (46) and
triples (13), Green figured he had finally earned his stripes in pro
baseball, along with some extra job security.

   But he'll after start over, and it starts in Japan, where he has
worked out a deal that could pay him $1.5 million if the Fighters pick up
his 2008 option. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, are to receive $275,000 from the Japanese club to secure Green's rights.

   "Baseball is so big over there," Green said. "They follow it
year-round. They live it, they breath it, they love it. It's just a great
opportunity for me to further my career."

NOTES, QUOTES
   --UTs Andy Green (Japan) and Damion Easley (Mets) are gone from the
Diamondbacks' five-man bench, leaving 1B Tony Clark, OF Jeff DaVanon
and the backup catcher spot as the only three certainties for next year's
bench. It seems a lock, however, that INF Alberto Callaspo will fill
one of the spots.
   --OF Scott Hairston, who hit .323 with 81 RBIs and a team-high 26
home runs for Triple-A Tucson, has been generating some interest from
clubs who know he is likely to be included in any and all trade
discussions with Arizona. The Diamondbacks have been asked a lot about young pitchers such as RHPs Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings, however, and moving Hairston may not be as easy as Arizona initially expected.
   --C/UT Robby Hammock will report to spring training with a shot to
make the major league roster as a bench player and part-time catcher. He
caught Randy Johnson's perfect game in 2004, but injuries nearly
derailed his pro career.
   --C Miguel Montero, who is expected to nudge out Chris Snyder as the
primary starter next season, was struggling at the plate in the
Venezuelan Winter League. A recent 3-for-30 slump dropped his average to .233.
   --RHP Jose Valverde will retain his closer's role when spring
training begins, barring a trade that brings Arizona a new closer. The
Diamondbacks had been involved in talks regarding the possible acquisition of RHP Akinori Otsuka, and they showed some interest in RHP Eric Gagne
before he signed with the Rangers. Bottom line: The organization likes
Valverde, but he's been too up-and-down the past couple of years for the
Diamondbacks to be totally sold on him without having some insurance.
 

BY THE NUMBERS: 203 1/3 -- Innings pitched by LHP Doug Davis in
2006, his lowest figure in three seasons.
 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our offense is in good enough shape to still
be good, but having aspirations for the playoffs, we'll see if there's
something we can do, other than hoping that some guys take it to a
higher level." -- General Manager Josh Byrnes, at the end of the 2006
season, downplaying the chances of management making any significant changes
to the offense for next year.

ROSTER REPORT
The Diamondbacks entered the offseason with a couple of key
objectives, which included finding a top-end starter to complement ace Brandon
Webb and veteran Livan Hernandez, and deciding if they need to invest
in a quality cleanup hitter or trust a fairly capable lineup without a
proven slugger. They made a move toward the first goal by acquiring LHP
Doug Davis in a trade with Milwaukee.
  

ARRIVALS: LHP Doug Davis (trade with Brewers), LHP Dana Eveland
(trade with Brewers), OF Dave Krynzel (trade with Brewers).
 

DEPARTURES: UT Damion Easley (free agent, signed with Mets), C
Johnny Estrada (trade with Brewers), RHP Claudio Vargas (trade with
Brewers), RHP Greg Aquino (trade with Brewers), INF Craig Counsell (free agent,
signed with Brewers), INF Andy Green (released, signed with Japanese
team), LF Luis Gonzalez (free agent, signed with Dodgers), RHP Miguel
Batista (free agent, signed with Mariners).
 

BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona has the defense, but it doesn't have the
starting pitching to lead a group of mostly young position players and a
bullpen that remains slim on postseason experience. With Miguel Batista
probably leaving through free agency, there wasn't a difference-maker
among the rest of the candidates, so the Diamondbacks were forced to part
with both 12-game winner Vargas and a former All-Star catcher, Estrada,
to pick up Davis.

FREE AGENTS: None.


ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 2B Orlando Hudson, OF Eric Byrnes, RHP Luis
Vizcaino, RHP Juan Cruz, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Jorge Julio.
Hudson likely will receive a multiyear extension after basically
having the best season of anyone on the club. He won his second
consecutive Gold Glove Award. Byrnes will be replacing stalwart Gonzalez in left
field and is also eyeing a multiyear extension. The only pitchers who
could be out of the loop are Cruz and Julio. Cruz is certain to gather
interest from several clubs, but Julio has fallen off the radar some
because of his wildness.


IN LIMBO: Cruz and Julio can't be sure of their futures, and ditto
with outfield prospect Scott Hairston, who has seen a job open in left
field with the departure of Gonzalez, only to learn it would given to
Byrnes.


PROSPECT WATCH: CF Chris Young didn't get as many at-bats or
starting assignments as some of the other youngsters among the position
players, but the Diamondbacks have seen enough to know he can handle the job
in center next year. He rates out on the plus side of every aspect of
his game, and he could mature into a power hitter as well as speed
burner with top-notch defensive skills. C Miguel Montero is thought of so
highly in the organization, the club was willing to part with Estrada,
who was among the team leaders in RBIs. Montero was a September call-up
and made several starts down the stretch. It looks as if he will be the
man in 2007, with Chris Snyder helping provide a 1-2 punch. RF Carlos
Quentin was promoted in July, and it wasn't long before the Diamondbacks
agreed they would be better served trading Shawn Green away -- he went
to the Mets -- to open up daily playing time for the rookie, who
experienced his share of highs and lows during the second half.


MEDICAL WATCH:
1B Tony Clark, who had right shoulder surgery, should be fine by the
time the team reports to spring training. He has one more year left on
his contract.
OF Jeff DaVanon underwent surgery to repair a left ankle injury, and
he will be ready in time for spring training. He has a player option to
return to the club in 2007, and has indicated he plans to exercise it.
He also had a cyst removed from his right shoulder late in the season.

 

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