Tag Archives: Arizona Diamondbacks

Spring Drill Exchange in Arizona Sets Tone for D-Backs

Wade Miley

Mr. Miley

There are benefits to blanket warnings that your team will no longer tolerate opposing pitchers throwing at your players. Say it enough, and back it up once or twice, and maybe people will believe it to be true.

Of course, should your pitcher, under said blanket, hit somebody unintentionally, cries of innocence tend to fall on deaf ears.

This is part of what made last week’s HBP exchange between the Diamondbacks and Rockies so confusing. Perhaps Arizona pitchers are training up their tough-guy attitude, which would help explain Wade Miley putting a fastball into Troy Tulowitzki’s calf on Wednesday.

It sure seemed like retaliation, coming as it did after  Rockies farmhand Tommy Kahnle hit Arizona’s Mark Trumbo in the back—which itself came after Diamondbacks GM. Kevin Towers said on his local radio show last October that “Come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye,” and that pitchers who don’t agree “probably don’t belong in a Diamondbacks uniform.”

Unless there’s some unknown beef between Kahnle—whose lack of control has contributed to his never having pitched above the Double-A level—and Trumbo, the initial volley was almost certainly a case of a misplaced pitch. Was Miley out to prove that his team won’t tolerate wildness from farmhands?

But Towers’ statement—along with the facts that Miley has excellent control and Tulowitzki is an obvious retaliatory target—eliminates the perception that the drilling was a mistake. Even if the drilling was a mistake.

It was almost certainly a mistake when, later in the game, Arizona pitcher Jimmie Sherfy—a 22-year-old whose career consists of 17 1/3 innings at or below A-ball—hit Colorado’s Michael McKenry. Again, however, thanks to Towers’ decree, it didn’t matter. The Rockies responded in kind, right-hander Raul Hernandez throwing a pitch behind Jesus Montero in the eighth, at which point plate ump Doug Eddings finally saw fit to warn both dugouts.

It barely matters that Towers followed up his initial statement to clarify that he wasn’t in support of hitting guys on purpose, but rather if “our hitters are being made uncomfortable at the plate, we need to be the same way.” He added that his point was “about pitching inside effectively with purpose.”

Yeah, but still. Damage done.

Spring training is a great place to settle old scores—atone for injustices of the past when the games don’t count and tee times await those who get thumbed from ballgames early. Turning it into a proving ground for new scores, however, is reckless. Tulowitzki left that game and had not returned to the lineup as of the end of last week.

If Miley was throwing at Tulo, he was out of line. If the pitch legitimately got away from him, he can thank his GM for causing the rest of us to doubt that to be true.

(H/T to Troy Renck, who shares his own terrific insight at the Denver Post.)

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When Hot Talk Radio Blows Up: D-Backs GM on the Softness of His Pitchers

Kevin TowersKevin Towers did a lot of things with his weekly show on KTAR 620AM in Phoenix on Tuesday.

He showed why open discussion of baseball’s unwritten rules from an insider’s perspective can a bad idea.

He illustrated the gap between a normal response to a situation, and a baseball response.

And, in case any doubt remained, he proved conclusively that he holds some old-school opinions when it comes to this kind of thing.

In discussing the team’s lack of retaliation last season when provoked—on the same day that he fired D-Backs pitching coach Charles Nagy, no less—Towers intoned that he expected more from his pitchers when it comes to keeping the opposition honest.

“Come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye and we’re going to protect one another,” he said. “If not, if you have options, there’s ways to get you out of here and if you don’t follow suit or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you probably don’t belong in a Diamondbacks uniform.”

Towers referenced his team’s 8-1 loss to the Dodgers on Sept. 9, specifically the behavior of some Los Angeles players as they celebrated a six-home-run game in their dugout. It did not make him feel respected.

“I was sitting behind home plate that game and when it showed up on the Diamondvision of stuffing bananas down their throats, I felt like we were a punching bag,” he said. “Literally, if I would have had a carton of baseballs, I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.”

Because, you know, in his sport, justice is meted out by throwing baseballs at a guy.

He went on to describe a moment later in the month when first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was drilled, but Arizona pitchers did not respond. Towers: “Goldy gets dinged, and no retaliation. It’s like, ‘Wait a minute.’ If Goldy’s getting hit, it’s an eye for an eye. Somebody’s going down or somebody’s going to get jackknifed.” (As noted by Hardball Talk, Wade Miley was the pitcher all three times Goldschmidt was drilled last season.)

It made for captivating radio. It also earned the GM national attention, and not in a good way. Yesterday he circled back to clarify that “going down” and getting “jackknifed” are distinct from getting drilled. (Which is true, even if it’s difficult to square with his personal inclination to throw baseballs at the Dodgers.)

“I’m not saying hit players on purpose,” he said in an MLB.com report. “I’m saying if our hitters are being made uncomfortable at the plate, we need to be the same way; we need to make the opposing hitters uncomfortable at the plate and pitch in with purpose and take that inner third away.”

He cited an instance in which the Padres retaliated for a batter hit by Arizona closer Heath Bell by throwing inside to Aaron Hill.

“The bat went up in the air and it knocked him off his feet,” Towers said. “I said, ‘You know what, that’s baseball.’ They weren’t trying to hurt Aaron Hill. They were protecting their player. It was pitched in with purpose to send a message. I applaud that, and that was from the other club. It’s the way baseball is played. He ended up getting him out on the outer half because he took away the inner half.”

Ultimately, it’s a stretch for an old-school baseball guy to expect that most people outside the game will understand his perspective on the subject (especially if he devolves into prattle about throwing knockdown pitches from the stands). One of Towers’ problems, of course, is that even the people within his own organization didn’t seem to understand him. He wasn’t pleased with Kirk Gibson’s lack of response when players were thrown at this season, and the topic played a role in his dismissal of Nagy.

The idea of retaliatory pitches can be debated all day and into tomorrow, but Towers’ comments planted him within the baseball mainstream. The unwritten rule he broke was in talking about it in anything other than platitudes to begin with. 

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How Not to Approach the Concept of Retaliation: L.A. Story Ends Very, Very Badly

Dodgers-DBacksSome will blame baseball’s unwritten rules, the sport’s ingrained system of on-field justice, for last night’s disgraceful display at Chavez Ravine. They will decry the eye-for-an-eye mentality, the brutal delivery of fastballs and the ugly results of the punch-throwing scrum in the seventh-inning.

What they will not acknowledge is that baseball’s unwritten rules exist precisely to avoid this kind of confrontation. Because Tuesday night’s throwdown between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks was a study in what not do during the course of a baseball game as it pertains to baseball’s Code.

  • Retaliation for an incidental drilling—especially one so incidental that it required umpire intervention to confirm that it even happened—is simply not necessary. This was the state of affairs after Cody Ross was grazed by a Zack Greinke pitch in the fifth inning.
  • Even if what happened next was retaliation for Ross, it would at least give Ian Kennedy a reason for his actions, no matter how insufficient. In the sixth inning, the D-Backs right-hander ignored the tenet mandating that one never drill a batter intentionally above shoulder level, and hit Yasiel Puig in the nose with a 92-mph fastball. Puig remained on the ground for several minutes while trainers attended to him.  (Watch it here.)
  • Greinke responded an inning later by hitting Miguel Montero between the numbers. Usually, when catchers are hit in a retaliatory fashion, it is because they called for the pitch that made the retaliation necessary in the first place. In Montero’s case, had Kennedy’s pitch to Puig hit the catcher’s glove it would have ended up below the knees. (Watch it here.)
  • Regardless, that blow should have ended hostilities. Kennedy drilled a Dodger in a wildly inappropriate manner, and Greinke responded according to the Code. It wasn’t enough to settle Kennedy down, however. In the bottom half of the seventh, he threw his first pitch to Greinke—another 92-mph fastball—directly for the head. Greinke ducked and the ball glanced off his upper shoulder.
  • Usually, benches clear when an aggrieved hitter—somebody who has just been hit or knocked down—takes issue with the pitcher. Ron Washington once described the situation this way, back when he was the third-base coach for the A’s and Frank Thomas, the team’s designated hitter, had been drilled by Ted Lilly. “We all saw what happened, but Frank took it calmly, so we took it calmly,” he said. “If Frank had taken it with an uproar, we’d have taken it with an uproar. We have to wait for the reaction of the guy who it happened to. If Frank had charged him, there would have been a fight. If Frank had raised some hell going down to first base, we’d have raised some hell. But Frank took it calmly and went on down there, the umpire checked everything, and we played baseball.”

On Tuesday, Greinke did take it calmly. It was his teammates—led by Puig—who escalated things from that point, racing from the dugout and quickly getting physical. (Watch it here.) The rest of the action was described succinctly by Nick Piecoro of the ArizonaRepublic:

Reliever J.P. Howell charged at Diamondbacks assistant hitting coach Turner Ward and nearly flipped him over a railing near the on-deck circle. Puig appeared to land a tomahawk swing on Diamondbacks’ bench player Eric Hinske. Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire looked apoplectic as he exchanged words with Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and third-base coach Matt Williams. Even Dodgers manager Don Mattingly got in on the action, wrestling Diamondbacks bench coach Alan Trammell to the ground.

Only two things happened as they should have. First was Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz jumping in between Montero and Greinke after the former was drilled in the seventh. (It was the inability of the Dodgers’ other catcher, A.J. Ellis, to do that very thing that allowed Carlos Quentin to reach the mound during the April brawl that ended with Greinke’s collarbone broken.) The other was Greinke, on first base after being drilled, responding by trying to take out Arizona shortstop Didi Gregorius with a hard slide at the front end of an attempted double-play—just like they used to do in the old days. (Greinke ended up getting a no-decision in the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory. Watch it here.) Ultimately, the primary takeaway from this unfortunate state of affairs was that Ian Kennedy threw two pitches at opponents’ heads in a two-inning span. The guy has already proven willing to harbor ill-will against the Dodgers, throwing two pitches at Clayton Kershaw last season in response to a year-old grudge. Even more pertinent is the fact that he seems to enjoy this kind of thing. Last year he led the National League with 14 hit batters, even with otherwise good control—he walked only 55 over more than 200 innings. The Dodgers will get theirs, at some point. In the interim, MLB will certainly  step in and get some of its own. Had the unwritten rules worked as intended, none of it would have been necessary.

Update (6/14): Suspensions have been handed down. As expected, Ian Kennedy got the worst of it.

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Matt Carpenter, Drilled Three Times: ‘I Wouldn’t Expect Anything Different.’ St. Louis Responds Accordingly

3When a pitcher clearly has no intention of hitting a batter, the act is unlikely to draw much in the way of rebuke. When it happens three times in the same game, however, to the same batter, you better believe that an eyebrow will be raised.

On Tuesday, Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter hit the trifecta against Arizona. More appropriately, Arizona hit the trifecta against Carpenter. None of the pitches came close to looking intentional.

* First time: Seventh inning,  St. Louis trailing by one run and a man on first with one out. Not a situation for a pitcher to make a statement, not to mention that the ball hit Carpenter’s hand as he was squaring to bunt.

* Second time: Ninth inning, one out in a tie game. Again, not a situation for a pitcher to make a statement.Carpenter was hit on the forearm with a pitch that darted inside at the last moment.

* Third time: This looked like the most intentional of the bunch, but drilling somebody on purpose in the 13th inning of a tie game is simply not done. (Watch them all here.)

There was no lingering disagreement between Carpenter and an angry D’Backs pitcher, because each of his HBPs came against a different guy. For each of the pitches the catcher was set up inside.

“That’s what they wanted to do to me and a couple of other left-handers,” said Carpenter, who was hit three times all last season, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I wouldn’t expect anything different. You miss in two spots. Either you miss over the plate or you miss and hit somebody. It’s just the way it is when you pitch inside.”

Still, a three-pack of HBPs is a three-pack of HBPs. The Cardinals, however, were walking a fine line when it came to payback on Wednesday. St. Louis already had a short bullpen due to a doubleheader last week; the 14 innings on Tuesday added additional strain. Also, Yadier Molina dropped his suspension appeal following his recent ump-bumping incident (itself laden with unwritten rules) and sat out Wednesday (which he would have done anyway, following Tuesday’s marathon).

All of which is to say that St. Louis, already undermanned, could hardly afford to have a pitcher or a catcher tossed in the name of fulfilling retaliatory expectations. Were there going to be payback, it had to be subtle.

And it was, right there in the first inning. When Carpenter’s second-base counterpart on the Diamondbacks, Willie Bloomquist, came up for his first at-bat on Wednesday, he was buzzed—a fastball came in just under his armpits—not drilled. The Cardinals left little doubt that they were paying attention.

Cardinals broadcasters Dan McLaughlin and Ricky Horton (a former big league pitcher himself) summed it up nicely on the telecast:

DM: There’s someone from Arizona who needs to properly, professionally get one in the ribs or the back, because Matt Carpenter was hit three times last night.

RH: I think that we just saw it.

DM: That’s not enough if I’m Matt Carpenter. What did that prove? You pitched inside. So what?

RH: Well, he came in way inside, with the idea. I think the message was sent. There was no pain to it, if that’s what you’re looking for.

DM: I want pain. [Laughs]

RH: I thought that’s where you were headed with that.

DM: Pain, Rick.

RH: Well you have the message and you have pain, Dan. You’ve sent the message and maybe you were a little light on the pain.

McLaughlin clarified that he was kidding about the pain, Horton added that a subtle message worked just fine in this situation, and everybody appeared to be happy to move on.

(St. Louis pitchers did hit Bloomquist in the seventh, and shortstop Didi Gregorius twice, but all seemed to lack intent. Gregorius was hit by a 74 mph slider with a runner on second and nobody out in a one-run game, Bloomquist was hit later that inning with two men on in a tie game, and Gregorius was hit again in the eighth with a splitter.)

Questions about delayed payback were answered on Thursday, when the Cardinals faced a 12-2 deficit in the sixth, and opted not to drill any Arizona hitters.

It all adds up to a lot of thought devoted to a series of unintentional events, but that’s the way the game is played.

 

Serious thanks to Cards fan Chris C. for the heads-up and broadcast transcription.

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The Subtlest Retaliation is Sometimes the Best

Sometimes even an inconsequential on-field action can merit retaliation—which will ideally be delivered in measures commensurate with the initial transgression. Which is to say, if a team must respond to a minor Code violation, here’s hoping they do it appropriately.

On Thursday, the Diamondbacks did.

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning of their game in San Francisco, Adam Eaton (this one, not this one) grounded a ball to first base, where Brandon Belt made a quick relay to third. The play caught Pablo Sandoval off guard; instead of backing up a step to touch the base for a force play, he turned to make a sweep tag. So too did the play surprise baserunner John McDonald, who, instead of sliding—which he almost certainly would have done had he expected it—staggered toward the base and into Sandoval.

Surprised by the contact, the husky third baseman followed McDonald into foul territory after tagging him, and was quickly restrained by umpire Greg Gibson and Arizona third base coach Matt Williams before dugouts emptied. No punches were thrown, Sandoval quickly calmed down, and everybody went back about their business. (Watch it here.)

Such a situation hardly merits a drilling (especially because umpires warned both benches immediately following the incident). More appropriate is what Arizona ended up doing: In the ninth inning, while holding a 6-2 lead, Paul Goldschmidt led off with a single and promptly stole second.

Sure, four runs in the ninth is hardly a basis for rubbing anything in, but it was clear by that point that the Giants would not be coming back: They had been no-hit into the seventh by Trevor Cahill, and Arizona had one of the league’s top closers in J.J. Putz available if needed, with only three outs to go.

The Diamondbacks made their point, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

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One is the Loneliest Number: Arizona Offers Some Long-Lasting Ice

All alone in the dugout.

We’ve grown accustomed to rookies getting the cold shoulder in the dugout after hitting their first home run, a process of good-natured icing by their teammates that serves to remind them that, even with their deserved accolades, they’re still rookies.

On Saturday in Houston, however, the Diamondbacks took things to an extreme. After Ryan Wheeler hit his first big league jack into the left field stands, he was left to wonder . . . and wonder . . . and wonder just how long his teammates were going to maintain their charade. (Watch it here.)

As a smiling and solitary Wheeler took his seat on the bench, cameras trained in on him, waiting for the moment at which Arizona players would jump up and congratulate him. Stephen Drew, sitting next to him and unable to stifle his grin, had to pull his jersey up over his mouth.

Eventually, however, Astros pitcher Chuckie Fick threw another pitch to the next hitter, Patrick Corbin, which the telecast was obligated to show. They quickly cut back to the dugout camera, without much luck. Wheeler was still sitting, alone, when Fick delivered again. It wasn’t until Fick was winding up for the third pitch of the at-bat—a span of some 40 seconds—that Arizona players finally relented and gave the rookie his just due.

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing thoroughly, I guess. Don’t believe anybody who says that the Diamondbacks are not committed to their craft.

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Well, Duh: Miguel Montero probably knows the Padres’ hitters ‘a little bit better’ than Trevor Bauer

The Arizona Republic recently estimated that Diamondbacks pitchers shake off catcher Miguel Montero three or four times per game. Tuesday, however, was not like most games.

That’s because rookie Trevor Bauer—making only his second big league start—shook off the signs, said Montero, on “almost every pitch.”

That said, it was only 3 1/3 innings’ worth of almost-every pitches. Then again, giving up six hits, four walks and seven runs to San Diego necessitated 80 offerings from Bauer. Shaking off even a quarter of them would have made for an astounding number, for no reason more glaring than the fact that Montero is a seven-year vet with more than 4,000 innings behind the plate.

Bauer is unconventional, from his preparatory practices to his delivery, which is  all angles and torque. It doesn’t stop there. From the Republic:

While most pitchers try to pitch down in the strike zone, he prefers to work up in the zone. In the past couple of years, Bauer has worked to learn and incorporate a pitch-sequencing theory called “Effective Velocity,” a way of attacking hitters that aims to disrupt timing.

If there are benefits to Effective Velocity, they weren’t apparent Tuesday afternoon. In fact, Bauer might have inadvertently personified an ongoing disagreement between the old and new schools over whose methodoligy is more effective. It’s a tiny sampling, of course, but a  21-year-old just out of college appears to have put his think-tank strategy to the test at the expense of leveraging wisdom from a guy who knows the game.

There’s something to be said for execution (if Bauer doesn’t hit his spots, it doesn’t matter what kind of strategy he employs), but beyond that is the Code and its mandate that young players defer to veterans, at least until such time as they’re able to carry a significant portion of the load on their own.

Montero opted not to blast Bauer afterward, talking about the youngster’s talent and promise. Still,  he added, “I would like him to get a little trust in me. . . . I don’t have all the answers, but I probably know [the Padres' hitters] a little bit better [than Bauer].”

For a guy carrying the old-school end of the argument, Montero’s response was anything but. For an example of real old-school when it comes to this stuff, turn to the the Red Sox clubhouse in 1967, after rookie pitcher Sparky Lyle, 22, shook off catcher Elston Howard—at age 38, a nine-time All-Star and the 1963 AL MVP—not once, but twice during the course of an at-bat, throwing sliders instead of fastballs, both out of the strike zone, en route to issuing a base on balls.

After the game, Carl Yazstrzemski cornered Lyle in the clubhouse. “I want to know one thing,” Yaz said to the rookie, as recounted by Lyle in The Bronx Zoo. “How can a guy who’s been in the big leagues two weeks shake off a guy who’s been catching fourteen years?”

To make sure the point wasn’t lost, manager Dick Williams then promised a $50 fine every time Lyle shook off Howard from that point on.

Bauer should be so lucky.

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Filed under Rookie Etiquette, Trevor Bauer

Ask What You can Do for Your Teammates: Kennedy Avenges Parra, a Season Later

Kershaw responds.

Perhaps this is what Cole Hamels was talking about when he proclaimed his drilling of Bryce Harper last week to be “old-school baseball.”

Old-school baseball frequently involves long memories, and a willingness to respond to a situation even if it has long since passed. On Monday, Arizona’s Ian Kennedy did exactly that.

Kennedy was facing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for the first time since last season, when Kershaw was unceremoniously ejected for hitting Diamondbacks outfielder Gerrardo Parra with a pitch. Parra’s drilling was itself a response to a home run he hit off Los Angeles reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, after which he loitered in the batter’s box as it left the yard. Parra’s loitering was in response to an earlier Kuo pitch that buzzed him as he was squaring around to bunt.

Cause and response. Response and cause.

Fast forward eight months, to Monday night. When Kershaw stepped to the plate to lead off the third inning, Kennedy brushed him back with a first-pitch fastball. In case the message was still unclear, three pitches later Kennedy sent one behind Kershaw’s back. Kershaw stared into the Arizona dugout in disbelief, and, wrote Nick Piecoro in the Arizona Republic, “had no problem receiving the message the Diamondbacks were sending.” (Watch it here; for a fuller examination, see the recap.)

Kershaw’s turn came in the fifth, when Kennedy stepped to the plate and was greeted with a fastball, high and inside. That was enough for plate ump Marvin Hudson to issue warnings to both benches.

Was Kennedy trying to hit Kershaw? To judge by his follow-up effort, he was, but didn’t get it done either time. Did Kershaw handle things appropriately, dishing out as good as he got without escalating matters? Absolutely.

Also, unlike Hamels, blanket denials were the order of the day.

“[Kershaw] is a good hitter, so I had to throw inside on him,” Kennedy said in the Republic. “The second one I just pulled way too much.” (D-Backs shortstop Willie Bloomquist, however, admitted that “no one was trying to hurt anyone—it was just to prove a point.”)

“It’s pretty strange that he throws two up and in like that and one at my shins,” responded Kershaw. “His catcher is saying he’s missing his spots. It’s pretty obvious what they’re doing. I don’t really understand it. I know their manager over there likes old-school baseball, but old-school baseball means you don’t carry over things from last year.”

Actually, that’s exactly what old-school baseball means. It’s easy to say that Kennedy should have left well enough alone, and that renewing old hostilities ultimately does little good for anybody involved. The only real counter to that is the tenor of the Arizona clubhouse, and the unknown conversations that may have led to Kennedy’s action, be they with Parra, manager Kirk Gibson or some other aggrieved teammates. There is a palpable charge that a pitcher faces in standing up for his teammates, and those found to be derelict in that duty are quick to lose clubhouse support.

Ultimately, of course, nobody was hit, the fact that both pitchers ended up walking in their targeted at-bats didn’t end up hurting the opposition, several messages were sent, and everybody emerged unscathed.

Old-school baseball.

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Filed under Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy, Retaliation

Are You Looking at Me?: Basepath Espionage Breaks Out Across the Land

Pablo Sandoval and Willie Bloomquist get acquainted.

Less than a week into the season, and we already have sign-stealing controversies breaking out on both sides of the country. The more prominent of the two came in Baltimore yesterday, when Yankees catcher Russell Martin lit into Orioles second baseman Robert Andino as the final out of New York’s victory was being recorded.

Andino had been a runner at second, which led to speculation that he was either tipping signs or location, or was doing something that looked remarkably similar to tipping signs or location.

Andino was quick to temper following Martin’s accusation, screaming toward the Yankees as they proceeded through their post-game handslaps. (Watch it here.) He later denied everything, calling it a misunderstanding, and came up with the line of the young season when, asked whether the Yankees might retaliate against him, he said, “I ain’t a future teller.”

Martin, of course, is no stranger to ferreting out this type of shenanigan. Last year, he went public with accusations that the Blue Jays were stealing signs at the Rogers Centre during the course of an eight-run first inning against Bartolo Colon. (Joe Girardi backed him up a day later by continuing to mandate the use of complex signs, even with nobody on base.)

Meanwhile, on Sunday in Phoenix, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval took exception to some of the movements of Diamondbacks shortstop Willie Bloomquist, at second base with one out in the seventh, as the Giants clung to a 6-5 lead. His ideas about Bloomquist’s motives appeared to closely mirror those Russell Martin held about Andino. During a mid-inning visit to the mound, Sandoval turned toward Bloomquist and let fly with some choice sentiments. (Watch it here.)

Bloomquist had a chance to argue his side of things only moments later, when a walk to Justin Upton loaded the bases, forcing him to third. Sandoval didn’t want any part of an argument and immediately waved away his previous accusation, but by that point it didn’t matter—if Bloomquist had been signaling pitches, he’d already been caught, and his approach was going to have to change.

Which is the thing about sign stealing: Were Bloomquist stealing signs, his actions mandated little more than a brief warning (and a new set of signs), which is precisely what was delivered. (Arizona did go on to score twice in the inning to take the lead, but both runs came on infield errors; if D’Backs hitters continued to be tipped off after Sandoval’s discussion with Bloomquist, they certainly didn’t do much with the information.)

Things will get particularly interesting should such accusations persist the next time these sets of teams meet, or if other clubs begin lobbing similar indictments toward the O’s or D’Backs. Until then, they’ll likely continue to take ‘em as they can get ‘em—just like always.

- Jason

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Filed under Robert Andino, Russell Martin, Sign stealing, Willie Bloomquist

Daniel Hudson Throws Season’s First Gauntlet

Looks like Diamondbacks starting pitchers learned a lesson. In talking to Arizona radio station Sports 620, Daniel Hudson touched upon the fact that Justin Upton was hit by 19 pitches last season—second most in baseball.

“If it’s a starting pitcher [who hit Upton], remember, he’s got to hit,” Hudson told the station, according to ArizonaSports.com, the station’s Web site. “They either have to hit their spots, or expect something in return.”

Okay, that makes sense. What’s interesting is how Hudson and the rest of the staff came upon this realization. The right-hander said that the subject was raised “halfway through the year.”

There are some obvious follow-up questions: Who brought the subject up with him, and how? Was it an order (or at least a suggestion) from manager Kirk Gibson, or somebody else on the staff? Was it Upton himself, or another of the hitters? Were the pitchers called out in a group setting, or did it happen through individual conversations on the side?

This is all interesting stuff. The way a team communicates information like this can be as vital—if not more so—than the information itself. It should be noted that, for a staff chided halfway through the season for the dearth of protection it offered its own hitters, Diamondbacks pitchers drilled either nine or 10 batters in every month of the season, save for September, when they hit only six; they actually declined in that category in the second half. Even so, their total of 53 HBPs—28 by starters, 25 by relievers—ranked fourth in the National League.

There’s also the fact that Upton stands notoriously close to the plate, which certainly had something to do with the frequency of his drillings. (The next closest Arizona player was Miguel Montero, who was hit eight times; nobody else was touched more than four times.) Upton intoned at the team’s FanFest earlier this month that he’ll continue to stand atop the dish, so one can reasonably expect the frequency of his drillings to continue.

Was Hudson just blustering to try to make opposing pitchers a little more wary of pitching inside to Arizona’s best hitter? When the D-Backs make their way to San Francisco later this season, I’ll see if I can’t track down some answers.

- Jason

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Filed under Daniel Hudson, Retaliation, Uncategorized