Bradley honing his craft in Arizona Fall League

D-backs' No. 1 prospect is aiming to secure a rotation spot in 2015

Bradley honing his craft in Arizona Fall League

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Archie Bradley gazed into the distance and took a deep breath. It is football season, and nowhere is that more evident than in Bradley's home state of Oklahoma.

Bradley was a three-sport star at Broken Arrow High School and came oh so tantalizingly close to becoming the quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. But baseball beckoned with a louder call, accompanied by quicker and perhaps even better money than football likely would have brought, and certainly less wear and tear on the body. Still, Bradley wonders ... what it might have been like to play for the Boomer Sooners.

More

Now, Bradley is in the Arizona Fall League, reserved for Major League Baseball's top prospects. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander was the No. 1 pick (seventh overall) by the D-backs in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Slowed early in 2014 by an elbow strain, Bradley, ranked as the D-backs' No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, had a solid recovery over the summer and he already has made three starts for the AFL's Salt River Rafters. He is 0-2 with a 10.29 ERA, allowing 12 hits and six walks to go with six strikeouts in seven innings.

Spending a few leisurely moments before a road game on a Saturday afternoon, it was difficult not to think about football.

"Yeah, I think about it all the time. I live vicariously through the Sooners," Bradley said. "I know a few of their players and when I am home, I go to the games."

There is no living vicariously here, however. This is a reality show.

Bradley was with the D-backs' big club in Spring Training and was thought by many to be headed for then-manager Kirk Gibson's starting rotation. Bradley battled fellow right-hander Randall Delgado and others but, in the end, he was sent to the Minor Leagues.

The move by then-general manager Kevin Towers ruffled the feathers of Bradley's agent, Jay Franklin, who felt that the D-backs were keeping Bradley in the Minors in order to prolong the period before the pitcher would be eligible for arbitration and free agency.

Towers said it was a simple matter of not wanting to put any more pressure on Bradley than was necessary. He wanted to avoid putting the "savior" label on Bradley as the team's rotation became stuck in quicksand. The staff never could extricate itself over the full season, contributing to the departures of Towers and Gibson.

Bradley said he went through "a whole range of emotions. I was a young guy and wanted to do everything I could to make the team. Every outing, I felt that I had to make the team. I understood what was going on, but that still didn't make it any easier. I felt at the time and still feel that I can be an important part of the rotation."

The D-backs' roster of decision-makers has undergone big changes in the last month. Towers has been replaced by former Major League pitching star Dave Stewart as general manager, with De Jon Watson serving as a senior vice president of baseball operations and Chip Hale taking over as manager.

"We have many new sets of eyes. It's a fresh start. Everybody starts off the same," Bradley said. "I think all of us, no matter who it is, feel like we have something to prove and that we are going to put the pieces together."

Shortly after the 2014 season began, Bradley sustained a strained elbow flexor mass, but there was no damage to the ligament. He started the season at Triple-A Reno (five starts), had a one-game rehab assignment with the Rookie League club and then finished the season with 12 starts at Double-A Mobile. He had a combined 3-7 record.

"My command got worse and my speed was down," Bradley said. "I finally told them about it because I wasn't helping the team or myself. You'd rather be safe in that situation. I came back and I was still inconsistent, but things started to roll back together.

"I'm feeling good out here and I am humbled to be here. It's a good group of guys and you know what this league has done for the careers of a lot of guys. I'm out here to improve, work on my fastball command and sharpen my secondary pitches to where I feel I can throw them in any count to any player."

Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Grace joins coaching staff; Sherlock moves to bench

Former Major League player, broadcaster hired to assist Ward

Grace joins coaching staff; Sherlock moves to bench

PHOENIX -- Former Major Leaguer and broadcaster Mark Grace joined the D-backs on Thursday to be assistant hitting coach, while Glenn Sherlock was moved from third-base to bench coach and Andy Green was named third-base coach.

In addition, Mike Harkey (pitching), Dave McKay (first base), Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (bullpen) and Turner Ward (hitting) will return to the coaching positions they held this past season, and Henry Blanco was reassigned from assistant hitting coach to bullpen catcher.

More

Blanco will be also be responsible for coaching the team's catchers, Grace the first basemen, Green the infielders and McKay the outfielders along with all baserunning instruction.

New D-backs manager Chip Hale said deciding on the staff was a collaborative effort with the front office.


"We all sat, we came up with a lot of different names and scenarios," Hale said. "What we needed. My biggest deal was I wanted all the boxes checked -- I wanted a guy to handle the infield, a guy to handle outfield, baserunning, catching. All those different aspects."

Sherlock shifts to replace Alan Trammell, who was dismissed with manager Kirk Gibson. Sherlock has been a member of the coaching staff since the team's 1998 inaugural season, and before that, he worked for two years in the team's Minor League system.

"Part of the reason we selected Glenn to be the bench coach is his familiarity with me on a personal level and also his familiarity with the division and the league," Hale said. "I'm excited and going to lean on him a lot. Some people thought we were going to bring an ex-manager in, but we felt the knowledge of the league was more important with that. So I'm really comfortable with the selection."

By pairing Grace with Ward and putting Sherlock in the dugout, Hale believes he's also balancing out personalities.

Whereas Grace is more outgoing, Ward is more reserved and intense. Hale is known for his intensity, while Sherlock for his calm demeanor. Grace and Ward worked together this past spring and seemed to mesh well.

"All these guys complement each other in different ways but even more importantly, once again, for our clubhouse and the way that our team is made up you have to have different personalities to draw from," D-backs GM Dave Stewart said. "Chip can be a little intense and into the game, and you've got Grace, who can be a little more lighthearted, a prankster and a jokester, you've got different balances and different type of personalities. But more importantly, all of the guys that are now a part of our coaching staff will have a good rapport and get different things from the kids that are in the clubhouse."

Grace played for the Cubs for 13 years and compiled more hits than any player in the Major Leagues during the 1990s. Signed as a free agent following the 2000 season by the D-backs, Grace played for three seasons in Arizona, winning the World Series in 2001.

Following his retirement, Grace joined the club's broadcast team as the lead analyst, a role he filled until 2012.

Grace was the hitting coach for the D-backs' Arizona League rookie team in 2013 and would have been their assistant hitting coach in 2014 had Blanco made the roster. But when Tuffy Gosewisch made the team as backup catcher, Blanco became the assistant hitting coach, and Grace was assigned to be the hitting coach for the D-backs' Northwest League team, the Hillsboro Hops.

The organization is convinced that Grace has put his off-field issues behind him.

"Very confident," Hale said. "And the organization was. He's done everything he needed to. Everybody, you know, we make mistakes. We've given him a second shot here and he's taken it and ran with it. He worked his tail off in the Minor Leagues. It's not easy, especially for a guy who has done things like he has. And obviously being an announcer like he was and traveling like he was and now you're riding buses again. He didn't have to do that. He did. He wants this. I can tell you from talking on the phone with him, he's as excited as anybody is. He's ready to get this thing turned this around -- he wants the Diamondbacks to be successful. We're going to draw on him a lot this year."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Lamb in position to claim D-backs' third-base job

Arizona's No. 5 prospect played strong defense, hit .230 after callup

Lamb in position to claim D-backs' third-base job

Based upon his brief 37-game history with the parent Arizona Diamondbacks, 24-year-old Jake Lamb played well enough to gain consideration to open the 2015 season as the team's starting third baseman.

After being summoned to the big league club in early August, Lamb finished the season hitting .230 with four doubles, a triple and four home runs among his 29 hits in 133 plate appearances. He had 11 RBIs. Lamb drew only six walks and struck out 37 times. He also stole one base in two attempts.

More

Lamb, the D-backs' No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, played a very solid third base, gaining confidence from game to game.

A graduate of Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, Lamb hit .412 as a junior and .429 his senior year. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 38th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, but instead elected to attend the University of Washington.

Basically a shortstop in high school, Lamb played third base to start his career at Washington. Collegiate Baseball named him to the Freshman All-America team. He played second, short and third base for the Huskies during his college career.

Lamb's loud bat and solid overall game earned him a selection by the D-backs in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft. He signed his contract and began his career playing for Missoula in the Pioneer Rookie League. He had a nice beginning, hitting .329 with nine homers and 57 RBIs. Lamb's career was off and climbing.

The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Lamb is 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds, but he wasn't always as strong and well proportioned. His high-school coach challenged him to work in the weight room to add muscle and strength to his frame. There still may be room for growth in his upper body.

Lamb has a commendable approach to his game on both sides of the ball. He won't be cheated at the plate, using good bat speed and a slightly uppercut stroke to power balls to the gap. His swing can get long at times, and I have seen him gain length in his stroke when he was frustrated in a previous at-bat. When he stays short and measured with his approach, the results are much more favorable.

Lamb has raw power that has been evident in each of his first three seasons of professional baseball. He has nine, 13 and 15 home runs, respectively, in the first three years of his Minor League career. That power should continue to develop as he makes in-game adjustments in the Majors.

In 2013, Lamb played in the rookie-level summer Arizona League before he was promoted two levels to Class A Advanced Visalia in the California League. He made the midseason All-Star team, but was derailed in June when he broke the hamate bone in his right wrist, requiring surgery. He returned in August and finished the season hitting .303 at Visalia with 20 doubles and 13 home runs. He knocked in 47 runs.

My first look at Lamb came in the Arizona Fall League after his 2013 season. He had a fine fall, hitting .299 with a home run and seven RBIs. He made five errors at third base, but I think many of his issues have been resolved. His footwork, range and self-confidence are much improved now with the D-backs compared to what I saw last October.

This past June I saw Lamb play in the Southern League All-Star Game in Chattanooga. He got to the game by hitting .325 in the first half of the season for the Double-A Mobile BayBears. Lamb participated in the league's Home Run Derby, which Cubs prospect Kris Bryant won.

After hitting 14 homers for Mobile, Lamb was promoted in August to the Triple-A Reno Aces. He kept on hitting, playing the first five days of the month for Reno and hitting a whopping .500 in 21 plate appearances. He was then called up to the D-backs. On Aug. 7, Lamb made his Major League debut. He may be around for quite some time.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Hale's plan: Make every player '15 percent' better

New manager's statement drew attention of La Russa, Stewart

Hale's plan: Make every player '15 percent' better

PHOENIX -- During his managerial interview with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chip Hale said his goal has been to try and make each player he has come in contact with 15 percent better.

D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager, immediately jotted that down on his notepad. The statement also drew the attention of general manager Dave Stewart.

More

"He was the only one in the interview process that made mention of that 15 percent," Stewart said. "To me, that shows that he's going to get in there and grind and pay attention to the small things and even more important, it leads you to believe he's a motivator. He can motivate the kids to play better."

That Hale was introduced Monday as the sixth fulltime manager in D-backs history speaks to how much confidence La Russa and Stewart feel that he can do just that.

"That's just something that I've always thought about since rookie ball," Hale said of his 15 percent philosophy. "Our mantra was, you look at your team and say, OK, this guy is a 30 [on a 20-80 scale used by scouts], well, I'm going to make him a 35. I'm going to make him a 45. You have the present and the future grades. That's where that comes from. If I'm doing the fantasy camp, then by the end of the week they're going to be better players. In Triple-A, they tell us this guy is a lifetime Triple-A guy, but I wouldn't ever want him to think that. I would want him to play above his talents."

Hale was chosen out of a nine-man candidate pool that also included Sandy Alomar Jr., Jay Bell, Tim Bogar, Andy Green, Joe McEwing, Phil Nevin, Jim Tracy and Turner Ward.

"It feels like coming home again," Hale said.

That's because it was a homecoming for Hale, who got his managing start in the Minor Leagues with the D-backs in 2000. Hale managed in the Arizona system through 2006 before being asked to join the big league staff under manager Bob Melvin.

Hale moved on to the Mets in 2010 and after two seasons rejoined Melvin in Oakland serving as bench coach for three seasons. He inherits a last-place team that finished 64-98 and he takes over for Kirk Gibson, who was dismissed with three games left in the regular season.

Winning has long been a part of Hale's resume.

In his first year as a professional manager, in 2000, Hale led Rookie-level Missoula to a second-half championship, and he was named the Pioneer League's Manager of the Year the following season. He led Tucson to Pacific Coast League and Triple-A titles in 2006 with a 91-53 mark and had a .540 winning percentage in three seasons with the team.

Hale starred collegiately at the University of Arizona from 1984-87, starting every game during his college career, and he established school career records for hits and walks. He batted .345 in 1986, when UA won the College World Series.

"It was just the completeness of his background and the way he presented himself," La Russa said. "We were looking for a leader and a guy who loves baseball, and there wasn't a box he didn't have checked."

In fact, the D-backs judged their candidates by five categories: Leadership, handling a pitching staff, offensive creativity, personality and experience. La Russa and his staff then assigned points in each category to each candidate and Hale came out on top.

Hale admitted to being slightly intimidated walking into a managerial interview with La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past summer, but said that now that he has the job he's looking forward to learning from a legend.

"It's going to be unbelievable," Hale said. "We've already talked about how it's going to work. Basically, I manage the games and when the game's over, Dave and I talk about the game and Tony will always be there to help me. If I have questions, if he has suggestions. I mean, who would not listen to Tony La Russa, correct? For me, it's the greatest sounding board. I've already asked him two or three things about things he did as a manager that I saw as a player or coach. What were the reasons for it? It's like reading a book. His answers are just perfect. I think it's going to be a big help for me."

La Russa made it clear that he "won't do anything to undercut" Hale and believes that the manager should be the one who makes out the lineup card, decides how to use pitchers and makes the in-game strategy decisions.

Still to be decided is the composition of Hale's coaching staff. La Russa seemed to indicate Monday that pitching coach Mike Harkey, bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and first-base coach Dave McKay would definitely be back. As for the rest, Hale will have input and if all the current coaches were to return that would still leave the bench coach spot, which came open when the team dismissed Alan Trammell.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

New D-backs manager Chip Hale answers fan questions on Facebook

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): Hey everyone, glad to be here answering your questions for the next 30 minutes or so. -Chip

Lisa Tower: Pitching has been a huge issue this past season. What plan of attack can help us with that?

More

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): Health is the number one thing. When we get all of the pitchers healthy, we'll see a different staff. Spring Training will give us a good idea. A lot of guys came up from lower levels and battled this year and got a taste of it. We'll have a lot of options. As of now, we're still trying to evaluate who our best options are.

Mikey Daniels: How many wins are expected of the team next year? How involved will you be with the acquisitions in winter?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): With the acquisitions, Dave and Tony and the front office are doing all that. They'll definitely ask my opinions and the coaching staff also, but the final decision will be theirs. As for wins, we're expecting enough wins to be in the playoffs. Every night we play, we'll expect to win.

John Lucas: Is there anyone we should be keeping an eye on during fall/winterball?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): All those kids that are in the Fall League. I went over Tuesday to see them play. I think we have a lot of talent. Drury at first base. Burgos an up-and-coming reliever, and of course Archie Bradley. Most of those guys will eventually get a chance to play in the big leagues. Peter O'Brien is able to play multiple positions and has big power.

Jose Roman: Will we be a threat to the other mlb teams for next year?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): We better be a threat. We expect to be a winning team, whatever it takes, whether it's small ball, hitting home runs, pitching, executing late in games. We expect to be a threat. That's why we're here.

Ernest Armenta: #Dbacks you are one of several UofA players to coach in The majors- has Francona offered his lucky socks?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): No he hasn't. I'm sure he still needs them.

Elizabeth Guzman: Are you planing on playing small ball ? We lost lots of games depending on the long ball!!!! Last season

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): I want us to be situationally-sound. I think small ball is important. We're not going to just sit back and wait for home runs. We're going to move runners with bunting and hitting-and-running. But we also have a couple of guys on this team right now with premiere power in Trumbo and Goldschmidt, so we have a good mix of both.

Jenni Johnson: What unique outlook or strategy do you bring to the table which you feel will drive the Diamondbacks to succeed?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): I think it's just bringing a lot of different ways of doing things and using them to try to get a little more out of each guy in the group. Technique wise, when players trust you and when they band together as a group, it makes it a lot easier. The perfect example is watching the playoffs right now with the way the Giants and Royals are playing. And of course it's going to be nice to be able to talk to a Hall of Fame manager in Tony La Russa and bounce ideas off of him.

Michael Cohen: Pat Murphy planned to make Jake Barrett a starter at Asu his freshman year, is that something you could consider or is he the closer of the future?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): I saw him a little bit during the spring. From what I've seen and heard, he's got a great arm. Sometimes if you change a reliever to a starter, guys end up hurting their arms, so I think it's best to leave guys in areas where they've had success. But it's still to be determined.

Austin Louis Miller: What are your top 3 goals to improve the team next season compared to the previous few years?

Arizona Diamondbacks (Chip Hale): Improve the culture, be situationally-sound and stay healthy.

Less

Hale is D-backs' choice for skipper

Most recently A's bench coach, he managed six seasons in Arizona system

Hale is D-backs' choice for skipper

PHOENIX -- The D-backs introduced Chip Hale as their new manager on Monday. A ferocious competitor, Hale replaces Kirk Gibson, who was dismissed with three days remaining in the 2014 season and the team on its way to a 64-98 record.

"It was just the completeness of his background and the way he presented himself," chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said of Hale. "We were looking for a leader and a guy who loves baseball, and there wasn't a box he didn't have checked."

More

Hale, who most recently was bench coach for the A's, managed in the D-backs system for six seasons before joining the big league staff as third-base coach, a position he held from 2007-09.

After leaving the D-backs following the 2009 season, he was the third-base coach for the Mets in 2010-11 before becoming Bob Melvin's bench coach with Oakland.

Melvin has raved about the 49-year-old Hale's level of preparedness as his bench coach and has pushed for him to get a managing opportunity.

"Your style is going to be dictated by the personnel you have," Hale said. "I've managed teams that have been athletically inclined and can run, and we run a lot and do different things, and other teams that sat back and can hit a little bit. I'd like this team to be situationally sound, so I would like us to have everything in that bag, like a golf bag. We've got to be able to do everything."

The team acknowledged that there were nine candidates for the position: Sandy Alomar Jr., Jay Bell, Tim Bogar, Andy Green, Hale, Joe McEwing, Phil Nevin, Jim Tracy and Turner Ward.

"We wanted a guy with energy," general manager Dave Stewart said. "We wanted a guy that was optimistic and will energize our ballclub, but as well be a part of the culture moving forward in the Diamondbacks organization."

With La Russa being hired to the newly created position of chief baseball officer last May and general manager Stewart and vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson being hired in late September, the D-backs will have a completely new baseball leadership team heading into the 2015 season.

Winning has long been a part of Hale's resume.

In his first year as a professional manager, in 2000, Hale led Rookie-level Missoula to a second-half championship, and he was named the Pioneer League's Manager of the Year the following season.

He led Tucson to Pacific Coast League and Triple-A titles in 2006 with a 91-53 mark and had a .540 winning percentage in three seasons with the team.

Hale starred collegiately at the University of Arizona from 1984-87, starting every game during his college career, and he established school career records for hits and walks. He batted .345 in 1986, when UA won the College World Series.

Hale was selected by the Twins in the 17th round of the 1987 First-Year Player Draft and spent parts of six seasons with them and one with the Dodgers, compiling a .277 career batting average in 333 games.

Hale becomes the sixth full-time manager in D-backs history, joining Buck Showalter, Bob Brenly, Melvin, A.J. Hinch and Gibson. Al Pedrique was an interim manager in 2004.

In recent years, Hale's name has come up in relation to several big league managerial vacancies and he was believed to be the runner-up when the Mets hired Terry Collins following the 2010 season.

"This is the perfect job for me and my family, and that is important to me to be here, and it's important to me to get this organization," Hale said. "We're going to set a culture here about winning, about having fun, about being competitive in the clubhouse, having pride. And that's important for me to instill in us here and get us back to where we belong."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Bradley encouraged by challenge of fall ball

D-backs' top prospect working on pitch repertoire at AFL, not focused on stats

Bradley encouraged by challenge of fall ball

Archie Bradley could get used to pitching in Arizona.

The D-backs' top prospect -- rated No. 9 overall in baseball by MLB.com's Prospect Watch -- has been spending his fall in the desert, where he's pitching for the Salt River Rafters. Soon enough, he hopes to be spending more time in the area, but with the big league club.

More

"It's great," Bradley said of his Arizona Fall League tenure. "Obviously, this is a big experience. There's a lot of good talent in this league. It's just another key to getting better."

Box score

Bradley, 22, split time this season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. With one Rookie ball start mixed in, he compiled a 4.45 ERA and 3-7 record in 18 starts. He has made three starts for Salt River, posting a 10.29 ERA, but said he's not discouraged by the on-paper results.

"I felt good," Bradley said Saturday night after surrendering four earned runs in two innings while walking four and striking out two against Mesa. "Just didn't throw strikes, that's really about it. I feel like my stuff is sharp. It's just about filling up the zone and making better pitches."

Mesa's Felipe Rivero (Nationals No. 16 prospect) earned the winning decision in the 8-4 victory on Saturday while Derek Self (Nationals) logged 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball to lower his ERA to 1.23. Bijan Rademacher (Cubs) and Eric Stamets (Angels) each recorded two hits for the Solar Sox while Chris O'Dowd (Rockies) went 2-for-4 with a home run for the Rafters.

Bradley said he threw a slider for the first time on Saturday night and is making a concerted effort to get his changeup into the mix. And he knows if he can execute those pitches against the talent in the Fall League, the big leagues shouldn't be too far off.

"It's kind of what you're going to get when you get to the big leagues," Bradley said. "One through nine, you're facing quality hitters who give you quality at-bats and challenge you.

"You're constantly thinking and constantly being challenged because every player you face has the potential to get to the big leagues and most likely will."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Rivals make GM, managerial changes to keep up in NL West

D-backs, Rockies and Padres shake up front office, dugout

Rivals make GM, managerial changes to keep up in NL West

As the Giants bid to win their third World Series title since 2010, most of the other members of the National League West have been busy restructuring in attempt to find the mix that might bring them the kind of consistent success San Francisco has gained with its stable and tenured management structure.

While Giants general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy both stand as the longest-tenured National League employees in their respective roles, three other NL West members -- the D-backs, Padres and Rockies -- have all recently hired either a new GM or manager.

More

Despite winning the division both of the past two years, the high-priced Dodgers might also get into this act if rumors about GM Ned Colletti being on the hot seat prove to be true.

The D-backs further altered the NL West landscape on Monday, when they announce they have filled their managerial vacancy with Chip Hale. As he gets his first taste of managing at the Major League level, Hale will be working with recently hired GM Dave Stewart, who was serving as a player agent until his former manager Tony La Russa provided him this new role in September.

"We wanted a guy with energy, we wanted a guy that was optimistic and will energize our ballclub, but as well be a part of the culture moving forward in the Diamondbacks organization," Stewart said of Hale, who spent the past three seasons as former D-backs manager Bob Melvin's bench coach in Oakland.

Having notched just one winning record in their past six seasons, the D-backs have made the most extensive changes among NL West clubs. These recent moves have been made courtesy of the information La Russa has gathered since May, when he was named Arizona's chief baseball officer.

Before jumping into the front-office executive scene, La Russa was a Hall of Fame manager who drew great respect from many of his players including Stewart, who served as an assistant GM for the A's and Padres before becoming an agent in 2002.

"There's not like walls of demarcation here," La Russa said when Stewart was hired. "That's not how we do it. You've got your priority, but the key is going to be a lot of coming together and soliciting opinions. A lot of times out of good baseball people, you produce a common decision."

Hale and Stewart will be introducing themselves to the NL West scene that has also welcomed Padres GM A.J. Preller and Rockies GM Jeff Bridich to the scene within the past six months. Like Stewart, Preller and Bridich have never previously held this role.

So, three of the NL West's five teams have hired a new GM since the beginning of August. This number would rise to four if the Dodgers do indeed opt to part ways with Colletti, who has been in his current position since the start of the 2006 season. At the other end of the spectrum, the Giants have been under the direction of Sabean since 1997 and Bochy since 2007.

While the Padres have employed Bud Black as their manager since Bochy exited this role after the 2006 season, Preller stands as the fourth GM they have used during this stint. Though the Rockies' front office has drawn much criticism and scrutiny over the past few years, the Rockies had employed Dan O'Dowd as their GM until Bridich was elevated to the role last week.

A Harvard University graduate, the 37-year-old Bridich will attempt to bring life to the Rockies, who have not won more than 74 games any of the past four seasons. He spent the past 10 seasons in Colorado's front office, the past three as the senior director of player development.

"We are not where we want to be, we know that," Bridich said. "We are not where we expect to be, we know that. But we do have people who are determined to get there. Make no mistake, this organization wants to win and this organization is determined to win."

With his aggressive passion for finding talent in Latin American and countless other locales with the Rangers, Preller established himself as one of the game's top scouts. Now, the 37-year-old Cornell graduate will attempt to gather talent for the Padres, who have posted a losing record in six of the past seven seasons.

"The Padres have hired themselves an absolute jewel. No one will outwork him. It's impossible to do. I find it hard to believe that he will be outsmarted," former Major League manager Jim Tracy told MLB.com in August. "In my opinion, the Padres have won the derby with this hire."

The D-backs and Rockies are hoping they are in fact the club that won the derby with their respective hires.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs happy with return from Draft picks at instructs

2014 selections Toussaint, Railey progressing steadily, give Arizona bright future

D-backs happy with return from Draft picks at instructs

With five picks in the first 100 selections of the First-Year Player Draft, the D-backs were busy in the early rounds of this year's event. They used all five of their top picks on players from the high school ranks, injecting several high-ceiling prospects into the organization.

That busy Draft in June has led to an important instructional league this fall, as the D-backs coaching staff has been able to work with the teenagers for an extended period. And player development director Mike Bell has been pleased with what he's seen from right-hander Touki Toussaint, the club's first-round pick, as well as outfielders Marcus Wilson and Matt Railey, left-hander Cody Reed and shortstop Isan Diaz.

More

The D-backs selected Toussaint with the 16th overall pick in June. Not long after, Bell saw him throw a side session in Phoenix.

"You can't help but to stop and watch and take notice of his three plus pitches," Bell said. "He has a quick arm, his athleticism is exceptional and his personality is terrific."

Toussaint signed with the D-backs on June 20, his 18th birthday, and spent the rest of the summer pitching in the Arizona League and Rookie-level Missoula in the Pioneer League.

"In instructional league, he's begun to take strides and take what he does so well in bullpens and applying it to game settings," Bell said. "He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. His breaking ball has been sharp and he's throwing a good changeup too. He's a good young pitcher."

The D-backs have also been especially interested to see how Railey, their third-round pick, is progressing. The oldest of their top five selections, Railey, 19, went straight to Missoula after signing. But he played in just 13 games before a hamstring injury ended his season in late June.

Bell said Railey is healthy once again and, after a slow start in instructional league, has played better as he's gotten his timing back.

"He's developing nicely for the amount of time he's been healthy," Bell said. "We're anxious to see him in the spring."

• After a trying regular season, Stryker Trahan is still at work in instructional league. Trahan, the 26th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, began the year with Class A South Bend, where he was to make the transition from catcher to right field. But while learning the outfield, he struggled at the plate, hitting .198/.264/.367 with 13 home runs in 95 games. Hoping to get Trahan back on track, D-backs ultimately sent him to short-season Hillsboro in late July.

With Hillsboro, Trahan returned to catching. He also found more success at the plate, hitting .257/.344/.496 with six home runs in 30 games. He also helped the Hops win the Northwest League championship.

The D-backs had hoped moving to a less demanding position would help Trahan's offense and accelerate his progress through the Minor Leagues. Instead, Trahan seemed to be more comfortable as a catcher.

"He takes pride in helping others and when he's able to immerse himself into pitchers' strengths and weaknesses and game plans, he responds well to that," Bell said. "I think it was good for him. We learned a lot about Stryker this year."

The D-backs are continuing to work with Trahan on catching this fall. Bell said the 20-year old has continued to make progress defensively.

"Even when he transitioned back into that role, he really picked up where he left off," Bell said. "At Hillsboro he was making steady progress and now he's making big strides."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

O'Brien sparkles in AFL opener

Bird, Austin combine for six RBIs in victory

O'Brien sparkles in AFL opener

With Archie Bradley and Tyler Glasnow on the mound as Salt River hosted Scottsdale on Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League, the final game of the day was expected to be a pitchers' duel. But after early exits for both power pitchers, both of whom are the top prospect in their organizations, power bats took over the game Tuesday.

Led by Yankees prospects Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, Scottsdale outslugged Salt River, 7-4.

More

Bird and Austin accounted for all six of Scottsdale's RBIs. Bird, the Yankees' No. 11 prospect, went 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles. He scored three runs and drove in four in the victory. Austin, the Yankees' No. 15 prospect, finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

"Obviously we've had some time off since the season ended," Bird said. "But I felt like I finished the season strong and carried it over until tonight and we got a good win."

The Scorpions also got a boost from outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' No. 3 prospect, who went 2-for-5 with two runs, a double and a stolen base. Catcher Elias Diaz also scored twice.

Before coming to the fall league, Bird and Austin were teammates for the final month of the regular season in Double-A Trenton. Bird was promoted to Trenton in August after starting the season with Class A Advanced Tampa and has quickly been impressed by Austin.

"I think he had a real good year," Bird said. "I think he started off slow, but once I got there he was tearing it up and I know he had a good second half. Tonight was him continuing that."

Austin was hampered by injuries early in the season, but played much better after the Eastern League's All-Star break. The 23-year old hit .336/.397/.557 with five home runs in 33 games in the second half.

Like Austin, Bird spent part of the season on the disabled list. A back injury sidelined him for the first month of the season, but he played well once he got back on the field. In 102 games between Tampa and Trenton, the 21-year old hit .271/.376/.472 with 14 home runs.

Bird said physically he feels great and has been able to get back in a groove at the plate.

"Any time you get a late start, it's going to take a little bit to get going," he said. "Once I got going, I felt like I got back to my old self."

Tuesday also marked the return to action of another player who was hampered by injuries this season. Outfielder Byron Buxton, the game's top prospect, played for the first time since Aug. 13 when he suffered a concussion as a result of a frightful outfield collision while playing his first game for Double-A New Britain.

Buxton, the Twins' top prospect, played center field and led off Tuesday for Salt River. He went 0-for-4 with a run, a walk and a stolen base.

The Rafters offense was led by catcher Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk and two RBIs.

With all the offense, the promising pitchers' duel fizzled early. Bradley, ranked No. 9 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, took the loss after allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out one batter and threw 41 pitches.

Glasnow, ranked No. 16 on the Top 100, fared no better. He walked three batters in the first inning and was removed after throwing 29 pitches and getting two outs. But Scottsdale's bullpen and offense picked up their 21-year starting pitcher to secure an Opening Day victory.

Though players in the AFL are more focused on development than results, Bird said the Scorpions are pleased with the way they started the season.

"Obviously we're all out here to work on something, but winning is fun," he said. "Everyone agrees with that. We were able to get off on the right foot tonight."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Owings undergoes surgery on shoulder labrum

Arizona expects infielder to be ready for Spring Training

Owings undergoes surgery on shoulder labrum

PHOENIX -- D-backs infielder Chris Owings underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair the posterior labrum of his left shoulder. He is expected to be ready to go when Spring Training opens.

Owings initially sustained the injury June 20 while sliding into home plate and ended up on the disabled list until Sept. 2 with what the club said was a bone bruise.

More

The pain in the shoulder, though, never fully disappeared, and Owings underwent another MRI on Tuesday and received a second opinion Wednesday from Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

More

The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs' front office ready to hit the ground running

D-backs' front office ready to hit the ground running

PHOENIX -- The D-backs' baseball operations brain trust of Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson met with the media late Monday morning, one day following the end of the regular season.

Here is a look at what they had to say on a variety of key topics:

More

On the search for a new manager
The organization is still putting together a list of candidates and La Russa has asked his team to be creative and come up with a big list that they will then narrow down.

"I think the first priority is leadership, a personality," La Russa said of the most important traits. "You just think about when he stands in front of the club and it's Spring Training in front of 50 or 60 guys, there's got to be something about him that gets their attention. So the leadership part of it is, will guys follow? And it's relationship building. I think the thing that I should add in personality is, there's not one personality. You can be a quiet leader. You can be a leader that has a great sense of humor. You can have a big voice. A lot of it has to do with sincerity, but you've got to have that knack."

On possible changes to the coaching staff
Of the current coaches, only pitching coach Mike Harkey and first-base coach Dave McKay are under contract for next season and while the team would like to allow a new manager some say in assembling the staff, it doesn't sound like there will be much turnover.

"I think the answer is that I don't expect a lot of changes in the coaching staff," La Russa said.

On shaking up the roster
The new front office group does not believe there needs to be a massive overhaul of the roster, at least on the position player side of things and that a return to health will be the biggest difference into next year. That and improved leadership from the manager position.

"I don't expect much change at all," Stewart said. "This ballculb, though we did lose 98 games, when you watch the spirit of how they played each baseball game, very few games were we out of down the stretch, especially the last three days, though we only won one of the three. They played very, very, very hard baseball and they never gave up."

It did not sound like the team would be overly active as far as trades go, Stewart did say he hadn't been here long enough to "fall in love with the players that we have in this clubhouse."

"Probably not likely in the trade market," Stewart said. "That means we're going to have to give something back, and we're going to try to maintain what we have. We're going to try to maintain our Minor League system. We've got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we'll look at it if it makes sense, but it's not likely."

On trading from the team's surplus of middle infielders like Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, Cliff Pennington, Aaron Hill and Nick Ahmed
"If it gives the opportunity to get a pitcher that we could put in the front of our rotation, we have to keep our minds open to that," Stewart said. "I'm not going to be going into the market actively trying to trade any of our middle infielders."

On the team's payroll, which was around $110 million on Opening Day this past season
"I think if you look at where we are, if you've got a $100 million payroll, you don't have a complaint," La Russa said. "I never had one in St. Louis. That's plenty of money to compete with and win with. A key is, can you be smart with it."

Said Stewart, "I've not been given a number at this time, but I'm thinking we're going to be right in the same neighborhood of where we are right now."

On farm director Mike Bell and scouting director Ray Montgomery
Watson, whose primary area of focus will be on scouting and player development, has had a chance to sit down with both men and said both are going to stay with the organization.

"They are definitely here and they're actually in our meetings that we're conducting upstairs right now," Watson said. "The communication has been really good, the meetings that we've had have been really good. Just looking forward to working with these guys."

On the area of strength for the Minor League system
Said Watson, "We've got some good young arms coming that are right on the edge of being at the Major League level. I think it takes a little time to get them cultivated and fully polished to come up here and contribute. Because we're not getting them here just to make a cameo appearance, we want them to stay and contribute as we continue to move forward. We do feel like our strength is our pitching. We do have a couple of position players down there, but I think if you're saying where is our strength? Pitching is our strength."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Injuries too much to overcome for D-backs in tough season

Injuries too much to overcome for D-backs in tough season

PHOENIX -- There really is no way around it: 2014 was a nightmare for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

They opened Spring Training filled with optimism, a club-record $110 million payroll and a vow that they would find a way to get over the 81-81 rut they had found themselves in the previous two seasons.

More

The D-backs did manage to avoid the .500 mark -- at no time were they ever at or above it -- but this certainly was not what they had in mind.

A tough start prompted ownership to bring in Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to be chief baseball officer and essentially decide the fate of general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.

The verdict on Towers came in early September when La Russa decided to open the search for a new GM while offering Towers another position within the organization.

The D-backs were never in the playoff hunt thanks to a 9-19 April.

They did, however, go 14-13 in May and 13-12 in July, but another disastrous month -- they were 9-18 in August -- once again put them in contention for baseball's worst record.

Injuries definitely did not help matters.

The day before they were to leave for Australia, ace Patrick Corbin was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and would not throw a pitch for them. Then when they returned from Australia, top setup man, David Hernandez, was lost to the same injury and the usually durable Bronson Arroyo would also succumb to it in June.

Outfielder A.J. Pollock was named National League Player of the Month for May and then missed the next three months after being hit by a pitch and fracturing his right hand.

Finally, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was lost for the season when he suffered a fractured left hand after being hit by an Ernesto Frieri pitch.

Record: 64-98, fifth in the NL West

Defining Moment: The D-backs took two of three games against the Giants in San Francisco April 8-10 to raise their record to 4-8 heading home. Rather than building on that momentum, the D-backs lost all six games on the homestand as they were swept by the Dodgers and Mets. It was right around that time that Arizona management began to discuss dismissing Towers and/or Gibson.

What went right: Goldschmidt was once again having an excellent offensive season before his injury. ... Rookie right-hander Chase Anderson came up from Double-A Mobile in early May and became a mainstay in the rotation. ... Rookie Evan Marshall pitched well out of the bullpen and set himself up to be a favorite to be a member of the 'pen in 2015. ... Pollock took a step forward offensively and was playing his way into an All-Star selection before his injury. ... Shortstop Chris Owings was a Rookie of the Year contender before a shoulder injury cost him more than two months. ... And outfielders Ender Inciarte and David Peralta took advantage of all the injuries to show they could be contributors at the big league level. ... After more than two years and a pair of Tommy John surgeries, right-hander Daniel Hudson made three appearances down the stretch for the team.

What went wrong: The list of injuries was long and crippling, forcing the team to give significant playing time to untested rookies. ... The moves that Towers made over the past two offseasons did not pay off. ... Right-hander Trevor Cahill struggled so badly, the club sent him down to Class A. ... Outfielder Mark Trumbo, who was supposed to provide protection for Goldschmidt in the lineup, struggled with foot injuries from the start of Spring Training, which limited his effectiveness. ... Closer Addison Reed had an uneven season, while veteran J.J. Putz struggled so much that the club designated him for assignment. ... Top prospect Archie Bradley's agent criticized the team when Bradley was not called up in April and then the right-hander suffered forearm stiffness and spent time on the DL. ... Right-hander Brandon McCarthy struggled mightily, but then thrived when he was dealt to the Yankees in July.

Biggest surprise: Peralta was called up when injuries decimated the outfield and he surprised everyone by hitting over .300 in his first 58 games and taking over for an injuried Goldschmidt in the No. 3 hole of the lineup. Just two years ago Peralta was playing in independent baseball after failing to make it to the big leagues as a pitcher.

Hitter of the Year: Despite missing the final two months of the season, Goldschmidt still wound up leading the team in many offensive categories. As he's gotten more experience, Goldschmidt has taken on more of a leadership role with younger players.

Pitcher of the Year: Josh Collmenter. The right-hander began the year as the long man in the bullpen, a role he filled admirably in 2013. Injuries as well as the struggles of Cahill, forced Collmenter into the rotation for the first time since early in the 2012 season. Collmenter wound up being the team's most consistent starter and he faced the minimum 27 batters in a 4-0 three-hitter against the Reds on May 29.

Rookie of the Year: Anderson/Inciarte (tie). It's hard to pick between these two so we'll give it to both of them. Anderson pitched very well right from the time he was called up in May and established himself as a rotation favorite for next year. Inciarte, meanwhile, filled in admirably for Pollock in center and really took to the leadoff spot when Gibson moved him there.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Stewart, D-backs look to bolster squad for '15

New GM focused on getting team back into contention following rocky season

Stewart, D-backs look to bolster squad for '15

PHOENIX -- Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa assembled his baseball operations point men in Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson during the final week of the regular season.

Together they have to find a way to lift a team that finished 2014 with the worst record in Major League Baseball.

More

"I don't see this as a complete rebuild," said Watson, who was named D-backs senior vice president of baseball operations. "I think we had some bad health, a little bad luck. This club is going to be better than most people are thinking they're going to be going into next year. So I'm excited about coming back into Spring Training, I'm excited about this upcoming winter and going out and try to find upgraded talent to add to what we currently have in-house."

Watson is certainly right about the injuries -- they were devastating -- and a return to health by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, ace Patrick Corbin and reliever David Hernandez would go a long way toward improving the D-backs' chances of bouncing back in 2015.

"We've got the one guy I think everybody in baseball would like to have, and that's Mr. Goldschmidt," Stewart said during his introductory press conference. "When you start right there, I gotta tell you what, if you wake up in the morning and the sun is a little bit cloudy, when you know Goldschmidt is playing it makes everything OK."

Health alone will not get the D-backs back on track, though, and the men in charge are well are of that.

That's why this winter they will be looking to add at least one starting pitcher to a rotation that imploded early in 2014.

There are also many questions to be answered with regards to position players. Is Didi Gregorius their starting shortstop? If so, there is a chain reaction at both second and third to consider as well with Chris Owings, Aaron Hill and Jake Lamb.

The struggles of 2014 gave the D-backs an extended look at outfielders Ender Inciarte and David Peralta and whether the brain trust believes one, or both, are every day players will impact what the alignment will be next year.

"I want to build a championship caliber team," Stewart said. "I want to compete. I want to come to the ballpark everyday and know that whoever plays against the Arizona Diamondbacks is going to have a tough day at the office."

Arbitration-eligible: LHP Wade Miley, INF Jordan Pacheco, INF Cliff Pennington, RHP Addison Reed, OF Nolan Reimold, OF Mark Trumbo. (D-backs hold contract options on arbitration-eligible pitchers Daniel Hudson and Matt Reynolds)

Free agents: None.

Rotation: The D-backs will likely devote most of their offseason resources to bolstering their starting rotation, though the cost of pitching might be more than they can afford. One-time ace Corbin could return from Tommy John surgery sometime in late April or May, but the club will take things slowly with him to avoid a second blowout. You can put down Wade Miley for being in the rotation, but he might be the lone sure thing depending on whether they want to use Josh Collmenter as a starter or reliever. Rookie Chase Anderson certainly did enough in 2014 to be a leading candidate for 2015, while Vidal Nuno has pitched well enough to make a case to be part of the backend of the rotation. Trevor Cahill -- and his $12 million salary for 2015 -- is not going anywhere, so he will be given yet another opportunity to recapture his pre-2014 form. Prospects Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin should battle during Spring Training for spots and Randall Delgado is also a possibility. Bronson Arroyo, who had Tommy John surgery last July, will likely miss at least the first half of the season.

Bullpen: The D-backs talked all year about their bullpen being a strength, but the numbers did not necessarily back that up. The team will have a decision to make on Reed, who will get more expensive through the arbitration process and did not have one of his better seasons. Reliable setup man Brad Ziegler should be recovered from knee surgery by Opening Day and rookie Evan Marshall was impressive in his first taste of the big leagues. The return of Reynolds from Tommy John surgery along with Oliver Perez give the team a pair of quality lefties. Hudson, who made a September return from a pair of Tommy John surgeries will likely pitch in relief and the team is hoping for an early-season return by Hernandez, another Tommy John patient. The club does have depth with prospects like Matt Stites and Jake Barrett among those who will be competing for spots in Spring Training.

Catcher: The D-backs appear set at this position with Miguel Montero and Tuffy Gosewisch. Going forward, the team will need to be more diligent about giving Montero more rest whether he likes it or not. Pitchers like throwing to Gosewisch, who has the perfect attitude for a backup. The coaching staff felt like he made strides at the plate this year as well. Veteran Bobby Wilson adds depth while Pacheco provides versatility in being able to play the corner outfield and infield positions as well as catch in a pinch.

First base: Goldschmidt's season was cut short by injury, yet he still ranked atop many offensive categories for the team. He was on pace to once again be in contention for the Most Valuable Player Award before being hit on the left hand by an Ernesto Frieri pitch on Aug. 1. When Goldschmidt is healthy, a backup gets maybe three to five starts a year.

Second base: If the D-backs elect to go with Gregorius at short then Owings will likely become the starter at second. That would shift Hill to third. Or if the D-backs elect to play Owings at short then Hill could once again become the starter at second.

Shortstop: The D-backs have a trio of young shortstops in Owings, Gregorius and Nick Ahmed. Owings won the starting job out of Spring Training, but each saw time at the position in 2014. If Gregorius gets the nod in 2015 then it will set off a domino effect with second and possibly third base. Cliff Pennington is a valuable and versatile backup and the team will look to bring him back in that role.

Third base: The D-backs got an extended look at Lamb in 2014 and has to decide if they feel he's their everyday starter there. That decision could be complicated by what happens with Hill at second base. Lamb played solid defense and at times showed his potential at the plate.

Outfield: A.J. Pollock will be the center fielder, but after that, things get a little more complicated. Unless Trumbo is moved, he will start in left field. That leaves right field and a battle for playing time between Inciarte, Peralta and Cody Ross. Ross is under contract for one last season, while both Inciarte and Peralta showed promise while getting extended time as rookies in 2014.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Towers decides not to remain with D-backs

Towers decides not to remain with D-backs

PHOENIX -- Former D-backs general manager Kevin Towers has decided not to remain in the organization and instead will pursue other opportunities within baseball.

"I thank Kevin for his time and hard work while here with the Diamondbacks," D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. "We considered a different role for him, but it would create an awkwardness for him and our existing staff. He is a tremendous professional with outstanding relationships and will be working with another team in no time."

More

The D-backs opened a search for a new general manager in early September and last week hired Dave Stewart as GM and De Jon Watson as senior vice president of baseball operations to fill Towers' role.

Stewart, Watson and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa asked Towers to remain with the organization perhaps taking a role in the professional scouting department, but after considering it, he decided not to accept it.

Assistant GM Billy Ryan, who was hired by Towers when he took over the GM job following the 2010 season, will also be leaving the organization after not having his contract renewed.

"I'd like to thank the Diamondbacks for allowing me to be a part of this organization over the past four years," Ryan said in a statement. "I understand Dave's desire to surround himself with a leadership team with which he's familiar as he takes over the Baseball Operations department in Arizona. I'm proud of the things we accomplished behind the scenes during my time here, and wish my friends with the Diamondbacks well as I look forward to my next opportunity."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

First managerial moves made as offseason begins

Twins dismiss Gardenhire while Astros hire Hinch

First managerial moves made as offseason begins

One day after the regular season ended, the first managerial moves were made on Monday as the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons on the job and the Astros named A.J. Hinch their next manager.

And there figures to be more changes in the upcoming days and weeks. After all, coaches are usually the first casualties following disappointing seasons.

More

There are now three teams looking for managers, with the Twins joining the D-backs and Rangers.

The Rangers are hoping to hire a new manager by the World Series, general manager Jon Daniels said Sunday. Among the candidates under consideration are interim manager Tim Bogar, Triple-A manager Steve Buechele and pitching coach Mike Maddux, in addition to a few candidates from other clubs. Daniels has yet to formally request permission to interview anyone outside of the organization.

The D-backs' search for a manager began Friday, when they let go of Kirk Gibson. Arizona has a new general manager in Dave Stewart and a new senior vice president of baseball operations in De Jon Watson. It did not take long for the club to hire Stewart and Watson when those positions opened, so that could mean a new manager is not far away.

The Twins' search for a new manager will include candidates from both inside and outside the organization. The remainder of the coaching staff will be put together by the new manager and general manager Terry Ryan. The contracts of Minnesota's seven coaches are all set to expire at the end of this year.

Gardenhire had one year remaining on a two-year contract he signed before the season. He became the Twins manager in 2002 and led the team to six American League Central division championships in his first nine years. But the Twins have finished last in the division in three of the last four seasons.

"This is a little bit of a difficult day for a lot of us," Ryan said during a news conference at Target Field on Monday. "We've been together with Ron for a long time. ... I think it was mutually agreed upon that we're going to go in this direction."

"I'm gone. I'm out of here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to -- you have to win on the field. These last four years have been tough on us."

The Astros, meanwhile, are looking ahead to the future with Hinch at the helm.

Hinch managed Arizona from May 2009 to July 2010 and had a 89-123 record. After that, he served as the vice president of professional scouting for the Padres for four years. Hinch, 40, played 350 games over his Major League career with the A's, Phillies, Royals and Tigers.

"I am extremely excited to bring in A.J. as our new manager," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "Throughout our process, we searched for a person with previous Major League experience who could effectively lead our young, growing nucleus of talented players. I have no doubt that A.J. is the right person to do that. He brings experience as a Major League player, Major League manager and player development executive. His skill sets and leadership abilities will be enormous assets in our clubhouse and to our entire organization."

"I couldn't be more excited to be the manager of the Houston Astros," said Hinch, a catcher who won a bronze medal with the United States at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. "We have a lot of work to do to bring winning back to the city of Houston and Astros fans everywhere. I can't wait to get started toward that goal today."

Moving forward, there could also be some extensions for current managers. The Marlins extended Mike Redmond's contract through 2017, finalizing the deal on Sunday. Redmond was set to enter the final season of the contract he signed when he took over after the 2012 season.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs to pick first in 2015 First-Year Player Draft

Astros to make second, fifth picks after not signing Aiken from 2014 Draft

D-backs to pick first in 2015 First-Year Player Draft

This year didn't turn out anywhere close to as well as the D-backs might have hoped. Their playoff aspirations dissipated quickly after a 5-18 start, and general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson both lost their jobs before the season ended.

Arizona did get a nice consolation prize after finishing 2014 with a 64-98 record, its worst in a decade. By virtue of finishing with MLB's lowest winning percentage (.395), the D-backs received the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. The only other time they had the top choice was in 2005, when they selected Justin Upton.

More

The Astros had owned the No. 1 pick in the previous three Drafts, an unprecedented run. They'll make history again in the 2015 Draft, as they have a higher pair of choices than any club ever. Houston has the No. 2 selection (compensation for not signing Brady Aiken, the No. 1 pick in 2014) and the No. 5 choice (by virtue of having baseball's fourth-worst record this season).

2015 Draft Order
Draft order based on reverse of 2014 regular-season standings; 2013 records used to break ties.
Pick Team W L
1 D-backs 64 98
2 Astros Comp pick
3 Rockies 66 96
4 Rangers 67 95
5 Astros 70 92
6 Twins 70 92
7 Red Sox 71 91
8 White Sox 73 89
9 Cubs 73 89
10 Phillies 73 89
11 Reds 76 86
12 Marlins 77 85
13 Padres 77 85
14 Rays 77 85
15 Mets 79 83
16 Braves 79 83
17 Brewers 82 80
18 Blue Jays 83 79
19 Yankees 84 78
20 Indians 85 77
21 Mariners 87 75
22 Giants 88 74
23 Pirates 88 74
24 Athletics 88 74
25 Royals 89 73
26 Tigers 90 72
27 Cardinals 90 72
28 Dodgers 94 68
29 Orioles 96 66
30 Nationals 96 66
31 Angels 98 64

Arizona set the previous standard for the earliest pair of selections in 2011, when it drafted Trevor Bauer at No. 3 and Archie Bradley at No. 7. The Nationals also had two top 10 picks in 2009, taking Stephen Strasburg at No. 1 and Drew Storen at No. 9.

There's no clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 choice in 2015 at this point, though Duke right-hander Michael Matuella is the front-runner. Other candidates include Lake Mary (Fla.) High shortstop Brendan Rodgers and Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (McDonough, Ga.) outfielder Dazmon Cameron.

As usual, free-agent compensation will create several changes in the first-round Draft order between now and next June. Teams have until five days after the end of the World Series to make a qualifying offer (one year at the average of the top 125 salaries in 2014, roughly $14 million) to their free agents. If a club loses a free agent after giving him a qualifying offer, it will get a pick at the end of the first round as compensation.

A team that signs a free agent with a qualifying offer will lose its first-rounder, unless it falls among the first 11 picks (the top 10 regular choices, plus the Astros' selection for Aiken). That's a change from the first three years of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, when rules protected only the top 10 picks (regardless of whether they included compensation choices). Rather than forfeit a protected selection, a club would lose its highest unprotected pick.

A year ago, 13 players received qualifying offers. All of them declined those offers and nine of them changed teams before the 2014 Draft.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Collmenter makes case to remain starter

Righty allows one run in eight innings of loss to NL Central champions

Collmenter makes case to remain starter

PHOENIX -- Right up until 15 minutes before first pitch, it seemed like Sunday's D-backs-Cardinals game might just play a role in deciding how the National League Central race finished up.

But then the Reds beat the Pirates, clinching the Central for the Cardinals, and suddenly the game -- won by St. Louis, 1-0 -- had the feel of a Spring Training game.

More

Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who was scheduled to start, stopped warming in the bullpen and St. Louis manager Mike Matheny made multiple changes to his lineup, taking out a lot of his veterans to give them some rest before the NL Division Series begins Friday.

No one apparently told Josh Collmenter that the game no longer mattered, as the right-hander turned in eight impressive innings, allowing the one run on three hits while striking out three.

However, the D-backs' offense got an early jump on the offseason as it struggled to do much against five Cardinals pitchers.

The Cardinals broke the scoreless tie when Pete Kozma led off the sixth with a double and eventually scored on Kolten Wong's groundout.

Collmenter started the season in the bullpen before injuries and struggles of other starters forced him into the rotation.

After a tough start in mid-August against the Marlins, there was talk that Collmenter might be fatigued, but he finished the season with seven strong starts.

"I just wanted to finish the season strong," Collmenter said. "There was talk about possibly shutting me down or trying to curtail my innings a little bit. Then I think once we had some management changes, that kind of got thrown out the window and I think they wanted to see what I could do."

Collmenter was a starter for the D-backs in 2011 and part of 2012 before being shifted to a long-relief role.

While he never complained, he also never lost the desire to start, something he hopes might be in his future again.

"Personally I enjoy starting," Collmenter said. "Hopefully I've proven this to the new guys and we'll see what the front office does. I'll plan as always to be a starter, and if not, I'll be able to handle a lot of innings next year."

With the loss, the last-place D-backs finished the season with a 64-98 record, the second-most losses in franchise history behind the 2004 team, which lost 111. That was also the last year the D-backs finished at the bottom of the standings.

In fact, Arizona finished with the worst record in baseball and therefore will pick first in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

The season, which started with a pair of regular-season games against the Dodgers in Australia on March 22 and 23, was a disappointment for a team that opened with the highest payroll in team history at $110 million.

The results also ended up costing general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson their jobs.

"It was a tough season all along," Collmenter said, "especially getting off to a bad start. We played some pretty good ball there through the middle. Some key injuries, we were constantly battling that. Now it's a chance to rebuild, look back on a lot of the positives -- we had a lot of young guys come up and play some huge roles, and that's exciting going forward."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Trumbo's pair of jacks help D-backs deck Cards

Three-run shot in 7th is pivotal blow after going back-to-back in 1st

Trumbo's pair of jacks help D-backs deck Cards

PHOENIX -- The D-backs prevailed with some power hitting on Saturday night, as Mark Trumbo hit a pair of homers in the D-backs' 5-2 win over the Cardinals at Chase Field to even the three-game series.

Trumbo's second jack, a three-run blast in the seventh off reliever Seth Maness, proved to be the decisive blow and kept the Cardinals from clinching their second straight National League Central title -- for at least another day -- which was a fact Trumbo downplayed after the game.

More

"We're aware of what's going on outside of here, and their situation, but we're still playing for us," he said.

Trumbo's two-homer night came less than a week after another power surge during the D-backs' last road trip, in which Trumbo hit three home runs in two days against the Rockies and Twins. Power, normally Trumbo's calling card, had been an issue before those games. The 28-year-old had only two home runs between July 11, when he came off the disabled list after sustaining a fractured left foot, and Sept. 20.

"I aim to be as consistent as I can be, but I think history shows I can be a tad streaky," Trumbo said. "Sometimes the good times are pretty good, and sometimes ... they're not. It seems like recently it's been going OK."

D-backs acting manager Alan Trammell said he thought some of Trumbo's previous struggles could be attributed to the first baseman focusing too much on his lack of power hitting.

"I'm sure in the back of the mind, because he's a power hitter [and] he's not had that kind of success, that he's thought about that probably more than he'd like," Trammell said. "There's a number of factors, but we're happy to have him and I guarantee that he'll have a much better year next year."

Trumbo was not alone in the home run column. David Peralta got the D-backs on the board first with a solo home run two pitches before Trumbo smacked his first-inning solo shot.

Peralta and Trumbo's back-to-back blasts marked the fourth time this season that D-backs hitters homered in consecutive at-bats. Nick Evans and Chris Owings were the last to do it against the Rockies on June 3.

"Two pitches I'd like back in the first," Cardinals starter Lance Lynn said. "They both ran back over the middle and both guys put good swings on them. I was able to get through six [innings]. I'd like the two back in the first, but after that, I was able to battle and get through six."

Lynn and D-backs starter Wade Miley each had their issues, and neither factored in the decision. Miley exited after five innings, in which he allowed two runs on six hits, while striking out six and walking three.

"I felt like I struggled the whole night and had to battle a lot," Miley said.

But reliever Randall Delgado took over in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game and pitched three scoreless innings of relief en route to his fourth victory of the season.

"[He] started off in the rotation and then we put him in the bullpen, but I think they have some starting pitching aspirations for Randall for next year," Trammell said. "I don't know that, but I just have a sneaky suspicion this year that he'll be in the running."

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

New D-backs' front office will work in concert

GM Stewart, senior VP of baseball operations Watson introduced during press conference

New D-backs' front office will work in concert

PHOENIX -- An example of how the dynamic will work between chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, general manager Dave Stewart and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson came during the press conference to introduce Stewart and Watson.

At one point, Watson leaned over and said something quietly to Stewart, who nodded.

More

"I'll show you have we have teamwork already," Stewart said with a smile. "De Jon reminded me of one thing I didn't do, and that was to recognize my family and the support from my family."

In short, La Russa will sit atop the department and Stewart will primarily be focused on the Major League club as well as contract negotiations while Watson will specialize more in overseeing scouting and player development.

There will be plenty of crossover, however.

"There's not like walls of demarcation here," La Russa said. "That's not how we do it. You've got your priority, but the key is going to be a lot of coming together and soliciting opinions. A lot of times out of that good baseball people, you produce a common decision. And if there's not the guy with the priority, or the trigger he pulls it."

La Russa believes that the model works because each of the three have different experiences and specialties. La Russa, as a former Hall of Fame manager, knows a thing or two about how a team should compete.

Stewart, meanwhile, has experience as an assistant GM in putting together rosters and as a successful player agent, he has developed an expertise in contract negotiations.

Watson has the most experience in player development and scouting during his years in the game. He will work with scouting director Ray Montgomery and farm director Mike Bell, both of whom have been asked to remain with the organization.

Stewart was a hot GM candidate around 2001, but after getting into the private sector as an agent not long after that, he did not think he would ever get another opportunity.

"I was in this game a long time ago and it's strange how things happen that the clock can wind back around," he said. "Now I'm sitting at an opportunity that I thought had gotten past me. What I can tell you -- the media and the public, the people that are watching -- I've never been away from the game. I'm a baseball guy, a baseball man, a baseball man through and through. I have very, very clear ideas of what champions look like and how champions play. That is what I'm expecting from this organization and from the players inside this organization."

Watson, meanwhile, had interviewed with the D-backs for the GM job that went to Kevin Towers in 2010.

"I'm really excited about working with the quality of people that are here, trying to enhance our overall process of how we do things and building out a championship-caliber organization," Watson said. "I think that's going to take a collective effort by everyone that's involved in this decision-making group."

There are still more pieces to be added to the front office group, including an analytics component.

As advanced metrics have continued to be more and more a part of the game, the D-backs have fallen behind in that regard. La Russa has acknowledged that the club needs to be stronger in that area.

"I think there's a place for it," Stewart said. "One thing we shouldn't be is we shouldn't be behind the train. We should at least be with the train. The train is moving in that direction, and I think, like everything, there's a way to use it. We shouldn't be overboard with it. We shouldn't under use it. There's a middle ground, and we're going to have to find out what that is. But I'm all for it. I think that there's a place for it -- I think there's a very good place for it within our organization."

Watson figures to play a big role in building the analytics department.

"It's something we had in-house with the Dodgers," Watson said. "We had a couple different things we were working with and working through. Looking forward to incorporating some of that here and finding a person that we really want to build something out with from an analytic standpoint. I think it's imperative that we grow our own culture internally of what's important for us, and identifying which analytics that are really going to weigh heavily with our decision-making process. I will definitely be heavily involved with identifying people who we're going to put in place for that."

Former GM Towers has been offered an unspecified job within the organization and it appears he will remain involved in baseball operations.

Stewart, who worked for Towers in San Diego in the late 90s, has said Towers has earned the right to be involved however much or little he wants to be.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs' late charge halted by Cards in 10th

Inciarte logs four knocks, including game-tying RBI double in 8th

D-backs' late charge halted by Cards in 10th

PHOENIX - Down three runs heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the playoff-bound Cardinals appeared to have things well in hand. But Ender Inciarte and the D-backs had a different idea.

Four straight singles led to a pair of runs, and Inciarte roped a ground-rule double into left field to bring home the tying run that forced extra frames. However, Evan Marshall yielded the go-ahead run in the 10th as the D-backs dropped a 7-6 decision on Friday night at Chase Field.

More

"[Inciarte has] been one of our bright spots," said Alan Trammell, who is serving as acting manager for the remainder of the season. "He is making a name for himself. He is going to be a good Arizona Diamondback for years to come.

"He brings energy, he's learned, he's very coachable. And he's been able to apply a lot of the things that coaches have been working with him."

Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek was tagged for all three runs in the eighth, as he allowed five hits.

"I could have made better pitches," Neshek said. "It just seemed like every ball was just out of reach, except for the [Inciarte]. He hit that pretty good."

Inciarte finished 4-for-6 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.

"I've been working hard lately," he said. "At the plate, things have been getting better for me."

But his offensive outburst and the D-backs' late rally proved to be for naught.

The Cardinals scored the eventual game-winning run when Jhonny Peralta's single drove in pinch-runner Daniel Descalso. Matt Adams had led off the frame against Marshall with a double.

"Obviously, we know they're trying to win the division. We gave them a nice little run tonight," Trammell said. "But, again, it's probably a broken record, [we fell] a little short. Give our guys credit for battling."

Both starters battled command issues during the game.

Michael Wacha's struggles came early. After Inciarte led off the game with a single, the right-hander walked the next two batters. At one point, Wacha threw six straight balls.

But after the D-backs scored twice off him in the first inning, the second-year starter settled down. Though at one point it looked like Wacha may not even escape the first inning, but he finished five innings and allowed just the two runs.

Trevor Cahill's struggles led to more damage. He gave up one run in the second inning but got through the next three without a blemish. He would not escape the sixth.

Cahill surrendered three singles to the first four batters in the inning, loading the bases and prompting a visit from pitching coach Mike Harkey.

Cahill then gave up a two-run double to Peralta that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game.

"I think I kind of ran out of gas at the end," Cahill said. "I kind of fell out of sorts, left some pitches up. The sinker wasn't really doing much. I was just trying to grind through it."

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs relieve Gibson, Trammell of their duties

La Russa says club needs to make fresh start heading into 2015 season

D-backs relieve Gibson, Trammell of their duties

PHOENIX -- When he went to bed on Thursday night, Tony La Russa thought he had reached a decision on what to do about D-backs manager Kirk Gibson.

When he awoke on Friday, La Russa was sure it was time to dismiss Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell.

More

In a strange twist, Trammell will remain to manage the final three games of the season.

La Russa had promised Gibson that as soon as he had decided his fate, whatever it might be and whenever it might happen, he would let him know immediately. So Friday morning, he went to meet with Gibson to give him the news face to face.

"That's the hardest [conversation] so far in 30 years of sending guys to Triple-A or releasing them," La Russa said. "A man of his stature. This is one of the greatest competitors of our generation and I saw it on the other side, and he and I, even before I got here, had developed a nice, respectful relationship."

Since being named chief baseball officer in May, La Russa had watched Gibson manage and he knew that Gibson was not dealt a fair hand with all the injuries, but in the end the decision was more about a new start.

"I really feel like for our organization and where we're going we start fresh with the manager," La Russa said. "We just decided that being fresh, starting fresh, with not just the upstairs leadership team but downstairs, is more consistent with what we are doing as an organization."

Gibson joined the D-backs as bench coach in 2007 and assumed the interim managerial title on July 1, 2010, before being name manager at the end of that season. The D-backs won the National League West in 2011 and Gibson was named NL Manager of the Year. During his four-year tenure as manager, the D-backs posted a 353-375 record (.485 winning percentage).

"I am extremely appreciative for this opportunity and I had a great experience with the Diamondbacks," Gibson said in a statement. "I know we had a tough year and people will look at this as a negative, but we accomplished a lot of good things here. I told the team that I have nothing but the utmost respect for this organization and the people I've met along the way. Most of all, I'd like to thank the players, coaches, staff and everyone within the organization for their unwavering support while I was here."

La Russa said that he met with new general manager Dave Stewart and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson and others in the organization on Thursday afternoon to discuss Gibson's status.

"Once they were in officially, we had a meeting yesterday afternoon with a group of guys in the organization who were welcomed to give their opinion as long as they knew that I'd been watching this thing closely for four months," La Russa said. "They've seen Gibby manage less than the other guys in that room, but they're observers and they had an opinion."

Letting Trammell go, just like with Gibson, cut deep with La Russa, who called Trammell one of his two all-time favorite players along with Harold Baines.

The rest of the coaching staff, including pitching coach Mike Harkey, third-base coach Glenn Sherlock, first-base coach Dave McKay, hitting coach Turner Ward, bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and assistant hitting coach Henry Blanco will have their statuses for 2015 resolved once the new manager is hired.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

D-backs need new leadership that can retain talent

D-backs need new leadership that can retain talent

This is a new version of limping off for Kirk Gibson. This is not 1988, when he perfectly followed the formula laid out by advance scout Mel Didier, ignored the pain in the hammy and knee and hit quite possibly the most memorable of World Series home runs.

This is 2014. And no matter how much appreciation we might have for Gibson as a lifetime baseball guy with a lengthy list of achievements and earnest old-school intentions, the emphasis on grit, the barbaric "eye for an eye" mindset and, most of all, the pileup of losses made him undoubtedly expendable for a D-backs club in transition.

More

The D-backs, under recently installed chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, named Dave Stewart their general manager on Thursday, and Stewart named Gibson his ex-manager on Friday. Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell -- two guys who very well might have been in your 1980s Starting Lineup figurine collection -- were dismissed at the tail end of a season in which Arizona never spent a single day above .500.

This is how it goes, of course. New guy, new regime, new tactics. No surprise. Particularly for a club that lost 22 of 30 out the gate this season and has continued its spiral as we near the finish line.

The D-backs are going to fall just short of 100 losses this season, on the heels of consecutive .500 seasons (after 2011's National League West title). Not many skippers could be expected to survive such a track record with a new boss installed above them. The only surprise here is that Trammell, strangely, is staying on board to manage this final weekend set against the Cardinals.

Certainly, people will joke that this is a long-awaited way for La Russa and Stewart -- members of that '88 A's club burned by Gibson's homer heroics -- to get revenge on Gibby. But really, one hopes the overarching lesson here, now that both Gibson and former general manager Kevin Towers have been yanked out of their roles, is that prioritizing intangibles over pure talent is dangerous business in modern ball.

The D-backs, under Towers and Gibson, famously did just that, running the talented likes of Trevor Bauer and Justin Upton off the roster in favor of an emphasis on some vague notion of intestinal fortitude that didn't really manifest itself in the win total. One oft-stated indictment of the Towers and Gibson regime was that guys like Bauer, Upton, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs (before he got hurt) and Brandon McCarthy seemed to be cast off at pennies on the dollar, while the likes of Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado and Addison Reed went backward upon their arrival.

These changes were about that, certainly. More than anything, though, they are about a fresh start for a franchise that has never received less in the realm of return on investment. The D-backs had a team-record payroll at the outset of 2014, only to be all but mathematically eliminated by the end of April.

Certainly, I'd be inclined to blame 2014's frustrations on injuries (the loss of Patrick Corbin during Spring Training was a mojo killer if ever there was one) and on some of Towers' roster machinations before blaming it on Gibby. It's a standard caveat in any dissection of any skipper dismissal that the manager only controls so much.

That said, at a time when professional baseball is and ought to be pushing forward in terms of strategy and sophistication, Gibson was a throwback in some negative ways.

What happened in mid-June, when Gibson orchestrated an intentional plunking of Ryan Braun for long-since-past grievances against the game was simply bizarre, given the game situation, and Gibson's fist-bump of pitcher Evan Marshall after the plunking was embarrassing. The karma police took care of matters from there, with the very next pitch of the game getting crushed by Jonathan Lucroy for a game-changing grand slam.

But that point was evidently not hammered home, because, less than two months later, Randall Delgado intentionally plunked would-be MVP Andrew McCutchen in retaliation of a clearly accidental (and season-ending) Pirates plunking of Paul Goldschmidt. This, too, was embarrassing -- a dumbing-down of a game that ought to be above such barbaric measures. The fact that Gibson not only encouraged these HBPs but celebrated them was a turn-off even to those of us who appreciate his past as a player and his passion for his profession.

Indeed, you can respect Gibson as a gamer and nonetheless be totally on board with his dismissal. The 6-17 September record under Gibson might be cited as an indication that he lost this clubhouse, but I think that record -- like the overall 2014 record -- is more an indictment of the pieces in place than anything else.

The takeaway here is that the D-backs are looking for a new voice in the dugout, and one can hardly blame them. But what remains to be seen is whether La Russa and Stewart -- two guys who seemingly fall within the "old school" classification -- continue to glorify grit with their new hire or take a more nuanced and tactical approach.

Ultimately, though, player talent is what wins out in this game. And no matter who steps in as the next manager, the D-backs need to do a better job of identifying -- and keeping -- that talent.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Stewart will command respect from players

Stewart will command respect from players

PHOENIX -- On the same day the D-backs ended one era in the dugout, they began a new one in the front office.

The D-backs on Friday introduced former Major League pitcher Dave Stewart as their new general manager and senior vice president, along with De Jon Watson as the club's new senior vice president of baseball operations, signaling a change to the players in the clubhouse.

More

"There's going to be some player moves, too," pitcher Brad Ziegler said. "It's not just a coaching staff and a front office change. There's going to be some overhaul in the locker room, too."

The D-backs dismissed former general manager Kevin Towers on Sept. 5, but he will likely stay in the organization, which also pleased players.

"I think it's great that they kept KT around," Ziegler said. "Everybody knows he's a great baseball mind. He's made some moves that have been questioned; he's made some other moves that have been tremendous."

Stewart brings the added benefit of having a varied résumé -- a major part of which is having spent 16 years as MLB pitcher. Half of that time was spent with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa's Oakland A's.

La Russa cited Stewart's wide range of experience at different positions in the baseball industry as a reason why he chose Stewart, saying, "He's got a [heck] of a lot more experience and qualifications than I do."

The players that Stewart and La Russa will ultimately be in charge of think it will help that Stewart has been in their shoes.

"The fact that he was a player, and I guess maybe [he is] a tad more sensitive to the grind of a Major League season and the actual day-to-day things that you experience as a player, and I think it's a plus as well," Mark Trumbo said.

Stewart's task is simple to say but harder to accomplish as he will look to return the D-backs to the contender they were only three years ago. But Stewart thinks the person to lead the team there is already on the roster.

"If you wake up in the morning and the sun is a little bit cloudy, when you know [Paul] Goldschmidt is playing, it makes everything OK," Stewart said. "He's the corner of what we are trying to do."

Goldschmidt said: "I hope he's right. ... You got to prove it. Whatever anyone says, whether it's good or bad, actions speak louder than words."

With the changes at the top of the front office -- La Russa coming aboard in May and Stewart and Watson on Friday -- the players know they're going to have to prove themselves to the new bosses.

"I think [Stewart is] going to demand a lot out of us," Ziegler said. "He had four straight 20-win seasons. He was among the elite in the late 80s, early 90s. With that being the case, he's not going to tolerate mediocrity. He's not going to tolerate poor performance, poor effort.

"He's got a way, when he talks to you, you walk away from it kind of empowered and you feel like you kind of want to run through a wall for the guy. I think in return, that's what he expects from us."

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

D-backs announce affiliation with Kane County

Player development contract to last two years with Class A organization

D-backs announce affiliation with Kane County

MINNEAPOLIS -- The D-backs on Wednesday announced a two-year player development contract with the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League.

The D-backs had been affiliated with South Bend, but when their agreement expired this year, South Bend signed a deal with the Cubs.

More

Kane County had previously been affiliated with the Cubs.

"We are extremely excited about our new relationship with the Arizona Diamondbacks," Cougars owner Dr. Bob Froehlich said in a statement. "Among many positives that we took from our recent meeting with members of Arizona's front office staff were these: their player development philosophy, their commitment to be passionately involved in the community and the feeling that beginning today, both the Cougars and Diamondbacks organizations can work in harmony with each other as a true partnership."

The Kane County organization announced recently a number of planned improvements for its ballpark -- Fifth Third Bank Ballpark -- including a new batting cage and an expanded weight and video room.

"We are thrilled and honored with our new partnership in Kane County," D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. "It is important for us to align ourselves with affiliates who possess similar philosophies and values as us. The Kane County Cougars Baseball Club is an ideal fit, as they are committed to their fans, to winning, and most importantly, their community. This new home for us will provide our young players with a safe, welcoming, and enthusiastic setting."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less

Perez makes D-backs history

Reliever becomes the club's first pitcher to strike out four in one inning

Perez makes D-backs history

DENVER -- D-backs reliever Oliver Perez made history on Saturday afternoon, as he tied a Major League record by striking out four Rockies hitters in the seventh inning of Arizona's 5-1 loss.

Perez became the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat, and it was the 44th time it had happened since 1998 -- with 43 of those coming in the regular season and one during the postseason.

More

Perez opened the seventh by getting Justin Morneau to strike out swinging. But the ball got by catcher Miguel Montero, allowing Morneau to reach first on the wild pitch.

Morneau would advance to second on a balk. But he was stranded there, as Perez struck out Corey Dickerson, Michael McKenry and Matt McBride swinging to end the inning.

"It was just one of those days that happens," Perez said. "More importantly, we didn't win."

That it had not happened in the history of the D-backs, who started play in 1998, was surprising. The fact that it even happened caught Perez off guard.

"I didn't even know I stuck out four guys when I finished the inning," Perez said. "So I'm kind of surprised."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less