Augie Ojeda Keeps Diamondbacks Secure

Even with the addition of Chris Burke, Augie Ojeda figures to provide insurance as the Arizona Diamondbacks' primary utility infielder. ALSO: Coaching changes among the minor league affiliates.

INSIDE PITCH

They have a vacuum cleaner at second base in three-time Gold Glove Award winner Orlando Hudson, but the Diamondbacks have another household appliance they will run out to the infield next season -- one they can use in almost any situation.

His name is Augie Ojeda, and according to manager Bob Melvin, the versatile utility man is an "electric blanket."

"You feel very secure about having him out there," Melvin said toward the end of last season. "You know he's going to give you a competitive at bat, he understands how to hit down in the lineup, eight hole. Defensively, he's extremely solid. And he's just a nice compliment to this team."

Ojeda helped replace Hudson when the slick-fielding second baseman suffered a season-ending thumb surgery and missed the team's run in the playoffs. Ojeda's defense has always been stellar, but his offense has been a pleasant surprise. He hit .274 in 57 games last season for the Diamondbacks after not playing a game in the majors in 2005 or 2006.

"Every time an infielder has a pretty good glove, that's the first thing you talk about," said Ojeda. "I take pride in offense. As a position player, you need to take both defense and offense, and sometimes (offense) gets overshadowed."

He can fill in just about anywhere in the infield, but mainly up the middle, where he can spell Hudson as well as shortstop Stephen Drew. Ojeda's consistency allowed the Diamondbacks to trade Albert Callaspo to the Kansas City Royals, and although Arizona acquired some additional help this winter by bringing in infielder/outfielder Chris Burke, Ojeda figures to get his fair share of playing time.

Even in the Arizona desert, there's always enough room for an electric blanket.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Brandon Lyon and the Diamondbacks have had discussions about a multiyear pact, but the fact he may win the club's closer role could throw negotiations into a whole different light.

"That may work against us doing a long-term (deal)," agent Barry Meister said.

--Lyon and RHP Tony Pena are the most likely successors in the competition to replace Jose Valverde as the Diamondbacks' closer. RHP Chad Qualls probably will become the team's seventh-inning arm, manager Bob Melvin indicated, although nothing has been set in stone.

"We still haven't ironed it out," Melvin said. "Both these guys can do it, and we're comfortable with both of them. At some point in time entering spring training, we'll settle on one of them."

--LHP Doug Slaten, who underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee at the end of the season, may not be ready for Opening Day, according to GM Josh Byrnes.

--Former major league outfielder Brett Butler, who managed the Diamondbacks' Class AA team in Mobile, Ala., has been promoted to outfield/baserunning coordinator, a roving position that will see him travel throughout the organization.

--The Diamondbacks' five other organization coordinators are Jack Howell (field coordinator), Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (pitching), Dave Hansen (hitting), Tony Perezchica (infield) and Bob Didier (catching).

--Hector De La Cruz will replace Butler as manager at Class AA Mobile. The pitching coach there will be Jeff Pico, and Turner Ward will be the hitting coach. Mike Bell, who managed short-season Yakima in 2007, will now manage Class A Visalia. The pitching coach there will be Wellington Cepeda and the hitting coach Rick Burleson.

The rest of the minor league staff: Mark Haley (manager), Erik Sabel (pitching) and Francisco Morales (hitting) in South Bend; Didier (manager), Dan Carlson (pitching) and Chris Biones (hitting) in Yakima; and Audo Vicente (manager), Steve Merriman (pitching) and Alan Zinter (hitting) in rookie-level Missoula.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2006 -- The last time veteran RHP Keith Foulke, 35, pitched in a game, although the Diamondbacks were planning on watching the free agent pitch in late January with considerations of inviting him to spring training.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hey, we don't have just one ace, we've got two. Actually, we've got three because we've still got Randy (Johnson)." -- RHP Brandon Webb, referring to the Arizona rotation and the recent acquisition of RHP Dan Haren.


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