Splitting Up is Hard to Do

Each Spring Training there is approximately three days where the Diamondbacks will divide the team into two squads and play two different games. These split squad games are very valuable as it allows the coaching staff more opportunities to assess the players and how they handle game situations. On teams where most of the roster positions have already been defined these split squad games take on added importance to those players who are battling for the final one or two roster spots. Today marks the first split squad game for the Diamondbacks for the 2007 Cactus League schedule. It is actually a couple of days earlier than normal in years past. I’m a firm believer that the split squad games are better served being later in March after the players have had an opportunity to work out the rust from the off-season. Games this early have the players still working on nuances of their swings or delivery.

It is difficult to know whether a player’s performance this early is an indication of a trend or just a matter of luck (either good or bad). During the first week of games hitters are generally a little bit ahead of pitchers so when assessing players this has to be taken into account. Today’s games have the Diamondbacks hosting both ends of the split squad game. During the afternoon contest half of the Diamondbacks will play the Seattle Mariners at Tucson Electric Park. The other half of the Diamondbacks will face off against the Colorado Rockies in an evening game. The Diamondbacks have penciled in four starters for their rotation and are looking at candidates for the fifth and final spot. Depending on the progress Randy Johnson makes during spring training, there may be an opportunity for an additional starting pitcher traveling with the team for the first road trip to begin the season. Today’s split squad games will feature several candidates for the fifth starter. In the early game Edgar Gonzalez and Micah Owings will both pitch against the Mariners. The nightcap will feature Dustin Nippert for the Diamondbacks. At the end of the night manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Mark Price will have data on three of the pitchers for that fifth spot in the rotation. I’m sure the young Diamondbacks players have a slight case of nerves knowing that each performance is being evaluated to determine whether they will stay with the parent club or be sent to the minor league facility to start the year in Tucson.

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