The D-backs are flying under the radar in the up-for-grabs NL West, but this is a team for the others to fear.
In winning the division in ’07, the D-backs were considered precocious, with such “kids” as Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton playing major roles.
Well, the kids have grown up and form the nucleus of an impressive lineup.
The back of the bullpen is a major concern, but precedent fuels optimism regarding anointed closer Chad Qualls, who has a total of 15 saves in five seasons: the D-backs gambled in 2007 with Jose Valverde, and he covered the bets with 47 saves.
Furthermore, any rotation headed by Brandon Webb and Dan Haren has to be respected. Then there’s high-potential Max Scherzer, a chief reason Arizona signed free-agent innings-eater Jon Garland.
D-backs manager Bob Melvin said he intends to keep Scherzer’s workload in the 170 innings range, and having Garland in the rotation ahead of him should have a fresh bullpen available for Schrerzer’s turns: Garland has averaged 200-plus innings for the last seven seasons, never working fewer than 191 2/3. …
KEN GRIFFEY: Best part of having him back in Seattle? The Mariners clubhouse will finally have someone to cut Ichiro Suzuki down to size. Ichiro has dominated that room for eight years and, judging by the shots leveled by people who have left the organization, his non-team oriented approach has worn thin. Having The Kid as the new go-to guy in the locker room should humble Ichiro. …
BERNIE WILLIAMS: The accomplished guitarist will debut his second CD on April 14. It is titled “Moving Forward.” Perhaps it should instead be called “Moving Backward,” given Bernie’s hope that his play for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic might lead to a Major League comeback.
Williams, who has begun to write and arrange his own stuff, is totally committed to the music career. But he entertains the baseball whimsy with perfect logic.
“It has taken me a while to realize I share a love for both, but in music I’m going to have an opportunity to play for a lot of years,” he said. “I can play until I’m 80. In baseball, I know my days are numbered.”
An ironic admission: “Days Are Numbered” was a hit for the Alan Parsons Project on its “Vulture Culture” album.
Williams has sat out two full seasons since his fallout with the Yankees. But he is just one of many players who have heard MLB’s siren song and are working this Spring Training to resume careers after long absences.
There is Corey Koskie, the third baseman who has been missing since suffering a severe concussion on July 5,2006. Canadian Koskie, like Williams, hopes his upcoming WBC play might entice a team into giving him a comeback shot.
And Lance Niekro, who last appeared in the Majors as a first baseman on May 2, 2007 with the Giants and is attempting a comeback as a pitcher featuring the knuckleball – an homage to his late father, Joe Niekro. And Jose Valentin, hoping to hook on with the Mets a year-and-a-half after his last at-bat for them.
Topping the dreamers: Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, trying to come back from an 18-year layoff. Hey, he’s well-rested. …