Monday, July 25, 2011

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."

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