The Max Unit

The Max Unit

Randy Johnson has been remarkably durable for most of his 21-year career, although his back appeared to be as delicate as fine china in his recent two-year stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Young phenom Max Scherzer is unfortunately showing the same signs of fragility early in his career that the Big Unit has late in his career due to his max effort delivery.

Right-hander Max Scherzer has the fastball of former Diamondbacks teammate Randy Johnson and is stepping into Johnson's spot in the rotation this season. Unfortunately for the team, Scherzer also has started this spring gingerly, as Johnson did in his final two seasons with the club.

Scherzer was set back when suffered right shoulder inflammation while working out before the start of spring training, and he took a shot of cortisone in late January after visiting team physician Michael Lee.  Johnson was delayed out of spring training in his last two seasons with the D-backs, 2007 and 2008, after offseason back surgeries.

The young right-hander threw his second bullpen session of the spring February 26th and was scheduled to throw another side session on February 28th. It is expected that Scherzer's next step will be to throw at least one live batting practice session, although it is unclear when that will be held. His first live game appearance is likewise unscheduled.

Scherzer went 0-4 with a 3.05 ERA as a rookie in 2008, showing a fastball that topped out at 98 mph.

He had 28 strikeouts in 17 innings in a three-start stretch against the Los Angeles Dodgers (Sept. 7), Cincinnati (Sept. 14), and Colorado (Sept. 19). He was 0-1 with two no-decisions in those games, as the D-backs scored a total of just six runs.


--RHP Brandon Webb was scratched from his first spring start February 27th due to tightness in his right forearm, but he didn't seem outwardly concerned. "There are no elbow issues or anything like that," said Webb, who tied for the major league lead with 22 victories last season while going 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA. Webb felt the tightness while playing catch the previous day.

--2B Felipe Lopez has embraced the idea of hitting leadoff in his first season with the D-backs, and he hopes to make use of his speed by bunting more often. Lopez has been working with former major league outfielder Brett Butler, who will manage the Diamondbacks' new Triple-A affiliate in Reno, Nevada this season. Butler was a top leadoff hitter and consummate bunter during his 17-year major league career.

--RHP Dan Haren said he is looking forward to the extra week of spring training, extended this year to accommodate teams in the World Baseball Classic. "It gives me the opportunity to work on something," said Haren, who gave up two hits and one run in his first spring outing Feb. 26. "Once I got on the mound, my adrenalin got going." Haren was 16-8 with a 3.33 ERA last season, his first with the D-backs.

--3B Mark Reynolds, the first player since the Cubs' Roy Smalley in 1950 to lead the major leagues in strikeouts and errors, is working with D-backs special assistant and four-time Gold Glove winner Matt  Williams on the finer points of infield play this spring. The two spend extra time on the field, sometimes not even taking groundballs but just practicing footwork. Reynolds committed 35 errors last season, 34 at third base and one at first. Williams committed only 52 errors combined in the four seasons he won a Gold Glove -- 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1997.

--LHP Travis Blackley was scheduled to start the D-backs' exhibition game February 28th, one day before leaving to join the Australian team in the World Baseball Classic. Other D-backs who will participate are minor league C Luke Carlin (Canada), INF Felipe Lopez (Puerto Rico), minor league 3B Agustin Murillo (Mexico), minor league OF Trent Oeltjen (Australia), INF Augie Ojeda (Mexico), minor league OF Gerardo Parra (Venezuela), and RHP Tony Pena (Dominican Republic).

DIAMOND STAT: 8 -- Number of D-backs scheduled to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

QUOTABLE: "There has not been a setback." -- OF Eric Byrnes, making sure reporters understand that the D-backs are simply exercising caution with his hamstrings by holding him out of early spring training games.

Want to write for  FutureBacks is now opening internships for the upcoming 2009 season.  If you live near one of the six Diamondbacks minor league affiliates, know baseball, and have a writing background, send your resume and two sample pieces of writing (at least one of which must be a journalistic piece about baseball) to   Applicants must be able to attend a minimum of three games per homestand, and students looking for course credit must get approval from their instructors. Recommended Stories

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