Saturday February 19 marked the voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers. You would have been hard pressed to guess that at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Position players could be seen working out at the facility as soon as it was opened.
Among those who arrived early was right fielder Justin Upton. Upton appeared to be in great shape a result of a more stringent off-season workout program. It wasn’t just showing up early that impressed me about Upton. He seemed very dialed in more so than I can imagine the last couple of years.
During the off-season I happened to be looking over the Major League Baseball transaction log when I came across a rather nondescript signing. It simply said, “The Arizona Diamondbacks sign outfielder Wily Mo Pena to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.”
Pena was once identified as a no-miss prospect with an unlimited ceiling. He was to be a superstar in the game. After signing with the New York Mets, Pena was traded to the New York Yankees where he started his professional career. A year later he was traded to Cincinnati and made his Major League debut on September 10, 2002 becoming the youngest member of the National League.
The Arizona Diamondbacks invited special guests to an exclusive event held at the new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The event called D-backs Baseball Interactive gave fans a behind the scenes tour of the new Spring Training facility and an opportunity to experience Spring Training with the team.
The day started with fans gathering on the Pepsi Patio deck where Diamondbacks officials welcomed them. The Pepsi Patio is one of three party decks at the new stadium and is situated on top of the press box of the main stadium. On the third base side and one level below is the Miller Light Taste Zone deck while the first base patio is named the Coors Light Cold Zone.
Almost from the moment that super utility man Michael Young demanded a trade from the American League Champion Texas Rangers, teams seem to be lining up to inquire about a trade. The Arizona Diamondbacks were among those who called.
With the Diamondbacks shipping third baseman Mark Reynolds and his 200 plus strikeouts per year to the Baltimore Orioles, the team has a substantial hole in their infield that Young could fill. Presently Arizona is going into Spring Training with Melvin Mora likely to get most of the playing time at the hot corner. Clearly Young would be a substantial upgrade.
The Arizona Diamondbacks announced they have signed first baseman Russell Branyan to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Just a day before position players can report to the new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers is still attempting to rework a roster that saw the team mired in last place the previous two years.
Branyan fits Towers definition of what he is trying to instill in the ball club; a veteran presence that is capable of adding depth to the 25-man roster and provide competition at each position. Branyan will battle youngsters Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen for time at first base.
When pitchers and catchers reported to the new Scottsdale Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was one name that was missing. Left-hander Clay Zavada who burst onto the scene in 2009 did not arrive Sunday for his scheduled physical and was not in the clubhouse when pitchers began their workouts on Monday.
General Manager Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson both admitted they were unaware of a reason for Zavada’s absence. When Tuesday came and Zavada was again not in camp Towers reached out to Zavada’s agent to inquire where the lefty was and if he would be attending Spring Training.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have made a contentious effort to try and stay away from salary arbitration hearings with their players. For the most part they have been successful. In the past decade the team has been able to sign all of their players before the scheduled arbitration hearing date.
There have been times when it went down to the wire such as the recent contract with Conor Jackson which was hammered out just before the start of the hearing. It is in the best interest of the player and the team to try and avoid arbitration hearings.