The second exhibition game between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks at Chase Field ended in a 3-3 tie. This is another game that the Snakes should have won: the Yankees’ third run was unearned, coming after an eighth-inning error by shortstop Jerry Gil. He had put the D’Backs ahead 2-1 in the fifth with a homer. The irony of all of this is that Gil is not a homer hitter, but had said that he guarantees he will win a Gold Glove sometime in his career. He was sent to minor league camp after the game.
The first half of the game was a brilliant pitchers’ duel between the Yankees’ Shawn Chacon and the D’Backs’ Miguel Batista. Chacon, rescued last year from the pitcher’s he11 that is Coors Field, has been a revelation to the Yankees, who needed help with so much of their rotation injured. Batista showed the form that, if continued, indicates his return to the D’Backs starting rotation, after being traded to Toronto, where he was the closer, will be good news for the Snakes. Batista allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings. His removal with two out in the 6th seemed to be a pitch count issue, rather than any trouble that inning. After seeing only light action in the WBC, he still feels a little behind schedule.
Batista was a member of the 2001 Diamondbacks’ World’s Championship team. Luis Gonzalez, a hero of that championship team, drew 3 consecutive walks yesterday, great for the OBP, before being replaced by a pinch-runner.
Another player who figured prominently in the 2001 World Series, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, made an appearance in the 6th inning yesterday. Before Game 7 in 2001, he had guaranteed that the Yankees would win that championship if they could get the ball to him. Instead, he gave up the game-winning hit. (I was in Texas during that trip and was very happy with the outcome. I grew up in NYC, and, as I’ve said before, Mets fans don’t often root for the Yankees. I did root for the Pinstripers in the 2003 series. I haven’t been able to warm up to the oft-traded Marlins. Sorry, Bobby! So I used my New York nativity as an excuse to root for the Yankees in a largely pro-Marlin newsroom full of regular season rooters for the A’s, the Giants, and the Cleveland Indians).
In this exhibition game, Rivera was crisp and efficient. One of his victims was Eric Byrnes, who struck out on 6 pitches after running the count full. This is the third time in two days that Byrnesie has struck out after getting the count to 3-2. The frustration here was that Byrnesie swung at and missed the 4th pitch, which even the Yankee announcers said was high and out of the zone. To get the K, Mo blew a fastball by Byrnes; he couldn’t catch up to it. Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you. And Mo Rivera is the best closing bear in the majors.
Byrnes also flied out to left in the 2nd inning and popped foul to the catcher in the fourth. Thus he went 0-7 during these last two spring games. The 0-7 dropped Byrnes’ spring BA to .286. If he were to end the regular 2006 season with that average, it would best his previous high of .283, but fall way short of my .303 benchmark. Byrnes ended the spring with 4 homers and 14 RBI.
I’m seeing too much uppercut in Byrnesie’s swing–level swing, Byrnesie, please–and he seems to have returned to being too far away from the plate. (Contrast Damion Easley, who I thought was in the right spot to reach everything comfortably).
If a Byrnes hit is an occasion of good cheer, then consecutive o’fers is an occasion for knots in my stomach. The last thing he needs is a slow start to the season, with switch-hitting Jeff DaVanon (0-1 yesterday) on the bench and hot prospect Chris Young seasoning in Triple-A.
Byrnesie made a nice catch in right-center. The Yankees broadcasters said he was "very energetic in center field." It is the center fielder’s prerogative to catch anything he can. The speedy and aggressive Byrnes, who came to the majors as a center fielder, exercises that prerogative to the fullest.
Other Notes: This two-game exhibition between the Yankees and the D’Backs was part of the Randy Johnson deal. The D’Backs asked for it when they traded The Big Unit to New York. They requested, and got, a similar exhibition from the Red Sox when they traded Curt Schilling to Boston.
Chase Field with the roof open during the day creates some vicious shadows that crawl across the field from left to right. They are a factor early in the day, not late in the afternoon. It was very hard to see plays in the shadows on TV.
The Casey Daigle-Greg Aquino competition for the last spot in the D’Backs bullpen went to the more experienced Aquino.
Polls: The Diamondbacks’ official web site has a poll today asking voters about their expectations for the D’Backs this year. The choices are: World Series or Bust, National League pennant, just get in the playoffs, let’s make it to .500, and let’s make some noise. I was voter no. 1090 and I sided with the plurality (41%) that picked just get in the playoffs, though my heart was with World Series or bust (10%) and I would be happy with National League pennant (10%), those who dare not hope for much (31%) voted that their expectations were for a .500 record. Those who are still recovering from 2004 are making noise at a 9% clip.
The poll on March 29th asked who should play center field. Eric Byrnes, Jeff DaVanon, or a combination of the two. Byrnesie got 68% of the vote, the combination got 25%, DaVanon alone got 7%. I was voter number 1864. Needless to say how I voted.
I don’t want to see DaVanon get too many splinters on his rear end, but I’m uncomfortable with all this talk of him playing center field when I know he can play all three outfield positions. He can spell the 38-year-old Luis Gonzalez in day games after night games. In the DH-less National League, this switch-hitter can be a versatile pinch-hitter. In games in American League parks, such as the three-game series scheduled for Oakland as June becomes July, he can be the DH. Also, if Bob Melvin is looking to play the hot hand and Shawn Green, who had a lousy spring at the plate (.224) is having trouble, right field is a possibility. OK, I’ll even go so far as to say DaVanon should have 12 starts in center. (My Benchmarks for Byrnesie for games played in 2006 is 146, the number he had in 2004. But I would like to see him play even more. Twelve games for DaVanon in center would give Byrnes 150).
My D’Backs/Byrnes-22 T-shirt arrived yesterday. Between that, my road cap, and my Byrnesblog T-Shirt, I’m pretty much ready for the season. Tickets are another story and another article. I might be changing hours at the KPFA news department and that will have a bearing on whether and when I can go to a game, since I have yet to win the Lotto. [And, of course, if there’s a wealthy D’Backs fan out there who would like to give me an authentic Byrnes/22 jersey, my email address is on this blog. :+) ]
Spring Forward: Does setting our clocks forward an hour bring us that much closer to the Opener?
Still too much rain in Oakland: it isn’t actually raining as I write this, but the sky is solid gray and the forecasters have called for an inch to an inch and a half today and rain through Tuesday. The much-anticipated Barry Zito-Randy Johnson matchup scheduled for Monday might be postponed. The Yankees’ only visit to the Coliseum is this weekend, so a day-night doubleheader Tuesday or Wednesday is possible. The weather is playing havoc with the A’s final roster decisions. Outfielder Bobby Kielty has been sent to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for an extra pitcher. (I love the picture of Kielty that accompanies Mychal Urban’s article on the move. If you want a laugh, click on the link I put under Kielty’s name). Yankees manager Joe Torre said yesterday that if they are asked to play a doubleheader on Tuesday, it’s not as if they can say they’re tired.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament comes down to UCLA v. Florida. Go Bruins! (Eric Byrnes went there). Congrats still to George Mason and LSU for having made the Final Four. Some people didn’t even think that mid-major George Mason belonged in the tournament. But we play the games because we don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. The LSU Tigers looked toothless and clawless against the Bruins, but, no doubt, they were a point of pride to hurricane-devastated Louisiana for having gotten to the Final Four. LSU also made the Women’s Final Four. The other three teams in that tourney are Duke, North Carolina and Maryland, all from the ACC.
Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes! GO AWAY, RAIN!
Kéllia "Soggy" Ramares
In the theatre, a bad dress rehearsal is considered a good thing. It’s a time to uncover (and fix) any last minute problems, and get errors out of your system. I remember appearing in the 1997 California Revels (a Winter Solstice celebration show) and we had a very good dress rehearsal. We were all a little worried that we might have done our best when it didn’t count. Fortunately, our ten-day run went well.
This theory, or superstition, to some, that a bad dress rehearsal bodes well for the actual performance has been on my mind since the Diamondbacks lost to the Yankees 6-5 last night, in the first of two Chase Field exhibition appearances before the D’Backs open the 2006 season in Denver. They really should have won this game.
Many analysts have picked the Snakes to finish no better than third in the NL West this year, with some people predicting that they will finish only ahead of the Rockies in what is still considered the weakest division in the majors. The D’Backs’ Achilles’ Heel is their bullpen and last night showed why this is the case. The Yankees tied the score 5-5 by scoring two runs in the 8th. They won it in the 9th when Kelly Stinnett (who?) hit a homer off closer Jose Valverde. If the D’Backs are going to be the George Mason of the 2006 MLB season, their closer can’t be serving up gopher balls to the likes of Kelly Stinnett.
Not that the Yankee bullpen was exactly sparkling. The D’Backs left too many men on base late in the game. (The Snakes had 13 hits to the Yankees’ 10). Eric Byrnes’s Chase Field debut was nothing short of a nightmare at the plate. It wasn’t just that he had an o’fer to snap his five-game hitting streak and drop his average down to .316, it was the kind of o’fer he had: three strikeouts and a failed sacrifice bunt. I filled out my first full Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report of the 2006 season, and my hitting notes for his first AB include the following entry: "Swung at balls! Should have BB’d on 5. Looked a little tense."
This year’s D’Back strategy is to be patient at the plate and work the counts, a strategy that worked for them during their 2001 World’s Championship campaign. (It also worked early in this game as Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang had none out in the third by the time he had thrown 60 pitches; he was gone after 4 innings). The Snakes went into this game leading the majors in spring walks with 135. But Eric Byrnes was not a great contributor to this total. He’s walked once that I know of.
The first three pitches served up to him in last night’s game were balls. He took those and the ensuing strike. But then he swung and missed at the next two pitches. They were not the worm-killers he was swinging at last year; looks like he’s learned to leave those alone. But Wang was leaving pitches up around the belt or a little higher and that’s a huge temptation for Byrnes. He loves to drive those higher pitches.
Although three balls is considered a hitter’s count, it seems to me that pitchers have Byrnes where they want him when they run the count to three balls. Byrnesie’s then expecting a strike and wants to swing. Pitchers know this and often throw him something off the plate. He needs to follow this year’s Diamondback strategy and be willing to walk more. Once he establishes a reputation for patience, then the pitchers will have to throw him more strikes on a three-ball count and he’ll hit those.
He also had a three-ball count on the third strikeout. In this AB, he also took the first four pitches; the first was a strike; the next three were balls. After fouling off the next two pitches, he took a pitch that looked a little outside. He thought he had a walk, but the ump rang him up. At this point, it was a little hard for me to tell who was right because the picture was starting and stopping and that makes it difficult to judge the pitch. Although Byrnes didn’t question the call, he was clearly displeased.
With runners on first and second and none out in the 8th, everyone in the park was expecting Byrnes to bunt. I suppose that’s because when you’ve struck out three times in a row, the manager figures it’s not your day and wants to make sure you don’t hit into a double play. But here was an example of why Daryl hates the sacrifice bunt. Byrnes, who is still new at bunting, bunted the first pitch he saw, but it was short. The catcher picked it up and threw to third, nailing the lead runner. Byrnes ended up on first in the fielder’s choice. So now the D’Backs still had runners on first and second, this time with one out. In other words, the same result as they would have had if Byrnes had struck out a fourth consecutive time, with none of the possibility that Byrnes might have hit a single or better. A contact play, where the runners go as soon as the ball is hit, or a hit and run, might have kept them out of a DP if Byrnes had hit a weak infield grounder.
Erickson, the runner ahead of Byrnes, later fell down between third and home and was tagged out at the plate for out No. 2. And to make the nightmare complete, Byrnes ended up on third as the potential go-ahead run, but was unable to score. Bad dress rehearsal indeed.
There were some good moments for the D’Backs. The biggest was probably the fact that shortstop Craig Counsell made two very long throws with no apparent ill-effects from the small tear in the labrum of his throwing shoulder that made him miss a lot of spring training. One throw was from the edge of the outfield grass and rookie first baseman Conor Jackson made a great stretch to catch the ball in time for the out. D’Backs announcer and former star first baseman Mark Grace said when a shortstop makes a long throw like that, "The first baseman’s got to take care of him" and that’s just was Jackson did. Counsell also went 2-3 and scored 3 runs. The broadcasters made much of the fact that Counsell often gets good AB’s, making the pitcher throw a lot of pitches and working walks if he needs to. Byrnesie should get some counsel from Counsell about that.
Luis Gonzalez had two RBI and said in a dugout interview that he is fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery. In a similar interview, catcher Johnny Estrada also said he is fully recovered from the injury sustained in a homeplate collision while he was with the Braves. They showed it on TV. He really took a bad hit. Health, of course, is a huge factor in a playoff race. (One of the big concerns with the Giants is whether their old team can stay healthy over the course of the long season).
Second baseman Orlando Hudson also had a fine day. He went 3-3 with an RBI and showed why he is a Gold Glover. When D’Backs’ starter Kevin Jarvis made an errant throw past Conor Jackson that allowed a Yankee run to score, Hudson picked up the ball and nailed the runner going to third.
Third baseman Chad Tracy robbed Gary Sheffield of a hit by spearing a vicious line drive. He also had two RBI.
And even Eric Byrnes had one fine moment in the field, snaring a very deep fly ball before crashing to the wall. As Byrnes catches go, this was a good one, though not a spectacular one. Still, broadcaster Mark Grace said, "Eric Byrnes has never met a wall he’s afraid of crashing into." True. But I admit that I will be a nervous wreck when he gets near the ivy-covered bricks of Wrigley Field.
When Eric Byrnes was on KNBR yesterday, he said he had packed four days ago. He’s champing at the bit for the regular season to start. So am I. So is Red Sox Chick, so is just about anyone who plays or watches baseball. Let’s GO already!
Byrnesie was 1-4 in today’s 7-4 loss to the Cubs. His 6th inning line drive single off the pitcher’s leg was good for 2 runs. The pitcher is OK, which is better luck than the Snakes’ third base coach had a while back. He caught an Eric Byrnes line drive foul with his shod but ungloved foot and ended up on crutches.
So the good news was the RBI hit; Byrnesie’s got a five-game hitting streak going. The bad news: Byrnesie himself didn’t get driven in that time. And The Snakes had the bases loaded twice, in the 2nd and 9th innings, but got no runs in the 2nd inning and only 1 in the ninth. Since there was no radio or TV coverage (GRRR!), With the box score listing Byrnesie with one strike out and 3 runners left on base, and him batting 7th, I’m figuring that the strike out came with the bases loaded in the 2nd. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the likely scenario. (And if I am wrong, it’s due to the lack of info that occurs in spring training. Another reason to be anxious for the regular season to begin!)
I’ve seen Byrnesie have some rather ugly at-bats with the bags full. He has yet to hit a grand slam in the major leagues. I think it’s a mental thing. Sometimes he tries too hard. I’m hoping this year he relaxes at the plate a bit. (This seems to be the case with what little I have seen so far, but bases loaded is always a stressful situation for all concerned). I’m looking forward to him driving in more runs with the bases loaded this year. I hope that in 2006 he does hit a grand slam, and that I get to see it as it happens. But, in general, a single or a double in those situations would be just fine!
The end of the rain in the Bay Area would also be just fine! Yup, the precip came down again today. It’s March 30th. We have had rain the Bay Area for 24 days this month. That’s a new record, as is the amount we’ve gotten. And this is going to go on into April. Don’t be surprised if the A’s-Yanks Opening Night gets rained out. Not that I would have gone anyway. I went to Opening Night in 2004, and froze my you-know-what off. During the 7th inning stretch, I went to the concession stand; I was still some 20-30 feet away when the vendor said to me, "We’re out of hot chocolate and coffee." Was I that blue from the cold that he knew I wanted to order one of those? (Hot Chocolate. I gave up coffee in college after OD’ing on coffee and Vivarin during a final exam period). After that, I swore off "Opening Night." The only way I would have gone this year is if "My Friend, the Yankees Fan" had made it out here. But she didn’t.
I had an attack of hives today. Maybe I’ve grown allergic to the rain.
The Opening Night game is a sellout, but the reason this is the case is that the A’s have decided to reduce the seating capacity of the stadium in 2006 by not selling third deck seats. I’ll gripe about that more fully in another post. The various social/political implications of such a move deserve the kind of thought I can’t give the subject this late at night.
Apparently a lot of the West Coast is getting the wet weather. I was listening to the Dodgers-Mariners game tonight and heard that the Mariners are going to play their Tacoma farm team this Saturday; if it rains in Tacoma, the game will be moved to the dome at Safeco. Tickets purchased for the Tacoma game will be honored at Safeco, AND anyone else who wants to attend the game at Safeco can get in free. (Just what the people who bought tickets in Tacoma want to hear, I’ll bet).
Of course, a lot of rain in the Seattle area, or in Portland, Oregon, is no surprise, but this is more rain than we’ve had in a relatively short stretch in the Bay Area since 1983. Climate change, anyone?
There are big puddles in the ground in the park across the street from me. The ground is so saturated in the bay Area that shallow-rooted trees are falling into power lines, causing blackouts. Certain neighborhoods are starting to get mudslides, too. The drainage at the Oakland Coliseum and Whatever-They’re-Calling-It-This-Year Park in San Francisco is no doubt better than what’s across the street from me, but still, this is not a good time to be an outfielder in the Bay Area.
To make the matter more depressing, the D’Backs are opening in Denver and Mother Nature is calling for snowshowers there on April 3rd. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen until AFTER the game. It’s already been too long (and too wet) a spring.
Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes! Go AWAY, Rain!
Kellia "Soggy" Ramares
MLB.com is running a "handicapping" series this week. And today’s article, by Robert Falkoff, was titled Players on the rebound: MLB.com looks at the players most likely to recover from ’05. The article talked mostly about players who had suffered major injuries. (May they all come back fully recovered!) But it mentioned as well several players who had bad seasons not due to illness or injury: Adrian Beltre, Justin Morneau, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jeremy Affeldt, Mike Lowell, Eric Milton, Carlos Beltran, and Oliver Perez.
Hey, Falkoff, you missed somebody…Eric Byrnes! How quickly the media likes to forget that in 2004 Byrnes hit .283 and had 20 homers, 39 doubles and 73 RBI. Fortunately, smart GMs don’t assume one abysmal, aberrant year tells the whole story. Byrnesie got at least five offers in December. He’s going to be one of the sparkplugs of the 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks.
As the article said: "The trick is to show the resiliency and resolve to bounce back strong, putting that disappointing season in the rear-view mirror and speeding away to brighter days." Eric Byrnes has that resiliency and resolve. So sure..go ahead…be that way…leave him off the list of likely rebound players to keep an eye on in the National League! I’ll keep an eye on him for you. I’ll keep both eyes on him. Better yet, I’ll keep four eyes on him, since I wear glasses. Eric Byrnes is going to be just fine!
Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes!
Eric Byrnes gave an interview this morning on KNBR, a San Francisco sports talk radio station, where he sometimes co-hosts offseason. When the hosts mentioned how well he was doing in spring training (.347 BA w/4 homers and tied for the club lead in RBIs) he said that the second half of last year was "aberrational". And he mentioned the two trades with the playing for three teams and four managers, and the steroid suspension of Palmeiro and the DUI arrest of Ponson, although he did not mention Ponson by name. Just as I, and no doubt many others, have suspected, Byrnesie’s performance was affected by the trades and team turmoil. I think he would h ave had to have been superhuman not to be affected.
But all that is over now. Byrnesie has a fresh start with a new team. He recalled that when he signed with the Diamondbacks in December he said, "I found a team that believes in me half as much as I believe in myself." This is not sarcasm. This is actually great praise because Byrnesie believes in himself tremendously. He acknowledged his inconsistencies, but he thinks that now he’s past the point in his career of great highs and great lows. And while he also acknowledged that the Giants are the favorites to win the NL West, he thinks the D’Backs are a team to watch out for, especially if there are no injury problems.
While Byrnesie likes the pitching, mentioning specifically Webb. Batista and "El Duque" Hernandez, he is especially enthusiastic about the lineup. He says that Luis Gonzalez (veteran left fielder and team leader) is in the best shape he (Byrnes) has ever seen him, and he thinks veteran right fielder Shawn Green will have a big year. (Let’s hope so. His performance in spring training hasn’t suggested that). Among the younger players, Byrnes expects Stephen Drew to be the regular shortstop by the end of the year, and thinks highly of rookie first baseman Conor Jackson. As for the 18-year-old Justin Upton, the Snakes first round draft pick last year who got a few at-bats in Major League camp, (6-10), Byrnes said there hasn’t been a guy that good that young since the 18 year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. He expects good things from Upton in the years to come. And in just general tone and energy, Eric Byrnes sounded like he would like to still be in Phoenix when Upton makes the majors.
As you can imagine, being that it’s in San Francisco, KNBR is a very pro-Giants station. The show hosts said that Byrnesie would be the one Diamondback they would root for. It doesn’t work that way for me. Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes! (I want my favorite player to get a ring!)
I’m ready for Opening Day. Eric Byrnes sounded like he is, too. Now, if it would only stop raining in Oakland.
I really don’t know if Eric Byrnes is the type to set numerical goals for himself. Some guys do, and make it public, some guys don’t, and others probably do but keep it to themselves. While I really don’t care if Byrnes does or doesn’t—he’s just always looking to get better and that’s good enough for me—baseball is the most statistical of sports.
So I am going to put up a few benchmarks that I think would be great for Byrnes to meet or exceed. If he does, that will certainly help his team win, and help his chances of getting a good contract next year. Byrnes is only signed for one year and I would like to see him get a multi-year contract next time. Stability is a good thing for a ball player. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that pitcher Bruce Chen had his best year, 13 wins, last year. He was with the Baltimore Orioles all last season; 2005 was the first year since his rookie year that Chen was with one team throughout an entire season. Of course, pitcher Bronson Arroyo might have a different opinion on the alleged stability of a multi-year contract. But I would love to see Byrnesie get a three-year, maybe even a four-year, deal next time. Hitting some numerical targets would help that cause.
Games: 143. This is how many he appeared in 2004. Of course, Byrnes would play all 162 if someone would let him. But so far, no one has let him and we can’t expect that Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin will be the first. It appears that the decision already has been made to have the fourth outfielder, Jeff DaVanon, who can play all three outfield positions, get most of his playing time at center field. But Byrnesie needs to be out there a lot to play well, and he did sign on to be the Diamondbacks’ every day CF, so I am hoping to see something quite near the 2004 games numbers this year.
Batting Average: .303. Byrnes hit .263 in 2003, the first year he made the Opening Day roster. He hit .283 in 2004. Another 20-point leap would be .303. I think he’s capable of .323, and if he gets that this year, terrific! But I’m willing to wait another season for that one, given that Byrnesie is changing leagues.
HR: 25. This is 5 better than his career high of 20 in 2004. I think he’s capable of 30+, He’s strong; he’ll get his share of jacks. However, I think he needs to focus on a higher batting average than on more homers this year and that will mean more contact and situational hitting rather than trying to get it over the fence. If he can just show more patience at the plate: a willingness to work deeper into the count and a willingness to walk more, pitchers are not going to be able to throw him as much low and away junk as they did during abysmal, aberrant 2005. And when pitchers make mistakes to Byrnes, they often need a replacement baseball. The 30+ will show up this year if those pitchers end up making more mistakes.
RBIs: 90. I want to say 100, but the combination of the times when Byrnes will bat leadoff and the times he won’t play at all might prevent this. Still, 100 is the gold standard of RBI production and is possible. Byrnes drove in 73 runs in ’04.
Doubles: 45. This is a bit better than the 39 Byrnes hit in 2004. A higher BA means more hits over all and that means more 2Bs over all because Eric is fast and strong and a high percentage of his hits are for extra bases. Forty-five doubles would put him up among the league leaders, which is where he should be in this category.
K/BB ratio: 1:1 Eric needs to show more willingness to walk. It helps the OBP. You can’t steal second until you get on first. And speaking of stolen bases…
SB: 30. If the D’Backs are more willing to take the extra base than Byrnes’ first organization, the A’s, were, we should see Byrnesie swiping a lot of bags. He’s got the speed and aggressiveness to be a good base stealer; he needs a team that values that talent. Is it the D’Backs?
Other Notes: With the D’Backs on the tube today, I saw Eric lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Chris Snyder, who had walked, to second base in the third inning. Of course, I’m wondering why the manager would want to take the bat out of the hands of his leadoff hitter. But as long as sacrifice bunts are asked for, it’s good to know Byrnesie can execute them. The runner did not score.
In the fifth inning, Snyder singled, and Byrnesie doubled him to third. Then Conor Jackson drove them both in with a single. That’s better.
MLB.com reporter Jim Street wrote an article called "Wild, wild NL West should be improved: Offseason enhancements improved division from top to bottom". In listing "New Faces" for the the teams in that division, he listed Johnny Estrada, and "El Duque" Hernandez for the D’Backs, but he missed Gold Glove 2B Orlando Hudson AND Eric Byrnes, while mentioning some NL West mainstays like Brett Tomko (from Giants to Dogders) and Steve Finley (Dodgers, Padres, D’Backs and now Giants). OK, media, forget Byrnesie, underestimate the D’Backs. I’ll be happy to pay attention for you.
From the "I know it’s just spring training, but still…" Department: Today’s game was just background for the White Sox broadcasters, Hawk Harrelson and Darren Jackson, who were yakking about their own former careers. I don’t mind a little of that, but it went on for innings. Frazier batted for Byrnes to lead off the seventh and they never mentioned his name. It’s a good thing D’Backs players have their names on the backs of their jerseys. Here’s another reason to be happy the regular season will soon be upon us: Once the games count, there will be no more having regulars like Byrnes pinch-hit for by minor leaguers like Frazier.
Eric Byrnes went 1-2 with a double, a run scored and a sac bunt as the D’Backs beat the White Sox 3-1. And we’re one day closer to Opening Day!
P.S. More wind and rain yesterday and today in Oakland. BRRR! and GRRR! Would anyone out there like to send me some water wings?
Any time Eric Byrnes get a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is an occasion to be of good cheer. –Kéllia Ramares, Aug. 25, 2005
Well today Eric Byrnes got a hit, a sharp single to left his first time up (1-3), AND made a great defensive play, a “running back toward the wall while keeping his eye on the ball full out extension dive into the air to catch it” play that announcer Mark Grace, who knows a thing or two about MLB, was still praising, with reason, innings later. A rarity for you to see, Gracie, but par for the course for us Byrnes-watchers, who never tire of seeing our guy turn potential extra-base hits into loud outs. Get delightfully used to it!
AND I got to see the hit and the catch! Finally! (Yeah, I work in radio, but I’d much rather watch baseball than listen to it, especially when Eric Byrnes is patrolling the outfield).
Three AB’s is really not enough for me to say a whole bunch about Byrnesie’s batting mechanics, so I won’t until I’ve seen more. (I am having trouble lately getting MLB up on my workstation computer, but I will deal with that later this week). I will say this much, though: Given what I saw in today’s game, what I saw in a little quote of him they played during the telecast, and what his manager, Bob Melvin had to say about his all-out style of play and infectious clubhouse personality, I would say Byrnesie’s working hard as ever, but is relaxed and happy with the D’Backs. This spells good things for him and them. (And for people like me who are rooting for him to do very well).
Byrnes batted 7th today. With Craig Counsell back from his injury, there is a bit of a logjam at the top of the order. Shortstop Counsell, second baseman Hudson, who batted second and homered today, center fielder Byrnes, and even catcher Johnny Estrada are all capable tablesetters. With the Cubs starting a right hander, Byrnes was moved down in the order. But against southpaws, he’s expected to see some at bats at leadoff or the two hole this season.
The D’Backs bolstered their bullpen today. Brad Halsey was scheduled to start today’s game but he was traded to Oakland this morning for reliever Juan Cruz, a right-hander. Eric Byrnes has played with Cruz and likes the deal. In a Steve Gilbert story about the trade, Byrnesie said, "He’s a good pitcher that’s got electrifying stuff. He throws in the upper 90s and has an unbelievable slider. I think he’s a great pickup for us. I’m very excited to have him."
Other Notes: Congrats to George Mason, the team many said should not be in the NCAA tournament. They beat U Conn, the team I thought would take it all, 86-84 in OT to make the Final Four.
Even though I had to leave off watching the game, which ended D’Backs 6 Cubs 0, to go to work, it was sunny in Oakland and 62 degrees. That’s another reason to be of good cheer, what with all the cold, wind and rain we have had in Oakland of late.
One piece of bad news: Indy car driver Paul Dana, of the Rahal-Letterman racing team, died after a crash in practice at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. The rookie driver was 30 years old.