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News » Arizona Diamondbacks Inside Pitch 2009-02-19

Arizona Diamondbacks Inside Pitch 2009-02-19

Arizona Diamondbacks Inside Pitch 2009-02-19
The Diamondbacks were so thin in the outfield last winter after trading top prospect Carlos Gonzalez and fellow minor-leaguer Aaron Cunningham to Oakland in the deal for right-hander Dan Haren that they signed Trot Nixon after a tryout a day into spring training.

My, how things have changed.

The D-backs open spring training with four legitimate outfield starters -- Eric Byrnes, Conor Jackson, Chris Young and Justin Upton. Jackson will open the season in left field because of the return of first baseman Chad Tracy to regular status after two seasons of knee woes.

The team is so deep that it might not have room for arguably its best defensive outfielder, Alex Romero, who is out of options. The D-backs have carried only four outfielders in the past few years as a concession to sticking with 12 pitchers, and Romero could be a casualty unless the team moves Byrnes, who must agree to any deal because of a complete no-trade provision.

Romero saved a game in San Diego last season with the D-backs' defensive play of the year, running full speed from right field to the fence in right-center to take an extra-base hit away from Jody Gerut with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning. Doug Davis wound up with a 3-0 victory.

Romero, first baseman Josh Whitesell and center James Skelton appear to be the top candidates for the fifth and final spot on the bench with Byrnes, catcher Miguel Montero, first baseman Tony Clark and infielder Augie Ojeda.

Whitesell had a breakout season at Class AAA Tucson -- hitting .328 with 36 doubles, 26 homers and a franchise-record 110 RBIs -- but, like Clark, is only a first baseman. Skelton was selected in the Rule 5 draft from Detroit and must be offered back to the Tigers if he fails to make the major league roster.

WHERE, WHEN: Tucson Electric Park, Tucson, Ariz. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against Colorado.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: OF Eric Byrnes showed in 2006 and again in 2007 that he can be among the top power/speed combo threats in the National League when healthy. If his right hamstring has recovered sufficiently from a 3-millimeter tear that caused him to miss the second half of 2008, he certainly has the tools -- and the desire -- to step back into the forefront, never mind the fact that the D-backs shopped him over the winter.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: SS Stephen Drew last year became the third shortstop in major league history to have 40 doubles, 10 triples and 20 home runs in the same season, joining Robin Yount and Nomar Garciaparra. As talented as Drew is, it would be unfair to expect that again. Then again, Yount did it twice, so maybe Drew is just beginning to show his stuff.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Bob Melvin, the NL Manager of the Year in 2007, has been ahead of the curve in his use of statistical analysis -- a reason he is such a good fit with general manager Josh Byrnes -- and he uses those numbers in an attempt to give his players their best chance to succeed. A former major league reserve, Melvin understands the importance of keeping everyone on the roster involved and is a master at it. Pitching coach Bryan Price was Baseball America's minor league coach of the year in 2007, and third base coach Chip Hale is considered one of the best young managing prospects in the game.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 19, 2009

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