Friday, August 12, 2011

Nady fractures left hand

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that Xavier Nady was playing the best baseball he had all year, that his bat was getting quick and that he was beginning to swing a power stick.

But after getting hit and fracturing his left hand in the second inning of Friday's 4-3 win over the Mets, it appears the D-backs are going to be without Nady for an extended period of time.

"It's a big blow to us," Gibson said. "He was playing great. ... He had a great role on the team with his veteran [leadership]."

The 32-year-old veteran was hit by right-hander Dillon Gee on a 1-2 pitch, but stayed in the game and scored on a Cody Ransom double two batters later. He was lifted for Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the third.

"He got drilled, broke his hand at the end of his knuckle or finger," Gibson said. "When I looked at it, it was black.

"I haven't heard how long [he'll be out]."

Nady was hitting .248 in 81 games, with four home runs and 35 RBIs. He is a career .275 hitter over 10 seasons with five teams.

Extra work paying off for Goldschmidt

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- Paul Goldschmidt doesn't think as many people knew about his home run against the Astros on Thursday night.

"I had a few texts," he said. "But I had more for my debut."

Goldschmidt said he was greeted by about 20 text messages after his ninth-inning, pinch-hit, game-tying home run to send the game into extra innings, where Chris Young eventually ended it in walk-off fashion for an 8-5 victory in 10 innings.

"There's a lot of guys from [Double-A] Mobile that I keep in touch with, and family members and stuff like that," he said.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson thinks the home run was a product of the time the rookie first baseman has put in trying to improve at the plate.

"The kid really asks a lot of questions, and he's had a lot of conversations," Gibson said on Thursday. "He's put in extra work -- is trying to understand at-bats, breaking balls -- and he battled."

In a 2-2 count, after fouling off another Mark Melancon breaking ball with a good swing, the Astros' right-handed closer left a fastball over the middle of the plate that Goldschmidt crushed.

"The second breaking ball he fouled off, he had a pretty good swing on," Gibson said. "Then, [Melancon] tried to get the fastball in, and he's very quick in there. That's a big at-bat from a youngster, there."

And while Goldschmidt didn't know how much he could draw from that at-bat, he said, "It doesn't hurt, that's for sure."

Bloomquist's at-bat keys rally vs. Houston

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- Lost in the aftermath of a dramatic walk-off win on Thursday night was an eighth-inning walk that set the wheels in motion for another D-backs comeback.

Trailing, 5-1, with one out against Astros right-hander Brett Myers, who kept the D-backs' offense in check most of the night, shortstop Willie Bloomquist drew a nine-pitch walk.

"It was huge," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He just kind of kept grinding pitches away. And when you're on the other side, you're looking for a quick inning. And then, all of a sudden, it was us giving notice that it wasn't going to be the case."

Bloomquist fell behind 0-2 -- taking a strike before fouling two off, then drawing three balls and fouling off two pitches, before reaching base on a low fastball.

"I was just trying to get a pitch to handle," Bloomquist said. "He didn't give me much to hit all day. He was on the edge of the plate all day long and didn't leave a whole lot over the middle of the plate.

"He threw pretty much the kitchen sink at me. I was trying to get something over the plate that I could put good wood on. But he just kept throwing everything on the edge, and the best I could do was foul it off. And I ended up getting into a full count and walked."

Bloomquist checked his swing twice on breaking balls, reached base and scored a batter later after Ryan Roberts doubled. Miguel Montero then drove Roberts home with a two-out single, and the D-backs cut a four-run deficit to two and Myers was pulled.

Saunders looks back on effort vs. Astros

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- For the last couple of starts, Joe Saunders could have used a Band-Aid on the mound.

"Looking back," he said, assessing Thursday night's start against the Astros, "there was maybe one decently hard-hit ball and, other than that, it was off the end of the bat, broken bats, bloopers to right, bloopers up the middle and seeing-eye ground balls."

Saunders pitched into the seventh before being removed, after allowing back-to-back hits to score a run to open the inning. The D-backs eventually won, 8-5.

His final line was six-plus innings pitched, with five runs allowed on 11 hits and a pair of strikeouts and walks.

"You do your job, make your pitches, and that's all you can ask for," the left-hander said.

He allowed a third-inning RBI single to Carlos Lee, and got himself into trouble in the fifth by walking Brett Myers to open the inning. A two-run double by J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout by Lee later, and the Astros had a 4-0 lead.

"They're a tough team to pitch to, honestly," Saunders said. "We found that out with our other guys.

"It was a battle out there," he continued. "I tried to keep us in the ballgame the best I could, and got as many outs as I could."

Saunders is 8-9 on the season with a 3.76 ERA.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walk-off shot pads D-backs' West lead

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Chris Young wasn't thinking when he stepped to the plate late in a tie game Thursday night.

He wasn't thinking about his mechanics, his three hitless at-bats earlier in the game, the 32 games since he's hit a home run or the recent slump that he's tried to will himself out of.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard," he said.

And with two on, one out and Chase Field still buzzing from a game-tying home run an inning earlier, Young saw a pitch, hit it hard and sent it over the fence in left field for a walk-off home run in an 8-5 victory over the Astros. It was the D-backs' 30th comeback win of the season

"It felt amazing, I"m not going to lie," Young said. "The stars lined up for us tonight."

With the win, the D-backs took a four-game set from the Astros and, more importantly, a one-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

"That makes you smile," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of the win. "That whole team, we played very well when it counted."

Young's fifth career walk-off home run came on a 1-0 count against Astros left-hander Sergio Escalona, who was summoned a batter earlier by Astros manager Brad Mills.

"They left the lefty in the game and I think that's my at-bat," Young said. "I think I had to try to find a way to take advantage of it before it gets to Kelly [Johnson] and I'm happy I was able to."

But before Young could take advantage of Escalona, rookie Paul Goldschmidt had to take advantage of Astros closer Mark Melancon in the ninth inning, with the D-backs down to their final out and trailing, 5-3.

Goldschmidt was called on to pinch-hit against the right-hander, took two balls and two strikes and fouled off two pitches before launching a fastball off the facade of the upper deck in left field to tie the game.

"I was just trying to go in there and battle," he said. "He left a fastball up and out over the plate and I was glad to hit it."

The home run drew a curtain call from the crowd and closer J.J. Putz from the bullpen, who sat down the Astros in order in the 10th inning.

"It's exciting, obviously," Goldschmidt said, "But we had to go out there and shut it down and J.J. did that, and then we got a couple guys on and [Young] was able to get that big hit."

The big hit was Young's 17th home run of the season and first since July 2 against the A's.

"It's been a few days, huh?" Young joked. "It hasn't been that long.

"I've gone through streaks where I hadn't hit a home run in a month and I've gone through streaks when I've hit seven in a week so it happens," he said. "Just because I don't have a home run in a while, I'm not going to go to the plate to try to hit a home run. You're trying to hit the ball hard and if it goes over the fence, it goes over the fence."

For the third time in the four-game set, the D-backs fell behind early, this time on a third-inning RBI single from Carlos Lee, a fifth-inning two-run double by J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout from Lee against left-hander Joe Saunders.

In the fifth, Saunders ran into trouble by walking counterpart Brett Myers to lead off the inning and allowing back-to-back singles to Jason Bourgeois and Jose Altuve to load to bases before the Astros plated three and staked claim to a 4-0 lead.

The D-backs broke through against Myers a half-inning later with an RBI single from Willie Bloomquist to cut the lead to three. Saunders pitched into the seventh inning before being removed after a Bourgeois triple found its way under a diving Justin Upton's glove in right and Altuve singled him home a batter later.

"Joe threw the ball good," Gibson said. "He had some tough luck, things didn't go well, but he threw fine."

Saunders went six-plus innings, allowed five runs on 11 hits, struck out two and walked two.

He was outpitched by Myers, who stymied the D-backs through seven innings, allowing one run on four hits before wilting in the eighth after Bloomquist drew a nine-pitch walk with one out.

Ryan Roberts followed with a double, and Miguel Montero scored Roberts on a bloop single to center two batters later as the D-backs cut the lead to 5-3 and Myers was pulled.

He pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out four and walked three.

"I felt really good today," Myers said. "I felt like I didn't give up many hard-hit balls; a couple of bloopers cost me a couple of runs. Over the course of the game, I started feeling a lot better. They're a good-hitting ballclub and you try to keep them on the ropes as much as you can and mix your pitches. They can hurt you -- showed tonight."

In the ninth, Melancon struck out Johnson, allowed an infield hit to Xavier Nady -- a hot shot corralled by Jimmy Paredes at third but thrown away -- and struck out Gerardo Parra before allowing Goldschmidt's blast.

"It was unbelievable," Young said of Goldschmidt's at-bat. "Without that, we're sitting in the locker room and everybody's frustrated."

And what could have been a frustrating series for the D-backs -- a first-place team splitting with a last-place team -- turned out for the better in the end, courtesy of home runs off the bats of two players from the Houston area.

"That's baseball," Gibson said. "Give these guys some credit for their resiliency. We didn't play very well early on and it's frustrating. It could have been a bad series but it wasn't."

D-backs downplay being in first place

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- For the first time since June 24, the D-backs are in first place.

But manager Kirk Gibson doesn't care.

"Obviously you want to be there," Gibson said. "But you have to keep that in perspective. It doesn't really mean anything. We want to be there the last day of the season, that's where we want to be.

"I guess as a benchmark of where we want to be, I guess it's good to be there to know where you want to stay."

But Gibson and outfielder Chris Young both said that there wasn't a change in the team's demeanor Thursday.

"It doesn't feel any different than it did yesterday," Young said. "By no means just because you're in first place, the season isn't over yet, we still need to continue to work and we still have a lot more games to win if we want to be in the playoffs."

The D-backs have been a half-game up on the Giants in the National League West 10 times this season but have never led by more than that. They were looking to stand a game up with a victory over the Astros on Thursday, while the Giants are idle.

"We'll approach every game the same, win or lose, then we'll go to the next game," Gibson said. "We have such a long way to go.

"Is it significant? I'm not sure it is right now."

Marquis working hard to improve

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Jason Marquis has gone through this before, stretches of baseball where he can't seem to find a way to get his opponents out.

"I just have to battle and compete and still find a way to get the job done," the D-backs starting pitcher said. "No matter what I feel in between the starts, that's what you're going to get from me on the mound."

And the veteran right-hander is working between starts to get better results during his starts, which haven't been good thus far.

"I have to be down in the zone better," he said. "When I've been ahead, I just haven't finished guys like I've needed to and when I've been behind, I've given up too many hitter's pitches up in the zone and over the plate."

In two starts -- both losses - Marquis has a 12.38 ERA and has given up 15 runs in eight innings. He lasted only four innings in each of his first two starts on the team, against the Giants and Astros.

"The most important thing about [Tuesday] was that we won the ballgame," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he told Marquis. "He made a lot of mistakes and I don't want to say 'Who cares?' but we just try to overcome it and try to win the game.

"He's a veteran guy, he doesn't have to impress anybody and we want to encourage him to not feel any pressure."

Marquis mentioned that mentally, he doesn't feel any pressure and mechanically, he's not staying over the rubber like he wants to.

"You want to stand out to your teammates and be able to win games," he said. "Obviously my first two outings didn't show that, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

Young trying to bust out of slump

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Chris Young can't predict the future.

"I don't go into a game saying, 'I'm going to get four hits' or 'I'm not going to get any hits,'" the D-backs center fielder said. "I just go out there every day with the same plan of having good at-bats and trying to become more consistent."

Young is battling a post-All-Star break slump, hitting .173 in 24 games without a home run and with only four runs driven in.

He doesn't have a multihit game since June 26 against the Tigers and hasn't hit a home run since July 2 against the A's but has hit in four consecutive games, leading D-backs manager Kirk Gibson to talk of an offensive breakout.

"I feel like he's close," Gibson said. "He's had some trouble but he keeps grinding and he just hasn't got the results."

Young doubled off the left-field wall, driving in a run in Wednesday night's win over the Astros.

"I don't really look at it as 'I'm about to go on a tear' or 'I'm about to go in a slump,'" he said. "I just look at it as today's a new day. No matter if I had a bad day yesterday or a great game, it has nothing to do with today's game and just try and prepare for today's game."

He said that in working through a slump, he takes as many cuts as possible and doesn't like to hold back.

"I probably go a little more," he said. "I definitely don't take a step back. Sometimes you need to, but I'm one of the guys that likes to do a little more to try and get all the work I can in so I can make the adjustments I need to as fast as possible."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cowgill learning to adjust at big league level

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- Collin Cowgill is happy to be here.

"It's been great so far," the D-backs outfielder said. "A lot of fun, we're a great team, I have great teammates, so I can't ask for much more right now."

Three weeks into his stay at the big league level, Cowgill is hitting .231 (6-for-26) in nine games and said that the mental adjustment from the Minor Leagues was much bigger than the physical adjustment.

"There's a little better pitching," he said. "But it's just the fact that you have to realize it's the same game but in bigger stadiums.

"That part of it, getting adjusted to it more mentally than physically has been the biggest obstacle so far."

He recorded his first Major League hit in a pinch-hit appearance on July 30 against the Dodgers, when he singled to center field off reliever Scott Elbert at Dodger Stadium.

Since then, he's recorded a hit in each of his four starting appearances in left field.

"Once you realize you can play at this level," he said, "You just got to believe in it, and that's a big thing, especially when you first get up here."

Montero returns to cleanup spot for D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- For the second consecutive day, D-backs catcher Miguel Montero was hitting in the cleanup spot on Wednesday.

During Tuesday night's offensive explosion against the Astros, Montero, hitting between Justin Upton and Chris Young, recorded three hits and drove in three runs.

"Right now, Miggy hasn't been swinging the bat well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But if he swings the bat the way he did last night, then I like him anywhere. He did a good job there."

Tuesday night marked the seventh time this season he's been in the cleanup spot, where he was hitting .346. For his career, Montero has hit .270 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 51 starts as a cleanup hitter.

Two of the left-handed hitter's three hits on Tuesday went the opposite way to left field.

"He knows it," Gibson said of the approach. "It's how you change it."

And while playing catcher on a day-to-day basis, sometimes the fatigue takes a toll on the batting average.

"It's a challenge because you get a little tired," Montero said.

He said that to combat that fatigue, from time-to-time he cuts back on his pre or postgame workouts.

"You're always going to slow down your workout a little bit," he said. "Shut it back a little bit but not as much, you just try to stay on top."

Montero entered Wednesday hitting .274 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs.

Gibson doing best to keep D-backs fresh

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- The dog days of summer are upon the D-backs, and manager Kirk Gibson is doing his best to make sure his team doesn't fall victim to them.

"We had discussions today and that was one of the topics," he said. "How hard do you push? I think physically we're going to try to trim back our batting practice, extra work and stuff like that."

The team opened a 10-game homestand sluggishly with three losses in four days before outslugging the Astros on Tuesday night. After a weekend series against the Mets, the D-backs head east for 10 games against the Phillies, Braves and Nationals.

"We know we're going to be on this road trip," Gibson said. "We're at home, and maybe we can say, 'Hey, guys, spend some more time at home and relax.'

"When we go on the road, we know it's going to be hot and we know it's going to be a terrible environment in the places we're going to go."

Second baseman Kelly Johnson thinks that keeping his body fresh is the easy part, while staying sharp mentally is another story.

"I think the tougher challenge is mentally, but when you're winning games, as a team, it makes it much easier," Johnson said.

"Last year it was a little bit different mentally than this year, but that's a bigger challenge for us in the dog days than anything."

And Gibson agrees.

"We can do that physically, but the mental part is, 'How hard do you push them mentally and how much can they take?'" Gibson said. "Do you blow stuff out of proportion? In the past, we've had some tougher times and streaks we haven't played well, but we've always bounced back.

"So my guess is we will bounce back."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ground ball is Marquis' best friend

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- The way Jason Marquis looks at it, if he's doing his job Tuesday night then the hitter-friendly reputation of Chase Field won't matter.

"The ultimate key for me is keeping the ball on the ground," he said. "Obviously anything in the air is not a good sign, but if I'm doing what I'm supposed to do then that doesn't come into play."

Marquis did what he was supposed to do in his first start, a shellacking at the hands of the Giants last Wednesday, in which the veteran gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- on 10 hits.

In that outing, ground ball after ground ball found hole after hole, which resulted in Marquis getting charged with the loss in his Arizona debut.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson talked about the need for better defensive positioning when Marquis is on the hill.

"It's really just having an understanding of what he's trying to do to them, and then he gives us an idea of what he expects them to do if he gets his pitch where he wants it," Gibson said. "We'll change things a little bit and be more communicative."

Gibson also said that Marquis has the ability to dictate moves on the field.

"I told him, if he wants to make a move [he can], and there's a lot of veteran guys like that, they'll move guys if they know what they're going to do with a guy," Gibson said.

Marquis entered Tuesday with an 0-4 record and 4.21 ERA in nine career starts at Chase Field.

Collmenter trying to rediscover mojo

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter is getting back to basics.

"Working the ball down in the zone," Collmenter said of what he's been focusing on. "When I work down in the zone, everything plays off that. If I can keep my fastball location, then it makes the changeup and curveball that much better."

Collmenter has stumbled upon tough times, losing two consecutive starts -- both to the Dodgers -- and getting chased in the third inning of Friday night's 7-4 loss.

After starting the season 3-1 in his first four starts, the rookie right-hander has gone 3-6 since.

"He needs to execute his pitches better," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He needs to command his fastball better, and the last couple times out he just hasn't had his fastball command."

The 25-year-old is 6-7 on the season with a 3.58 ERA.

"For me, it's just making sure I don't get too far away from what I'm comfortable with and what I do well," Collmenter said. "Sometimes I shy away from that a little bit and try to be too perfect."

And while Gibson said Collmenter is still in the D-backs rotation -- "He's our fifth starter and he hasn't lost his job," the manager said Sunday -- Collmenter said he doesn't worry about things he can't control.

"I know they're going to put the best team out there to win," he said. "And I just want to make sure that I prepare myself every time to be one of those guys."

Injured Blum resumes baseball activities

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- On Monday, D-backs infielder Geoff Blum was on the diamond at Chase Field.

Blum, progressing back to the active roster after suffering a broken finger on July 24 against the Rockies, speculates it will take him two more weeks to get back healthy.

"It felt good," he said. "I can't speed up Mother Nature, but I'm doing the best I can."

Blum fractured his right pinky finger fielding a ground ball and was forced to the disabled list for the second time this season.

In addition to continuing a lower-body workout Monday, the veteran took ground balls and fungoes from D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams.

"I've been doing a lot of conditioning and stuff like that to stay in shape and do the things that I can," Blum said. "Obviously, I can't swing a bat, but hopefully here in about a week and a half to two weeks, I'll be able to do that."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Blum is scheduled to have another X-ray in around a week's time.

"We'll get a better idea on when he can start to move it then," Gibson said.

Blum is hitting .200 (3-for-15) in seven games this season.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hudson hit hard as D-backs drop opener

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- "Make one pitch," D-backs starter Daniel Hudson thought to himself, "and get out of this inning."

"Please," he urged his right arm.

But in the first inning of Monday night's game against the Astros at Chase Field, that one pitch wasn't to be found.

For the second time in as many starts, the Astros roughed up Hudson early, to the tune of five runs on six hits in the first inning and seven runs on 11 hits overall, as they cruised to a 9-1 victory in the opener of a four-game set against the D-backs.

"I just tried to tell myself to calm down and get the next guy," Hudson said. "I just couldn't make a pitch and get out of any situation I was in."

And those first-inning situations more often than not began with Hudson delivering a pitch and ended with Houston pounding it all around the diamond.

After retiring leadoff hitter J.B. Shuck, Hudson allowed a double down the left-field line to Jose Altuve before Jason Bourgeois reached on an error by Cody Ransom at short.

J.D. Martinez then gave the Astros a 3-0 lead with an opposite-field home run to right. And while Hudson tried to right the ship by getting Matt Downs to ground out, things remained shaky.

A single off the glove of a diving Paul Goldschmidt at first followed by another single and a double off the glove of an outstretched Justin Upton in right scored two more runs. And suddenly, the D-backs were in a 5-0 hole.

"They came out, swung at everything and hit everything," Hudson said. "When they didn't hit it hard, they found a hole."

And the Astros weren't finished.

In the second they tallied two more runs on four hits, when Matt Downs doubled home a run with one out and Clint Barmes singled home another with two outs.

Houston had its biggest offensive night since July 19 in only a third of the game.

"I gotta give Houston credit, they swung the bats well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "You can say Daniel missed some of his pitches and his locations, which you do every game, but they just pounded him."

The inning included a physical error by Ransom -- who booted a ground ball with one out -- and a mental error by Hudson, who failed to cover first base when Jimmy Paredes blasted a line drive in and out of the glove of Goldschmidt with two outs.

"That was big," Gibson said of the two-out blunder. "He was just unable to overcome it all."

The last time that Hudson faced the Astros, on May 27 in Houston, he allowed six runs in his first four innings before settling down to pitch six innings.

"It looked like the last time he pitched against them," Gibson said.

Hudson, who struck out one and didn't walk any in dropping to 11-8 on the season, doesn't know what to make of his struggles against the Astros.

"I don't really know," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. I've never really pitched well against them, it's just one of those things where a team has my number."

Meanwhile, Wandy Rodriguez had the number of the entire D-backs offense and allowed just two hits over six innings, both of which came in the first inning.

In that first inning, Kelly Johnson and Chris Young singled and Goldschmidt walked to load the bases with two outs. But Collin Cowgill grounded out to third to end the threat.

In the second inning Rodriguez walked a pair, putting runners on the corners with two outs before Johnson struck out swinging.

From there it was cruise control for the left-hander, who struck out five and walked four on the day.

"He was struggling to find that rhythm, and he did in the fourth inning," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "When you have a lead like that, you'd like him to attack. That was part of the rhythm. He wanted to and in a perfect world he would be able to attack. But that was the frustrating thing for him, that he was having trouble doing that."

The Astros tacked on two runs in the sixth on a Paredes single off Zach Duke, who pitched a career-high four innings in relief of Hudson. And Henry Blanco helped the D-backs avoid their third shutout of the season an inning later by drilling a solo home run to left field.

"It feels good to get one, but unfortunately for me it doesn't count," Blanco said. "You just go out there and try to win games."

For the fourth consecutive day, there was no movement in the National League West standings as the D-backs remain a half-game behind the Giants, who lost Monday night.

The D-backs have lost four of five against sub-.500 teams after taking two of three from the Giants last week.

"It wasn't in the cards tonight," Gibson said of a comeback. "We'll just move on to the next day."

102-year-old fan visits D-backs' clubhouse

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- The D-backs welcomed a surprise guest after Sunday night's victory over the Dodgers.

Si Goldstein, celebrating his 102nd birthday at Chase Field, was summoned by the D-backs' bullpen and escorted throughout the clubhouse in a wheelchair by closer J.J. Putz.

"I don't know the next time I'll get to meet a guy that's seen as much as he has," Putz said. "I think it was just as fun for us to have him down there as it was for him being here."

Putz said that the idea to bring Goldstein down was hatched by Micah Owings, who said that if the team came back, it would be cool to have him meet the players.

"We were kind of just shocked that there was a guy here that was 102 years old," Putz said.

And accompanied by his family inside the clubhouse, Goldstein met a number of players, including infielder Sean Burroughs.

"It was cool," Burroughs said. "He knew us all and it was great to meet someone that's lived for so long."

Burroughs couldn't fathom living that long, but added, "Wouldn't we all like to?"

Gibson makes effort to appease fans

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- Before every game, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson makes a point to sign autographs for the fans.

"Even in the away stadiums, like San Francisco," Gibson said. "Even though they bury me all game."

But he said that he doesn't answer fan mail or return signed cards because he doesn't know who's on the other end.

"I'd prefer they come to me and meet me in the stadium, honestly," Gibson said. "If somebody wants to send me something, this is a long subject, but I'd rather sign an autograph personally for them in the stadium."

To prove his theory, a couple years ago Gibson signed his name a certain way just to see how quickly it went online.

"It didn't take long," he said.

Gibson says nowadays, he doesn't sign at hotels or outside the stadium, only inside.

"That's why every day I go over there," Gibson said. "They all stand on the side of the dugout and I try to accommodate them."

Bloomquist sits for second consecutive day

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- For the second straight day, Willie Bloomquist was given the day off.

But the veteran D-backs infielder doesn't look at it that way.

"I don't really view it as a day off, to be honest," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity to win the game later in the game, versus being off.

"Coming to the field with the mindset that you have the day off, then obviously you're not ready to play."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that he's making a concerted effort to keep the 33-year-old shortstop fresh for the remainder of the season.

"He would never admit it, he'll say he's fine, but I can just see," Gibson said, "When he plays shortstop every day, at some point, he just kind of loses his energy and legs."

Since Stephen Drew was lost for the season on July 20 with a broken right ankle, Bloomquist has started 14 of 16 games at shortstop. He has recorded a hit in all but two of those starts.

"I don't really look at it like I've been playing everyday," he admits. "It's just, if I'm playing today, then I'll do the best I can. And if not, I'll try to figure out a way to help us late in the game if need be."

Gibson said that Bloomquist will be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

"I'm just keeping him fresher, letting him play his game better," Gibson said. "It's not that he doesn't try, it's just that he wears down. So we'll do it that way today."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ransom, Johnson power Kennedy's 14th win

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- Cody Ransom didn't look, Clayton Kershaw didn't have to and suddenly, Kirk Gibson didn't feel so bad anymore.

"Of course," the D-backs manager, who left Saturday's game due to an illness, said about feeling better. "It was a good game."

Trailing by a run in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon, Ransom, the D-backs' journeyman shortstop, hit a game-winning two-run homer off Kershaw, the Dodgers' left-handed ace, for a 4-3 victory at Chase Field, as the D-backs avoided a sweep and remained a half-game behind the Giants in the National League West.

"It worked out for me," Ransom said. "I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get a hit at this park, so it's nice to finally get one here and it happened to help us win a game. We lost a few games in a row, so it was big for us today."

After Kershaw kept the Arizona offense at bay for much of the game, Collin Cowgill hit a one-out single up the middle in the seventh, then Ransom connected with a 1-1 fastball and sent it over the left-field fence, bringing the 25,575 in attendance to their feet and Kershaw to a crouch on the mound.

"I got a lot of hittable pitches today, but I missed them," Ransom said. "He got that one out a little more out over the plate than the rest of them, and it didn't cut as much."

The hometown home run was the first of the Mesa native's stint with the D-backs.

"Hometown guy or not, any hit like that is a lot of fun," Ransom said. "But being at home, I'm sure I'll get some phone calls after the game."

Two innings later, he ended the game with his third backhanded play in the hole at shortstop of the day to retire Juan Rivera and pick up Ian Kennedy's 14th victory -- tied for first in the NL -- and J.J. Putz' 26th save of the season.

Ransom's all-around performance while filling in for Willie Bloomquist helped halt a three-game losing streak.

"We've talked about playing everybody on the team," Gibson said. "You can't expect them to do something like that if you throw them in there occasionally, but you still want to make sure they still feel a part and have their confidence.

"He played good at shortstop today and, obviously, the big blow there was the two-run homer, but that's kind of who we are."

Ransom's home run came an inning after Kennedy had relinquished a two-run lead in the sixth on run-scoring hits by Andre Ethier -- a game-tying double to score Aaron Miles -- and Rivera -- a single to score Ethier.

After retiring Jamey Carroll to open the sixth, the D-backs right-hander battled Miles for eight pitches, but ended up allowing a single.

"He's a battler up there," Kennedy said. "Him and Carroll. They take a lot of pitches and foul balls off with two strikes. They're just hard to strike out."

Kennedy allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings, while striking out three and walking one.

The only other blemish on his line was a solo home run by James Loney in the fifth inning.

"I just tried to throw a quality game," Kennedy said. "I made some pitches where I left some balls up and they got some hits off me, and I just tried to let my team pick me up today, and they really did."

Kennedy pitched at least six innings while allowing three runs or less for the sixth consecutive outing.

The D-backs took an early lead against Kershaw, who hadn't allowed an earned run to them this season entering the game, when Ryan Roberts walked on four pitches to lead off the first and Kelly Johnson followed with his 18th home run of the year.

It was the third home run Kershaw has allowed to a left-handed batter this season.

"It took me too long to adjust," Kershaw said. "You give up a four-pitch walk, you're going to give up runs. It's frustrating, but I did that in the last game, walked a guy on four pitches and gave up a run. Overall, I pitched alright. But the first inning kills you."

But he settled down from there and retired 16 of the next 18 batters before Cowgill's one-out single in the seventh.

He was pulled after giving up a pinch-hit double to Sean Burroughs and ended up allowing four runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and three walks.

"The team battled back," said Kershaw. "They gave me a lead and I gave it back. No one to blame but me."

After David Hernandez worked a scoreless eighth inning, Putz delivered his first perfect save since coming off the disabled list on July 26.

"What it comes down to is we needed to take care of business," Kennedy said. "We try to avoid getting swept at our own place, and it's frustrating that we lost a series at our own place, but we have to take care of business."

Gibson irked by D-backs' baserunning mistakes

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wasn't happy before Sunday's game against the Dodgers.

He wasn't happy with his health, he wasn't happy with himself and he certainly wasn't happy with the way his team has been running the bases as of late.

"We've just got to play a better game," he said. "We've made several baserunning mistakes this series, and while I want them to remain aggressive, we have to do a better job understanding ...

"Like when [Ryan Roberts] went last night, that was not a smart play," he said about Roberts advancing to third on a close play after a wild pitch while down a pair of runs with an out in the ninth inning on Saturday. "You've got to stop doing that [stuff].

"We've got some work to do and we have to talk about some things," he continued. "The guys have to be smarter."

He also talked about running into a double play to end a seventh-inning rally on Friday night.

"[Sean] Burroughs got doubled off the other day and people can say, 'Oh, that was a tough one,'" Gibson said. "It's not tough. You're down by three runs or two runs, whatever it is, you don't get doubled off, end of story."

But the manager was not immune to criticizing himself.

"That's on me," he said about the number of ground balls that have been finding holes in the D-backs infield. "Those are types of things that I look at to get better at."

Goldschmidt adjusting to life in the Majors

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- A week into his Major League career, Paul Goldschmidt has been more a sponge than a first baseman.

"I'm just trying to pick up on anything I can," the 23-year-old said. "There's just a bunch of little things, whether it's hitting or defense or baserunning, that I'm trying to learn from all the guys."

After being called up last Monday, Goldschmidt recorded his first career hit off Matt Cain that night, and on Tuesday, he hit his first career home run off Tim Lincecum during a crucial series win over the Giants.

"That's probably the best part," he said of the race to win the National League West. "Being up here and so close to winning the division, it's going to be a battle for the rest of the year, so that's fun."

In 18 at-bats entering Sunday, Goldschmidt is hitting .222 with four hits, a pair of walks and eight strikeouts.

"You're not going to see that many mistakes up here, and they're just so much more consistent," he said. "You might get your one pitch to hit, foul it off, and then it's a battle from there."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that the biggest adjustment to the big leagues comes off the field versus on.

"The first thing he's got to do is adjust to daily life in the big leagues," Gibson said. "Then you have to understand how they're going to pitch to you and you're going to have to make some adjustments at the plate and in the field.

"You can't teach a guy in a day."

Gibson back in dugout after illness Saturday

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- After leaving Saturday night's game early because of an illness, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson returned to the dugout on Sunday.

The 54-year-old said before Sunday's matinee against the Dodgers that the sickness was "something" with his stomach.

He left Saturday night's game early and bench coach Alan Trammell took the reins from there.

"I planned on it yesterday," he said about managing. "It kind of came on when I got here yesterday."

He said he watched some of the D-backs' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers from the clubhouse and the rest from his home.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Let's move on."

Gibson has a career managerial record of 95-101 entering Sunday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

D-backs, Saunders drop chance to grab first

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Another night, another missed opportunity.

For the second consecutive night on Saturday, the D-backs failed to take hold of first place in the National League West as the Giants continued to lose and the Dodgers continued to play spoiler with a 5-3 victory in front of 33,239 at Chase Field.

"It's unfortunate for us that we've lost three in a row," bench coach Alan Trammell said. "We've had an opportunity."

Off the field, Trammell held the reins for the majority of the game after manager Kirk Gibson exited with an illness early on.

"Right before the game, he told me he was having trouble," Trammell said. "He was there into the first inning, maybe the second and then he said, 'I gotta go.'"

But on the field, the D-backs were run over by the Dodgers' offense, couldn't score runs against a recent callup and, for the second time in as many days, climbed back but couldn't come back.

"We had a couple of opportunities tonight, but we're not clicking right now," Trammell said.

Nathan Eovaldi, 21, making his Major League debut for the Dodgers, withstood some early adversity and matched left-hander Joe Saunders through five innings.

In the second, Eovaldi loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single before Saunders slapped a two-out ground ball through the right side of the infield to score a pair of runs and give the D-backs a 2-1 lead.

"I needed some Band-Aids," Saunders said. "I made some good pitches and they hit some balls that weren't hit very hard, but you tip your cap to them, and they put the ball in some absolutely perfect spots."

But the Dodgers tied the score an inning later after Eovaldi led off the third with a single and scored three batters later on an Andre Ethier groundout to second.

Eovaldi finished with five innings pitched, allowed two runs on four hits, walked a pair and struck out seven.

"He attacked for the most part, he threw the ball over the plate and his stuff was really good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He handled himself well."

Los Angeles took control in the sixth.

After allowing a leadoff single to Ethier, Saunders retired Matt Kemp before shortstop Willie Bloomquist couldn't hang on to a possible inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of Juan Rivera.

Aaron Miles followed with a bloop single to center for a lead the Dodgers wouldn't surrender, and Saunders' day was over.

"Unfortunately, there was a little infield hit and a bloop," Trammell said. "It's not his fault. He was up in the high 90s, [Rod Barajas] was 2-for-2 off of him and that was just my decision to possibly change pitchers and get a ground ball."

Saunders finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking one to fall under the .500 mark at 8-9.

"I can't really explain it, honestly," Saunders said. "You make your pitch, you do your job and then they still get a hit. You just have to try to turn the page and go after the next guy. You can't really focus on the last hitter."

Trammell, who relieved Saunders with right-hander Brad Ziegler looking for a double-play ground ball, instead saw Barajas deliver his third hit of the game to center field.

"With Barajas already being 2-for-2 off of [Saunders], I was thinking that Ziegler might get a ground ball with runners on first and third," Trammell said. "Didn't happen."

Ziegler retired the next batter before walking pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen to load the bases and striking out Jamey Carroll to escape further damage.

Carroll entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the third inning after shortstop Dee Gordon injured his shoulder tagging Kelly Johnson in a rundown. He is listed as day to day.

The Dodgers tacked on a run in the seventh before the D-backs, true to form, tried to muster a comeback.

In the eighth, Justin Upton drove home Bloomquist with a two-out double to the right-center-field gap to cut the deficit to 5-3.

One batter later, Chris Young just missed a game-tying two-run home run to left as the ball died at the warning track. In the ninth, Ryan Roberts doubled to put the potential tying run at the plate, but he was stranded on two groundouts.

"We fall behind, we come back, we fall behind, we come back," Trammell said. "It's tough to come back all the time."

The pair of series-opening losses sets up a tough task for the D-backs to salvage a game against the third-place Dodgers with one of the league's best pitchers, left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.68 ERA), starting on Sunday.

Arizona counters in the matinee with right-hander Ian Kennedy (13-3, 3.17), who is 2-1 against the Dodgers in his career.

"We're in early August and, yes, people are looking," Trammell said. "You're looking, we're looking, everybody in baseball's looking, but we really have to take care of the business at hand."

Gibson leaves D-backs game with illness

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson left Saturday night's game against the Dodgers early with an undisclosed illness.

"I thought he was fine during batting practice," bench coach and acting manager Alan Trammell said. "I didn't know anything was wrong, but right before the game he told me he was having trouble."

"He said, 'Be ready,' so I took the lineup card out and I told them that there's a possibility that I might be coming in and just to be prepared," Trammell said.

He said that he thought Gibson left in the second inning of the D-backs' 5-3 loss.

"Gibby was there into the first inning, maybe the second and then he said, 'I gotta go,'" Trammell said.

Duke learning to adjust to role in bullpen

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- It's a new thing to Zach Duke, the whole pennant race thing.

"It's a lot of fun," Duke said. "Every game means something and that's a different experience for me, so I just have to make sure to prepare myself to give this team everything that I have every day."

After starting the season in the rotation, Duke is now working out of the bullpen and doing a fine job so far.

"It's been pretty good," he said. "I haven't had to pitch on short rest yet, so that test has yet to be taken for me, but it's so far, so good."

In four relief outings, the left-hander has allowed three runs on seven hits in 10 innings. He has a 2-4 record and 5.02 ERA overall on the season.

"There's less time to prepare and you just have to get loose and get out there," he said of the differences between starting and relieving. "You have to trust you'll throw the ball where you want to, and there's a little more adrenaline to it."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Duke has performed well throughout the transition.

"He's throwing good," Gibson said. "It's probably a big adjustment for him to be in that role, but he's thrown the ball better, and he's a veteran guy.

"It's hard to predict what the influence on our team anyone might have at this important part of the season, so I think you just have to have a good attitude, adjust your role on any given day and be prepared to do it when it counts."

Duke said that starter or reliever, his pregame preparation is still the same.

"Now, my job is to get the next couple of guys out, but you still prepare yourself to give everything you've got from the first pitch," he said.

Ziegler enjoying jump to contending D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Brad Ziegler can tell he's fitting in with the D-backs.

"They're not afraid to poke fun at me," the right-handed reliever said. "The longer that I've been here, the more that they're throwing me into that mix."

Ziegler is still getting acclimated to the Phoenix area, the D-backs and, among other things, pitching in a pennant race.

After spending the first 3 1/2 seasons of his Major League career with the A's and only once getting within a handful of games of a playoff spot late in the season, the change is a welcome one.

"To go into the second week of August half a game back, it's a great feeling," Ziegler said. "That's what everybody plays for. You want to win the World Series, and to get there, you have to make the playoffs.

"To be this close and have a shot right now, that's right where we want to be."

Ziegler was acquired in a trade from the A's for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto on July 31 and has a 2.29 ERA on the season.

He's made two appearances with the D-backs and has not allowed an earned run.

"It's been great," Ziegler said. "It's a real relaxed clubhouse, everybody likes to have fun and joke around with each other a lot, so it's been an easy adjustment for sure."

Burroughs ends skid, shrugs off tough stretch

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Sean Burroughs didn't have a clue.

"What streak?" he asked, after Friday night's 7-4 loss to the Dodgers, in which the D-backs infielder snapped an 0-for-20 slump.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty good, but that's just kind of how it goes."

Burroughs snapped the career-long skid with a seventh-inning single off Chad Billingsley. His previous career-long slump was 18 at-bats in 2003.

"I don't really look too much into things like that," he said. "I just try to go up there, make contact and see what happens."

In a bench role, Burroughs has hit .224 with four RBIs in 58 at-bats this season.

In between his plate appearances off the bench, he likes to jump into pitchers' bullpen sessions to keep his eye fresh.

"I've taken millions of swings every day, but I like to see the ball coming out of a pitcher's hand," he said. "It's hard to emulate."

Burroughs also recently relinquished his jersey number to incoming starter Jason Marquis. The former No. 21 is now wearing No. 11.

"He's had that number his whole career," Burroughs said. "It's fine with me."

Friday, August 5, 2011

D-backs can't erase Collmenter's early woes

By Anthony Fenech / | 8/6/2011

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter was on a mound, in the middle of a baseball diamond, in front of 27,215 people and he was in trouble.

"You almost feel like you're on an island out there," he said.

Two singles. A double. Two more singles. A sacrifice fly.

"It's definitely a different feeling," he said. "It seemed like whatever I threw up there just wasn't as sharp or as fine as it usually is."

And another single.

That was Collmenter's third inning Friday night, as the Dodgers chased him off that mound, scored six runs on six hits and rudely welcomed the D-backs home to Chase Field with a 7-4 defeat.

"He didn't locate the ball very good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "They were pounding it."

The D-backs remained a half-game behind the Giants, who fell to the Phillies, 9-2, for first place in the National League West.

In the loss, Collmenter's second consecutive at the hands of the Dodgers, the six third-inning runs were the most the rookie right-hander has allowed this season, in his shortest start this season.

"Location, getting behind in counts and that's an aggressive club, so when you throw the ball over the plate, they're going to take their swings at it," he said. "I just wasn't as fine as fine with my pitches as I needed to be."

That much was evident early, when he escaped a two-hit, one-walk first inning unscathed thanks to a Gerardo Parra diving grab of an Aaron Miles line drive in left field with the bases loaded.

"I fell behind and didn't make pitches that I needed to when I needed to," Collmenter said. "They were just way too comfortable in the box and that's my responsibility to make sure they're off-balance."

And after a 1-2-3 second inning, the wheels fell off in the third.

Dee Gordon led off with a bunt single that refused to roll foul. After stealing second, he scored on a single and an error, after Justin Upton botched a Casey Blake single to right field.

Then Andre Ethier doubled off the fence in left. Then Matt Kemp singled. Then Juan Rivera singled Ethier home. Then Miles hit a sacrifice fly, James Loney singled through the hole into right field and then Collmenter's day was over.

"The ball wasn't coming out of his hand like it has in the past," Gibson said. "He's got to be better than that."

And while Collmenter was done, the damage wasn't.

Relieving him was Micah Owings, who promptly gave up a double to Rod Barajas, which plated two Dodgers and staked them to a six-run lead.

Owings ended the third and pitched four more innings of scoreless relief, allowing only two hits while walking three batters and striking out one.

"Micah threw good," Gibson said. "It was good and the way our bullpen's set up, Micah's got length. It's good to have him, but you don't want to use him."

After a spot start at home against the Rockies on July 24, Owings has made two relief appearances and tallied 70-plus pitches in each.

"I felt good and I can remember being on the flip side of that situation," Owings said. "Anytime I can come in and pick the bullpen up and the starter, I'm going to do the best that I can the longest that I can."

Meanwhile, the D-backs couldn't break through against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley until the sixth inning, when Upton tripled to right field before Chris Young drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.

But in the seventh, the D-backs chased the right-hander after Ryan Roberts walked, followed by two singles -- including an RBI single from Parra -- before Sean Burroughs snapped an 0-for-20 funk with a single to center.

With the bases loaded, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Matt Guerrier, who allowed an infield single to Willie Bloomquist to make the score 6-3; left-hander Scott Elbert, who struck out pinch-hitter Cody Ransom swinging; and then veteran reliever Mike MacDougal to face Upton with the bases loaded and one out.

After flailing at a pair of MacDougal breaking balls, Upton lined a 1-2 pitch that was speared at shortstop by Gordon, who made a fine defensive play and doubled off Burroughs at second base.

"The play Dee made, I don't know how many guys make that play," Mattingly said. "He hit a seed. That got us out of the inning and took the air out of their sails."

And thus went the D-backs' hopes of a 30th come-from-behind victory.

"We had our opportunity there," Gibson said. "Didn't get what we should have, made a baserunning mistake and got doubled off. Good play by Gordon but you have to know where to go."

Barajas hit his 10th home run to right-center in the eighth, a solo shot off Bryan Shaw for insurance. And while the D-backs answered in the eighth with a Miguel Montero sacrifice fly, scoring Young, it wasn't enough.

"We pushed them to the end, though," Gibson said. "We didn't make it easy on them, and I hope we play better tomorrow."

After tense series, D-backs wary of letdown

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/05/11

PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson was lost on Thursday.

"We're not usually home on an off-day. We're usually traveling," the D-backs manager said. "I got in a good nap, though. It was good.

"It was a very relaxing day yesterday."

A relaxing day after a not-so-relaxing series, in which the D-backs took two of three from their National League West rival and defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

"It was definitely a playoff atmosphere," infielder Ryan Roberts said. "Everything was at stake for first place, and we didn't come out of there with first place, but we did come out of there with two wins."

Transition to this weekend, when the fourth-place Dodgers come to town.

"We have to guard against a letdown," Gibson said. "But I'm pretty confident that when they get out there, when our pitcher goes out to the bullpen and guys start warming up, they'll be ready."

The D-backs took two of three against the Dodgers last weekend and are 6-3 against them this season.

"I thought the intensity level in the Giants series was top-notch," Gibson said. "And you have to try to keep that in every game. You can't take games for granted, so when we come out tonight, the off-day will be officially over and we'll have to get back to work."

Top pick Bauer already impressing D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/05/11

PHOENIX -- The first inning of Trevor Bauer's second Minor League start for high Class A Visalia got off on the wrong foot.

He walked two of the first three Stockton Ports batters he faced, but the 20-year-old first-round Draft pick of the D-backs rebounded to strike out a pair of batters and exit the first inning on the right foot.

Color D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall impressed.

"He's a talent, that's for sure," Hall, who was on hand in Stockton, Calif., said on Friday. "He looks really good."

Bauer was touched up the next inning, giving up a two-run home run and finished allowing only those two runs on two hits in three innings. He struck out six, walked three, threw 55 pitches and was tagged with his first professional loss.

"We saw that if he gets in to trouble, he can get out of it," Hall said.

He was accompanied by general manager Kevin Towers and said that Bauer touched 97 mph on the radar gun while mixing five pitches.

"At times, he can be overpowering," Hall said.

The right-handed Bauer was drafted by the D-backs with the No. 3 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft in June and signed on July 25.

Roberts nets D-backs' Heart and Hustle Award

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/05/11

PHOENIX -- Ryan Roberts is never the biggest, tallest or strongest player on the field.

But the D-backs infielder always plays the hardest to make up for it.

"You always want to hustle and give 100 percent every day," Roberts said. "Because that's the proper way to play baseball."

And on Friday, Roberts was rewarded for his hard play as the D-backs winner of the Heart and Hustle Award, presented by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to active players who demonstrate a passion for the game and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game.

"It's a great deal," he said. "You work so hard every day to accomplish what you do in baseball and a lot of it goes unseen and I guess this is a reflection of that hard work."

Roberts was awarded with a wooden plaque during a pregame presentation prior to Friday night's game against the Dodgers.

While playing four positions in 98 games this season, the six-year Major League veteran is hitting .259 with a career-high 15 home runs, 45 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

"With the younger generation coming up, if I can give just at least that to them, to play hard and to run the ball out and to do anything petty like that," Roberts said, "it would be a huge accomplishment."

The MLBPAA formed committees comprised of alumni players with established relationships to each team to vote for the winners. Near the end of the season, all alumni and active players will vote to select one winner out of the 30 team winners, to be announced in November.

Monday, July 25, 2011

D-backs agree to contract with first pick Bauer

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/25/11

PHOENIX -- Trevor Bauer loves to play baseball.

So after his collegiate career ended in early June, it didn't take him long to pick up a baseball.

"When I'm not playing, it kind of eats at me," Bauer said.

It didn't take him long to start throwing again -- probably two weeks, he said -- and it didn't taken him long to sign his first Major League contract.

On Monday, Bauer and his family were at Chase Field as the D-backs announced the signing of the 2011 Golden Spikes Award winner.

The signing bonus was $3.4 million, a source told The guaranteed contract totals $4.4 million.

"I'm itching to get back out there," he said. "And I'm happy to have the opportunity to do that right now."

After following him since his teenage years in Southern California, the D-backs selected the UCLA junior right-hander with the third overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft last month.

"This is a very exciting day for us, to welcome someone so accomplished in the amateur world who now takes the first step in his professional career," D-backs senior vice president of scouting and development Jerry Dipoto said.

At UCLA, Bauer was as dominant as they come in the collegiate ranks and became the first Bruins player to win the Golden Spikes Award, presented annually by USA Baseball to the nation's premier college player.

In three seasons, he became the school's record-holder in wins, strikeouts and innings, totaling a career mark of 34-8 with a 2.36 ERA and 460 strikeouts in 373 1/3 innings.

Last season, he went 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA and led the country with 203 strikeouts and 10 complete games.

"I'm definitely excited to get this part of the process taken care of and start the next phase, which is actually playing baseball, which is what I enjoy doing, so I'm pretty excited about that part," Bauer said.

The D-backs will send Bauer to High Class A Visalia, where he will start Saturday for the Rawhide against Stockton in his first professional start.

Dipoto said Bauer will throw two innings or around 40 pitches and won't come out of the bullpen.

"He's a starter," Dipoto said. "We're going to start off with a few shorter starts and reintroduce him to innings."

Bauer has been throwing two to three bullpen sessions a week, along with long toss and the use of weighted baseballs during his time away from the mound.

He spent four weeks in Houston at the Texas Baseball Ranch to better prepare for pitching in the Minors the rest of the season.

"It's something that I wanted to do, and this is something that I've been looking forward to," Bauer said.

The 20-year-old said that while he feels believes in his abilities enough that he could compete at the Major League level right now, he knows that the organization values performance over potential.

"Performance will dictate it all," Bauer said. "So it really depends on how I perform in the Minor Leagues, and I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and go out there to prepare and perform well."

Bauer threw 136 2/3 innings this season at UCLA, figures to throw around 35 Minor League innings this year and expects to throw 200-plus in the years to come given a clean bill of health.

"We're looking at this as an opportunity to build him towards 165-170 innings this year as we go through the rest of the season," Dipoto said.

"To answer the Major League opportunity or possibility question," Dipoto continued, "when you're as talented as Trevor is, anything's possible.

"We believe, obviously, that giving him a Major League contract right out of the chute that he's really close to being able to contribute at this level."

And Bauer has no reservations about moving through the D-backs Minor League system.

"I wouldn't want it any other way," the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder said. "I've always had to earn everything I've been given, so hopefully it stays the same from here on out, but I'd like to go out there and have a shot to prove that I can help this organization whether it be this year, next year or in the future."

And he said that his desire to get back onto the field was a driving force in getting his contract signed sooner rather than later.

"I wanted to sign as quickly as possible and get out and pitch," he said. "That's what they drafted me for and that's what I enjoy doing so it just seemed logical to get out there and pitch."

The D-backs have drafted pitchers in the first round in five of the past six years, including this year, with Bauer and No. 7 selection Archie Bradley, a right-hander out of Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma.

"We are embarking on something new with this organization as we build a foundation of pitching," Dipoto said. "It's an exciting group of young guys, and we haven't even scratched the surface of what we're capable of."

Gibson's goal: Better slide slow by D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/25/11

PHOENIX -- Throughout the season, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has talked extensively about the team adding skills.

"We want to have more tools in our tool chest," he said.

He's talked extensively about the team sharpening skills.

"We made a big thing about that in Spring Training," he said.

And during a weekend where two plays at the plate went two different ways for the D-backs, Gibson talked extensively about a tool he would like to see improve: Sliding.

"It's not something we're going to be able to correct right now," he admitted. "But I think it's something we're going to need to get better at as I look forward in general."

On Saturday, starting pitcher Josh Collmenter didn't slide and was thrown out.

On Sunday, right fielder Justin Upton slid and was called safe.

Both plays, lost in a pair of D-backs blowout victories, didn't mean as much for the game's outcome as they did to the manager.

"I probably tend to look more into that because I'm always trying to find a way to be safe and score runs," Gibson said.

And the D-backs didn't score a run in the sixth inning of Saturday night's game, when Collmenter was thrown out at home on a Gerardo Parra single to left field that looked to plate an easy run.

But a perfect relay from left, coupled with Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta standing at home plate -- in an apparent attempt to deke Collmenter -- and Upton standing behind home plate -- with his hands up, an apparent signal for Collmenter to cross the plate standing -- produced a bang-bang play at the plate.

"You never want to make it even that close," Collmenter said.

Because, as he quickly found out, it isn't good to give the fielders the benefit of the doubt, which he did by coming home standing. Home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins called him out on the play.

"That's going to happen," Gibson said. "We're going to make mistakes. The thing that you worry about is maybe [Upton] says 'slide' really late.

"One of the things that we talk about is having the on-deck guy in the proper position and when you have to slide, you have to be [saying] 'Down, down, down' or 'Up, up, up.' And that's just all part of the mechanics of what it takes to win a ballgame."

A day later, Upton scored on a fielder's choice to second base when, after Sean Burroughs hit a ground ball straight to Jonathan Herrera with the Rockies' infield playing in, a hook slide beat Iannetta's tag.

"It was very good," Gibson said Sunday. "We were talking about slides today and how they can affect a play, and there you got it.

"When I look at the game, I'm always looking for resources to get the job done and [Upton] showed you today specifically about sliding."

Upton said that the slide was instinctual and that he saw the play developing about halfway between third base and home.

"I'll be honest with you, I thought it was a bad read on my part," he said. "So I tried to make up for it and was able to score."

Gibson said that the team slid one time in Spring Training but stressed that practicing slides isn't something you can take the team out on the field and do consistently.

He's began to make a library of good slides for the team to watch next spring.

"As you can see, there's times when a better slide would have gained us an advantage or a poor slide didn't work out good for us," he said.

"There's an art to it."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Upton leads offense as D-backs blank Rox

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/24/2011

PHOENIX -- Sunday afternoon, the D-backs took what Ubaldo Jimenez gave them.

And then they took some more. And more. And then, with another impressive all-around performance, they took a three-game series from the Rockies with a 7-0 win in front of 28,090 at Chase Field.

"Things got hard, they got tough and we didn't look very good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But this is a big win. This series is a big win."

For the second straight night, Justin Upton powered the D-backs lineup, while the righty-lefty duo of Micah Owings and Zach Duke recorded the team's ninth shutout of the season in the finale of a 10-game homestand.

Gerardo Parra was a late scratch because of a sore left wrist, Kelly Johnson was out again with a sore left calf and Geoff Blum exited early with a broken right pinky, but the remaining D-backs cobbled together 11 hits while chasing Jimenez after five innings to leave Phoenix on a high note.

"I'm very proud of the guys today," Gibson said. "We threw a lineup out there and we didn't have a choice, these were the guys and they did a hell of a job."

Early on, it looked as if Jimenez would be the one chasing the D-backs out of town.

The Rockies right-hander struck out five of the first nine batters he faced before Willie Bloomquist, Xavier Nady and Upton strung together consecutive opposite-field hits with two outs in the third for an early lead.

Upton's double, which landed just inside the right-field line, scored both after back-to-back singles.

"Very frustrating," Jimenez said. "After getting the first two outs, you want to finish the inning right away. But they kept going the opposite way with me."

And the D-backs -- as has been customary of late against Jimenez -- didn't stop there, scoring a run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth before he was pulled.

"You just have to give the guys credit," Gibson said. "I told you guys a couple of days ago, I felt like we were ready to start swinging the bat. We've kind of gotten back into it."

In the fourth, Owings helped his own cause with a single up the middle, driving in Miguel Montero.

In the fifth, Nady led off the inning with a single before Upton smacked a broken-bat triple off the wall in right field.

Three batters later, Sean Burroughs scored Upton on a fielder's choice to second as Upton just beat a throw home with a nifty hook slide.

Burroughs took over for Blum in the third inning after Blum fractured his pinky fielding a ground ball in the second inning.

"Hopefully it will be a two-to three-week deal and we'll get back out there," Blum said.

The D-backs have now scored five or more runs in each of Jimenez' past three starts against them and have knocked him out of the game in the sixth inning or sooner each time.

He finished with five innings on Sunday, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out eight and walking two.

Meanwhile, Owings held the Rockies scoreless in a spot start that Gibson said afterward wasn't so spotty after all.

After pitching in the bullpen for nearly two months, the right-hander threw five innings of two-hit baseball, striking out two and walking three.

"That's what we were hoping for," Gibson said. "He did a great job and, right now, he is our fifth guy. I think he'll probably get another start. Why wouldn't he?"

Owings continued his mastery of Colorado and now sports a 4-0 record with a 0.79 ERA (two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings) against them in his career.

"It felt great," Owings said. "Obviously, you never know how it's going to go, you just go out there and do the best you can."

Duke took over for Owings in the sixth and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three hits to record his first career save.

"It's funny, because the other day during batting practice, when I found out I was starting, [Duke] said, 'You go five, and I'll go four,'" Owings said. "And that's what happened."

Ahead, 5-0, entering the sixth, the D-backs put the game away with two runs off reliever Matt Belisle on a single from Chris Young and a fielder's choice from Montero.

Upton singled in the eighth to complete a 4-for-4 day, raising his batting average to .301, and finished with nine hits for the series, the most in a series for his career.

"I don't know what's going on with me," Upton said. "I'm getting some bloop shots and squaring some balls up. The ball's just been falling for me."

Nady added two hits, scored three runs and was hit by a pitch.

The D-backs trail the Giants by four games in the National League West and embark on a nine-game road trip against division foes beginning Tuesday in San Diego.

"I know there's been some things written about where we're headed," Gibson said. "This team doesn't believe that."

Geoff Blum exits game after fracturing right pinky

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/24/11

PHOENIX -- Geoff Blum appears snakebitten.

"Yeah, pardon the pun, huh?" he said. "I told Kelly Johnson just a couple minutes ago that maybe this is what I get for wanting to play here."

And after breaking his right pinky finger early in Sunday afternoon's 7-0 win over the Rockies, the D-backs third baseman seems to be headed back to the disabled list a mere 10 games after coming off it.

"You get tested sometimes," he said. "Unfortunately, we have to go through it again."

Blum was injured while fielding a ground ball off the bat of Ryan Spilborghs in the second inning.

"He hit it pretty good, had some top spin on it," Blum said.

The ball jumped up and hit him on the end of the finger, but the 13-year veteran figured it was a typical bad hop kind of thing, until he faced Ubaldo Jimenez in the third inning.

"The second curve I swung at, I had absolutely no grip on my hand," he said.

Blum struck out looking in that at-bat, went into the field and tried to throw in the third inning, but there was a shooting pain.

He was lifted by D-backs manager Kirk Gibson for Sean Burroughs shortly thereafter.

"He's definitely out," Gibson said.

Blum will meet with Dr. Don Sheridan on Monday, who will determine how serious the break is and how long he will be out.

"Hopefully it will be a two- to three-week deal and we'll get back out there," Blum said.

The 38-year-old hit .214 (3-for-14) in six games prior to Sunday after being sidelined for the first three-plus months of the season because of right knee surgery.

"I'm getting to know the team physicians around here pretty good, unfortunately," Blum said. "But they took good care of me the first time with my knee, and I know they'll do a good job with the hand."

Parra out of lineup with sore left wrist

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/24/11

PHOENIX -- Right fielder Gerardo Parra was a late scratch from Sunday's lineup for the D-backs because of a sore left wrist after being hit by a pitch on Saturday night.

"It's fine," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said, noting that X-rays taken last night came back negative.

Parra, who had two hits, two walks and scored three times on Saturday, has a hit in 13 of his last 20 games.

"He had a great game in the No. 2 hole, and I've talked to you guys about moving him up," Gibson said. "He was more patient and he can be that way.

"It's baby steps for him. He's been here for a while, yet he's very, very young."

Xavier Nady filled Parra's spot in the lineup against Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, playing left field and hitting second on Sunday.

Also shelved, for the second consecutive day, was second baseman Kelly Johnson, who was removed from Friday night's game with left calf soreness.

"Just sore," Gibson said of Johnson.

Series with Rockies a family affair for Young

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/24/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs first-base coach Eric Young remembers watching his son Eric Jr. in Little League.

"I had to contain my emotions back then," Young admitted.

But it was nothing like Friday night, when Eric Jr. made his first appearance in front of his dad on a big league diamond as a pinch-hitter.

"I got chills and I was smiling so wide inside that I had to contain it," Young said. "I just went back to watching him as a Little Leaguer going up to hit, and it was just an awesome feeling."

And it was almost an empty feeling for Young's youngest son, Dallas, who hasn't yet grasped the difference between the Major and Minor Leagues and wondered Wednesday night if he was going to see his older brother.

"He asked, saying '[The D-backs are] playing the Rockies, dad,'" Young said. "And we had to explain to him that, no, your brother won't be here."

But Young Jr. was recalled by Colorado from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday, which made for perfect timing.

"I think, for me, more than watching Junior play, to have both of my sons here is why it was such a special weekend for me," Young said.

They were able to get lunch before Friday's series opener, and while Young hoped that his son would get a start or two during the series, watching him draw a walk on Friday as a pinch-hitter was enough.

"I said that, 'If [you don't start], do your thing as a pinch-hitter," Young said.

In parts of three big league seasons, Young Jr. has a .242 average in 277 at-bats with 25 stolen bases.

Collmenter credits curveball for hot streak

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/24/11

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter isn't the same pitcher he was a month or two ago.

For proof, look at the numbers.

Two straight victories, three straight quality starts and on Saturday, with a scoreless first inning, he recorded a scoreless streak of 15 innings for the second time this season.

The results, Collmenter said, are due in no small part to his newfound confidence in his curveball.

"I've been able to get some outs with it and I've been more confident to throw it in situations that I probably wouldn't have earlier in the season," he said.

Collmenter said that battery mate Miguel Montero called for more curveballs in Saturday's win.

"It's good to see that he has confidence in it and that he knows I can execute that pitch," Collmenter said. "It's good to execute that third pitch, especially for seeing hitters the second and third time around."

The 25-year-old right-hander has a 5-5 record with a 3.00 ERA in 13 starts this season.

"I like to see it," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Collmenter's curveball. "I think if he's going to continue to be a starter, that's always good to have a third pitch.

"But he knows how to pitch."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Upton, Montero beat Rockies into submission

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/23/2011

PHOENIX -- Earlier in the week, after the D-backs hit three home runs in a victory over the Brewers, manager Kirk Gibson said that he thought his team was ready to emerge from a post-All-Star break slump.

"I feel like we're coming out of it," he said on Thursday.

Two days later, the team had done just that.

The D-backs broke out of it early and often on Saturday evening, as they put up crooked number after crooked number on the Chase Field scoreboard in a 12-3 victory over the Rockies.

Their first six batters reached base, Justin Upton drove in six runs and Miguel Montero drove in five in the team's biggest offensive outburst in over a month.

"It was good," Gibson said. "We haven't done that in a while."

And while Friday night's postgame fireworks show had long since ended, the team put on an early fireworks display for the 34,849 in attendance on Saturday.

Willie Bloomquist singled to start the shellacking, and by the time the first inning ended, the D-backs had five runs on five hits against Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel. The team batted around in the first, providing Josh Collmenter with a comfortable cushion and the most run support he's enjoyed all year.

"Obviously, this was an ideal situation to jump on [Hammel] really quick," Gibson said. "It's easier to be a pitcher when you have a five-run lead in the first inning."

Upton and Montero both delivered two-run doubles in the opening frame, while Collmenter collected his first career RBI on a single up the middle to put the Rockies in a hole they wouldn't emerge from.

But the offense wasn't finished there.

The next inning, Montero -- who entered the game 1-for-11 lifetime against Hammel -- socked an 0-2 breaking ball into the right-field seats for a two-run home run, giving the D-backs a 7-1 lead.

"I was looking fastball the whole time," Montero admitted. "It was a lucky one."

And while the D-backs loaded up on baserunners -- to the tune of 14 hits, seven walks and a hit batter -- Collmenter cruised to a second consecutive victory in his third straight quality start.

The right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits, while striking out three and walking none, for his sixth victory of the season.

"It's big anytime you have a lead when you're a pitcher, especially early on," Collmenter said. "It gives you a little cushion out there, and lets you ease into it and get more comfortable on the mound -- knowing you don't have to be quite as perfect."

And at the plate, he recorded his first multi-hit game when he added a sixth-inning single.

"It was nice to get a couple of those," he said. "It's been a while. I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle, that's what your coach from Little League on up says. So I guess in the back of my mind, that's what I was thinking."

Hammel labored through 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 12 hits. He struck out seven and walked four.

"Warming up in the bullpen, I felt I had no-hit stuff," Hammel said. "So yes, very frustrating."

The Rockies touched Collmenter up for runs in the second inning -- on Troy Tulowitzki's 19th home run of the year, a solo shot to right field -- and in the third, when Ty Wigginton singled home two runs.

And while Collmenter threw at least seven innings without issuing a walk for the second time this season, the D-backs offense scored at least 12 runs for the fourth time this season.

"You can come in here and have some energy and have some fun," Gibson said. "And I think we did that before the game, and it carried into the game."

But the fun didn't stop until Upton had his turn to put an exclamation point on the proceedings with a seventh-inning grand slam to left field, his 17th home run of the season and second career grand slam.

The home run came on the first pitch by Colorado left-handed reliever Eric Stults, who hit Gerardo Parra on the wrist one batter earlier.

"He left it over the inner half of the plate, it was up and I barreled it up," Upton said.

The upper-deck blast tied Upton's career-high of six RBIs, and Upton and Montero became the first pair of D-backs teammates to each record five RBIs in a single game.

"That's nice," Montero said of the accomplishment. "What can I say? It's pretty good."

"I feel good at the plate," he said. "I'm trying to stay a little bit quieter at the plate, trying to get better pitches to hit -- and it shows in the results."

With the win, the D-backs kept pace with the Giants in the National League West, and will oppose Ubaldo Jimenez in the rubber game of the series on Sunday afternoon.

"I like it when they feel good about themselves," Gibson said about his team. "Hopefully, this will carry into [Sunday] and beyond that."

Hemond honored in Cooperstown

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/23/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs special assistant to the president and CEO Roland Hemond received the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Saturday.

"He's like my Ernie Harwell," Gibson said, in reference to the Tigers' legendary broadcaster. "I've just now been able to spend real time with Roland since I've been in this organization, and this is time well spent."

Hemond, who is in the fifth season of his second tour of duty with the D-backs, is a three-time MLB Executive of the Year Award winner, and has 60 years of professional baseball experience.

Hemond's baseball career began in 1951 as a front office member of the Eastern League's Hartford Chiefs, and he spent 23 seasons as a general manager for the White Sox and Orioles.

"The thing about these guys, they've served the game for so long," Gibson said. "For many, many, many years -- and the most amazing thing about it is not only their contributions and things that they have accomplished, but their recall of it."

And Gibson recalled his first at-bat against Bert Blyleven, the former Twins pitcher set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Gibson faced Blyleven in his first game, a Spring Training contest in Bradenton, Fla., in 1978.

"I struck out three times on about nine pitches," Gibson said. "They were all curveballs, and I had never seen a curveball quite like that before. It was like, 'Oh my gosh.'

"It certainly distinguished him from others, because that was the best curveball I saw."

Roberto Alomar, Blyleven and Pat Gillick make up the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2011. Sunday's annual induction ceremony behind the Clark Sports Center, which is about a mile from the famous red-brick museum, will be broadcast live on and MLB Network beginning at 8:30 a.m. MST.

Johnson day to day with calf soreness

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/23/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson didn't know where Kelly Johnson was before Saturday evening's game, but knew the second baseman wouldn't be in the starting lineup.

"I haven't seen him yet today," Gibson said in his pregame meeting with the media. "I knew I wasn't going to play him today."

Johnson left Friday night's game with soreness in his left calf, something that Gibson said the team will follow on a day-to-day basis.

"He's been sore. But they deal with aches and pains all along, and they're usually able to resolve most of it," Gibson said.

The second baseman is hitting .218 on the season, with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs. He's played 92 games.

After hitting a two-run home run in Thursday's game against the Brewers, Johnson ran out two hard ground balls on Friday night, before being removed from the game for precautionary reasons.

"We became concerned about it, and wanted to see how it responds today," Gibson said.

The skipper said that he believed Johnson would be able to pinch-hit, but added with a wry smile, "Even if he wasn't, I would tell you he was."

Bloomquist provides spark to D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/23/11

PHOENIX -- Willie Bloomquist isn't Stephen Drew.

Bloomquist knows it, his manager knows it. But two games into his everyday role at shortstop, the veteran hasn't showed it.

Since the season-ending Drew injury, Bloomquist is 4-for-14, as the D-backs' resident pest at the top of the order.

"He plays with a lot of energy," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's done pretty well for us. He started off the season very good at leadoff, gave us a lot of energy. And then he got hurt, went on the [disabled list] and kind of lost that.

"Now, he's kind of regained that again, and I think he understands what the loss of Stephen means. And that's the kind of guy you want to have that's going to fill in for Stephen."

Bloomquist led off Saturday's game with a single, and scored two batters later on a Justin Upton double, part of a five-run Arizona first inning off Rockies starter Jason Hammel.

He looks to get most of his playing time at shortstop in the leadoff spot.

"He understands it," Gibson said. "He's pesky on the bases, he's pretty good at disrupting over there when he's on first. He battles and understands the game situations. He walks and fouls a lot of pitches off."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vote now for former All-Star pitcher Johnson

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/22/11

PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson has received Cy Young Award votes.

He's received All-Star votes, MVP votes and one day, he will receive Hall-of-Fame votes.

Now, the retired left-hander needs your vote to get elected to the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams "Dream Team."

The Pepsi Max Field of Dreams campaign has nominated three all-time greats at each position, from catcher to reliever, and the leading vote-getters at each position will be selected to the "Dream Team."

From now through Aug. 31, vote up to 25 times a day for these living legends and help create the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Team. For each ballot cast, you will be entered to win a chance to take on the winning "Dream Team" with 10 of your friends on your home turf next spring, surrounded by family, friends and media.

The more you vote, the better a chance you have of winning the sweepstakes.

Johnson, whose 4,875 strikeouts stands second all-time, pitched 22 big league seasons -- including eight in Arizona -- and won five Cy Young Awards and was named to the All-Star team 10 times.

He won 303 games, compiled a career ERA of 3.29 and shared World Series MVP honors while delivering the D-backs their only World Series title in 2001.

In 2004, he pitched a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves, striking out 13 batters in recording the 17th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.

After beginning his career with the Montreal Expos, Johnson was traded to Seattle, where he pitched 10 seasons and established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball with the Mariners.

He was traded midseason to the Astros in 1998 and signed as a free agent with the D-backs the following off-season.

The lanky left-hander pitched six seasons in Arizona, and was traded to the Yankees, pitched two seasons in New York before being returned to the D-backs via trade and finishing up his career as a member of the Giants. He pitched until he was 45 years old and retired after the 2009 season with the highest strikeouts per nine innings ratio at 10.6.

He is up against Phillies right-hander Steve Carlton and Braves right-hander Greg Maddux.

Four fan finalists will be announced in September and will vie for votes to determine whose team will play the legends in their hometown.

The winner will be announced during the MLB postseason.

So what are you waiting for? Cast your ballots now, start building your all-time dream team now and you could end up playing against them in your own backyard!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kennedy, D-backs bullpen blank Brewers

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/22/2011

PHOENIX -- One day after Stephen Drew ran through a red light in the fourth inning and hurt his ankle, Justin Upton was given a green light in the fourth inning and hurt Milwaukee's Zack Greinke.

Upton pounced on a 3-0 offering from Greinke and pounded it into the upper deck for a solo home run, giving starting pitcher Ian Kennedy all the offense he'd need in a 4-0 win at Chase Field.

"I hit that one pretty good," Upton said. "[Greinke has] a good fastball, and he's not the type of guy that's going to pitch around anybody."

Greinke didn't pitch around Upton, and he watched as the right fielder's 16th home run of the season traveled to left-center for the first of three D-backs round-trippers on the day.

"You kind of play with fire once you get to [ball three]," Greinke said. "You throw a strike, see what happens and hope for the best. He hit it."

With the win, the D-backs secured a split of the four-game series against the National League Central-leading Brewers.

"We're happy to see them go," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Fortunately, we got them -- not by a ton, but they were very tough games for us to play."

Miguel Montero followed Upton's lead two batters later, hitting his 11th home run of the season, to left field. Kelly Johnson put an exclamation point on the win in the eighth inning with a two-run opposite-field homer, his 17th.

"When you win a game and you hit some home runs, it tends to make you feel better," Gibson said.

The multi-homer inning was the D-backs' eighth of the season, and they trail only the Brewers in the NL in this department.

While the D-backs were showing off their power stroke, Kennedy was keeping the Brewers' power hitters off balance en route to picking up his 11th victory.

The right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing no runs on four hits, striking out five and walking two.

"I felt like I was throwing pretty good," Kennedy said. "We needed to even this series out, and I knew Greinke was going to give us a tough game. A couple of guys hit home runs, and tonight that's what we needed."

Kennedy held the Brewers hitless in six chances with runners in scoring position and wasn't threatened for much of the night outside the fifth inning before Bryan Shaw took over in the eighth inning.

In that fifth inning, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy hit back-to-back singles with one out, then Greinke sacrificed them into scoring position for right fielder Corey Hart.

With a base open and his team ahead by two runs, Kennedy walked Hart and retired Nyjer Morgan on a flyout to center to end the inning.

"I wasn't going to give Hart anything to hit," Kennedy said. "We saw what he can do this series. If he puts the barrel on the ball, he hits it pretty far, and he could have put them ahead by one swing."

Kennedy threw seven innings for the 12th time this year, which ties him for fourth in the NL, and held his opponent to one run or fewers for the 10th time, which ties for fourth in the Majors.

"He's unbelievable," Upton said. "He goes out there, he pounds the zone and keeps us on our toes, and we love playing behind him."

After coming on in relief of Kennedy, Shaw allowed a leadoff single to Hart and plunked Morgan before navigating his way out of that jam with the help of a pitcher's best friend, a shortstop-to-second double play on a ball hit by Ryan Braun.

"I just stuck with my best pitch," Shaw said of that first-pitch disposal of Braun. "I went with my cutter away and got him to chase a little bit and roll over."

With two outs, Gibson summoned left-hander Joe Paterson to face the left-handed-hitting Prince Fielder, who was sent back to the dugout after flailing at three breaking balls.

Fielder, roundly booed the entire series for not choosing Upton to participate in this year's Home Run Derby, went 1-for-16 in the series.

"We're very lucky," Gibson. "We pitched [Fielder] good, but these guys are a good team. They're very, very tough to play against and very explosive."

David Hernandez pitched a scoreless ninth inning, and after he struck out Betancourt swinging, the D-backs gained a half-game on the Giants in the NL West and now stand four games out.

"The victory helps us move on from yesterday," Gibson said. "It was a tough loss, and the guys bounced back and played well tonight."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drew's season is over after fracturing right ankle

By Anthony Fenech / | 07/20/11

PHOENIX -- Stephen Drew's season is over.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson confirmed that his shortstop wouldn't be back this year after Drew fractured his right ankle sliding into home plate in the fourth inning of Arizona's 5-2 loss in 10 innings to the Brewers on Wednesday.

"It's disappointing, and we know how important Stephen is," Gibson said. "But if you've been around the game a while, it happens. It's fairly common that you're going to lose star players. You hope it doesn't happen to you."

Drew needs surgery and will undergo tests on Thursday to see what the extent of the injury is.

He was injured trying to score from second base on a double by Chris Young to left field, when Ryan Braun's relay to Casey McGehee beat him on a feet-first slide at the plate, which Jonathan Lucroy was blocking. Drew, who ran through a stop sign from third-base coach Matt Williams, caught his foot on Lucroy as he slid past the catcher.

"Home plate, it's a dangerous place where collisions happen and slides happen and there's a lot of blocking and stuff like that," Gibson said.

Drew couldn't get up and was helped off the field by two trainers.

"He's a shortstop," infielder Ryan Roberts said. "That's the captain of the infield right there. Look around the league and all the big-name players play shortstop, so it's a big loss for the team and we'll find a way to bounce back from it."

Drew was hitting .252 on the season with five home runs and 45 RBIs. He recorded a .980 fielding percentage and made seven errors.

Gibson said he didn't have any answers on filling Drew's spot, but veteran Willie Bloomquist figures to see action at shortstop in the immediate future.

"We're certainly going to miss him," Bloomquist said. "He's a huge part of this team. We're going to have to find a way to pick up the slack, and I'm going to have to figure out a way to elevate and do things a little bit sharper and a little bit better."

In his four full years manning the middle of the D-backs' diamond, Drew has played 150-plus games three times and has twice had to go on the 15-day disabled list -- in 2006 and '09 -- both hamstring injuries.

He has a .269 career average with 70 home runs, 321 RBIs and a .978 fielding percentage.

"We now know what the Giants are feeling," Gibson said, referring to the season-ending injury to San Francisco's star catcher Buster Posey earlier this year. "We're in a similar situation [with] this and we'll have to find a way to get through it. There's nothing we can do about it.

"We wish him well and hope that he has a good recovery and he'll be able to resume his career next year."