Is Eric Byrnes Trade Bait?

Is Eric Byrnes Trade Bait?

Eric Byrnes has led these Arizona Diamondbacks both on and off the field, but could still find himself departing the desert sooner than he would like. Also, Randy Johnson will have a variable pitch count on Thursday and Tony Pena may be unavailable.

INSIDE PITCH

He has the best batting average and the most home runs and RBIs on the team. And if management came to him and offered a multiyear deal, he would sign it right on the spot.

But neither scenario looks very promising for hustling outfielder Eric Byrnes, who has become the backbone of the Diamondbacks during his two seasons in Arizona.

The Diamondbacks have a couple slick outfielders getting groomed in the minor leagues -- Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez -- and they have an affordable replacement on the bench in left fielder Scott Hairston. With Byrnes set to become a free agent, the general view around the organization is that he could become trade bait, and if he isn't dealt, he probably will sign elsewhere in the offseason. That's not what Byrnes wants, however.

"Prior to this season, everything I heard was about their youth movement," Byrnes said. "I took that personally. I came into the season with as much confidence in my baseball ability than I've ever had. I knew there were a lot of things I can't control. But I knew I could help this team."

General manager Josh Byrnes, no relation, said the team will address all of its options and make the best decision for the club.

"Eric has been tremendous for this organization in every way," Josh Byrnes said. "And we certainly don't take it lightly that free agency is coming. We'll try to make the very best decision for our baseball club."

The best decision, according to Eric Byrnes, would be to lock him up now and never give him a chance to leave. But he knows it's pretty much out of his hands.

"I really feel connected to this team," he said. "This is kind of like my little baby, and I love watching the progression of these young guys. I've been on playoff teams before. I've seen it, and I know what it feels like. This is a playoff team, and I want to be a part of it. Besides, I've owned a place here since 2000, and this is very much home to me now. Those are the reasons why I want to stay."

DIAMONDBACKS 2, DODGERS 0: Chad Tracy and Eric Byrnes each drove in a run, and Brandon Webb and three relievers combined to shut out the Dodgers on Wednesday, setting the stage for Randy Johnson to perhaps salvage a split in the four-game series when he returns from the disabled list and tests his balky back Thursday at Chase Field.

Webb went seven innings and allowed seven hits in improving to 8-5, and the bullpen backed him up, highlighted by Jose Valverde posting his first four-out save of the season. It was the 25th save of the year for Valverde and the first time in 2007 he entered a game in the eighth inning.

The victory helped Arizona move back into first place in the National League West. It was just the Diamondbacks' second victory in eight tries this season against the Dodgers.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Randy Johnson will start Thursday's series finale against the visiting Dodgers and likely will have a limit of about 85 pitches. He is rejoining the rotation despite having a herniated disk in his lower back.

Manager Bob Melvin said the pitch count could fluctuate either way, depending how Johnson feels during the outing.

"We'll probably have to incrementally get into that," he said. "Now, he's a pretty competitive guy. You can say this is going to be the number, and once he's out there pitching, it could change a little bit, but we hope to get the results we've been getting before. It's just a little bit more of an unknown right now.

"He's a warrior. He's going to pitch. That's just his mind-set. He's not afraid to pitch with a little pain, a little soreness."

Season-ending surgery is still an option, but Johnson will let it rip Thursday and see how much he has left in his troublesome back.

"Those are the questions that I have," Johnson said, "and I have no answers. ... I don't know how much longer I can pitch with it."

--OF Jeff DaVanon, sidelined all season while recovering from offseason surgery on his right shoulder, will begin a rehab assignment at Class A Visalia on Thursday. It could be several days after the All-Star break until he's available to the Diamondbacks.

--RHP Tony Pena was unavailable Wednesday against the Dodgers after having an infection drained from his right leg. He ranks fourth in the National League with 14 holds.

--INF Mark Reynolds' pinch home run against the Dodgers on Tuesday was the ninth pinch homer of the season for the Diamondbacks, tops in the major leagues. The franchise record for a season is 14, set in 2001 when the Diamondbacks captured the World Series.

--OF Eric Byrnes' RBI single in the seventh inning Wednesday snapped an 0-for-19 skid by the Diamondbacks with runners in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: 75 -- Career saves entering the week by closer Jose Valverde, who with No. 75 on June 23, took over first on the franchise's all-time list, passing Matt Mantei.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have enough talent in this lineup to put up a lot of runs. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, which is natural in this game, but when we go out and have good at-bats, we can score some runs." -- OF Scott Hairston, remarking how the Diamondbacks' offense is capable of bailing out a starting rotation that recently has hit the skids.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Tony Pena (infection in right leg) was unavailable June 27.

LHP Randy Johnson (tightness in buttocks muscle) went on the disabled list retroactive to June 11. He was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back. He threw a simulated game June 25, and he will return to the rotation June 28.

OF Jeff DaVanon (left ankle, right shoulder surgery) opened the season on the disabled list. He will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Visalia on June 28.

 

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