Notes: Drew, D-Backs still talking

Notes: Drew, D-Backs still talking

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stephen Drew, the Diamondbacks' first-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, has reportedly signed a contract with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League, according to Baseball America.

Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick and general partner Jeff Moorad met with Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, last week at Boras' Newport Beach, Calif., office. Moorad said the Diamondbacks presented a contract offer to Drew.

"We had a productive exchange," Moorad said. "We took our best shot at putting a deal together. We left feeling we had an honest exchange with Stephen Drew and Scott Boras."

The signing with the Riversharks is not expected to impact the D-Backs' negotiations with Drew.

Arizona made Drew the 15th overall selection last June, but the two sides have not been able to reach agreement on a contract. Drew, a standout shortstop at Florida State University, was a junior at the time of his selection and has not played since the Seminoles were eliminated from the NCAA tournament last year.

"It's an opportunity for him to get a uniform on and play some baseball," Bob Brower, a representative for the Scott Boras Corporation, told Baseball America.

Arizona has until June 1 to sign Drew or he will go back into the draft pool.

Another signing: The Diamondbacks signed left-hander Armando Almanza to a Minor League contract Wednesday and assigned him to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.

Almanza, 32, pitched for the Marlins from 1999-2003 and appeared in 13 games for the Braves last year. This spring he went to camp with the Giants as a non-roster invitee. In six big league seasons he is 14-13 with two saves and a 4.87 ERA.

Almanza is the fourth pitcher the D-Backs have signed to a Minor League contract recently. He joins Darren Oliver, Javier Lopez and Kerry Ligtenberg, and with Triple-A Tucson's roster full, he was sent to Double-A.

"He's got Major League experience," Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "We'll take a look at him."

Gotta wait: Major League Baseball rules can be tricky when it comes to player moves. Take the case of Lopez.

The lefty specialist was with Colorado's Triple-A Colorado Springs team when the Rockies recalled him, not to report, before placing him on waivers. The Diamondbacks claimed him off waivers -- again not to report -- and then optioned him to Triple-A Tucson.

So while Lopez traveled from Colorado Springs to Tucson, his contract paperwork went from Colorado Spring to Denver, then on to Phoenix before settling in Tucson.

As a result of the rule that requires a player spend at least 10 days in the Minors after being optioned -- unless he is recalled to replace an injured player -- Lopez is not eligible to be recalled until Monday.

Tentatively speaking: Center fielder Jose Cruz Jr. received a second epidural shot for his strained lower back Wednesday.

Cruz, who is on the 15-day disabled list, did not accompany the D-Backs on their recent road trip. The tentative plan is to have him take batting practice when the team returns to Phoenix this weekend. If all goes well, he could then be sent out on a rehab assignment to get some at-bats before possibly rejoining the team next week in Los Angeles.

"It's all about how he responds," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.

Thriving on action: D-Backs reliever Brian Bruney is tied for the National League lead in appearances with nine, but he is not complaining about the workload.

"I like it," Bruney said. "It's tough when you throw once every five days like I did at times last year; especially if you're in a groove, you want to keep throwing. As far as stuff goes, I feel like my stuff is pretty good right now. I'm pretty confident going out there every night."

Fellow Arizona reliever Mike Koplove also has appeared in nine games.

Coming up: Russ Ortiz will get the start for the D-Backs on Thursday, and the right-hander is plenty familiar with SBC Park after spending parts of five seasons with the Giants.

Ortiz was with the Giants when they moved from Candlestick Park to SBC Park to start the 2000 season. While pitching in the ballpark from 2000 to 2002, Ortiz became accustomed to some of its quirks.

Whereas right-handed hitters may be tempted to go the other way, given that it's just 309 feet down the right-field line, Ortiz would welcome it.

"Not a whole lot of right-handers have hit the wall in right field," he said. "It's not like Fenway. It's closer than most places, so you'd think people are just going to be peppering that thing, but it doesn't happen."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.