After another gem by Dan Haren in the season opener Monday, D-backs manager A.J. Hinch had a few comparisons in mind.
"His name should be mentioned with the likes of Roy Halladay and (C.C.) Sabathia and (Tim) Lincecum, guys who are perennial award winners," Hinch said after Haren gave up three hits and one run in seven innings of the D-Backs' 6-3 victory over San Diego.
"He hasn't gotten a ton of attention. He has a competitive edge about himself that rubs off on others. Every game is a big game for him, and he prepares as well as anybody."
Haren went 14-10 with a 3.14 ERA last season, along with a career-high 223 strikeouts, the fifth consecutive year in which he has increased his strikeout total. He leads the major leagues with 116 quality starts since 2005 and is second with 1,108 innings.
Haren is not particularly into comparisons, wanting most of all to be a good teammate.
"Everyone is a different type of pitcher," Haren said.
"Those guys are power arms. I'm more of a finesse guy. My game is pounding the
strike zone. Those are more swing-and-miss guys. I don't need to be mentioned with those guys.
"I know this team is going to be good. If I go out and do what I did today for 33 more times, we'll be all right. I'll do my best to be consistent."
Haren struck out five and did not walk a batter, the 10th time in the last two seasons that he has gone at least six innings without issuing a walk.
"He was relentless in pounding the strike zone," Hinch said. "He does such a good job pounding the zone, guys go up ready to swing, but he still has a way to get them to miss-hit it or miss with swings. He has a way to get into counts that are favorable for him, and he's lethal when that happens."
--RHP Dan Haren got to a three-ball count on only one of the 24 hitters he faced in a 6-3 victory over San Diego in the season opener. Haren threw only four or five breaking balls and four or five split-finger pitches, relying mainly on his two-seam and four-seam fastballs and a few cut fastballs. "I like to throw strikes anyway. With a lead, I could really attack," Haren said.
--IF/OF Rusty Ryal and IF Tony Abreu beat out IF/OF Ryan Roberts for the final two position player spots after good springs. Ryal hit .273 with four homers and 14 RBIs, and Abreu hit .345 with 14 RBIs. Roberts, who appeared to be a lock to make the roster after hitting .279 in 110 games with the D-backs last season, was optioned to Class AAA Reno after hitting .185 this spring.
--LHP Jordan Norberto won the final spot in the bullpen. Norberto, who has hit 97 mph with his fastball, had an 0.93 spring ERA and gave up one hit in 9 2/3 innings., He struck out eight but also walked eight, the D-Backs' lone concern. LHP Clay Zavada, who spent most of 2009 with the D-Backs, was optioned to Class AAA Reno after giving up 10 hits, nine walks and eight earned runs in nine innings.
--Five D-backs made their first Opening Day roster -- LHP Jordan Norberto, OF Gerardo Parra, RHP Leo Rosales, IF/OF Rusty Ryal, and RHP Esmerling Vasquez. All received the traditional "Happy Opening Day" clubhouse greeting Monday. "Everybody saying that, it soaks in," said Rosales, who has spent parts of the last two seasons with the D-backs. "It's like a holiday. I've never experienced that. It's a nice feeling. I'm trying to enjoy that. After that, it's play ball."
--C Miguel Montero had a two-out, two-run single in his first at-bat of the regular season. He added another single and a walk. So much for spring training numbers: He hit .180 with two extra-base hits and six RBIs this spring. "Right on time," Montero said. He had a career year in 2009, hitting .294 with 16 homers, 30 doubles, and 59 RBI.
--SS Stephen Drew's inside-the-park home run in the fourth inning Monday was the sixth in Chase Field history, the second by a D-back. It caromed off an overhang in deep right-center and bounded near the wall into left field, enabling Drew to score in a breeze. "That overhang doesn't come into play very often, but when it does, crazy things can happen," manager A.J. Hinch said. San Diego has seen both the D-backs' home inside-the-parkers. OF Luis Gonzalez hit one on July 28, 2002, against Brett Tomko.
--OF Justin Upton seemed confident and relaxed after signing his four-year, $51.25 million contract this spring. He hit .386 with six home runs and 20 RBI, and he also appeared to be more settled and selective at the plate. He walked eight times and struck out only nine times after whiffing 137 times in 2009.
He went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base in the opener.
--RHP Juan Gutierrez, who came on strong as a fill-in closer last September, continued his strong work this spring. In nine appearances covering 8 2/3 innings, Gutierrez gave up one single and no earned runs. He did not give up a hit until his final appearance Friday against the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field. He struck out seven and walked two this spring after going 4-3 with nine saves and a 4.06 ERA as a rookie last year.
--RHP Kris Benson started the D-backs' final spring training game in Tucson on March 31 and appears to be the top candidate to make their April 17 start in San Diego, the first time the D-backs will need a fifth starter. RHP Billy Buckner, who will begin the season at Class AAA Reno, also is an option. The D-backs signed Benson days after it became apparent that RHP Brandon Webb would need a longer recovery time than projected. They broke camp with eight relievers and four starters.
DIAMOND STAT: 8 -- Relievers on the D-backs' pitching staff to open the season. They do not need a
number 5 starter until April 17 at San Diego.
QUOTABLE: "If you have a car that breaks down, you don't want to take it on a long trip. One hundred and sixty-two games is a long trip." -- LHP Clay Zavada, lamenting the spring inconsistency that cost him a roster spot.
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