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Byrnes says 2006 will be a step forward

Byrnes says 2006 will be a step forward

Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes participated in an online chat with fans Friday. He talked about the high expectations he has for the D-Backs this season, team depth and the surprises out of Spring Training camp.

Byrnes: Hello, everyone. I look forward to answering as many questions as possible today. I hope everyone is excited for the upcoming season.

rereit: How are the D-Backs doing in terms of depth this year?

Byrnes: Our depth is outstanding. Spring Training games are a reasonable measure of depth. We played well through most of March, and our final decisions as we construct our 25-man roster have been difficult. I believe that our depth will serve us well over the 162-game season. Our Triple-A team will have many position players and pitchers who are able to contribute in the Major Leagues now.

scout01: What are your expectations for this season?

Byrnes: Our expectations are high. Many people feel that we have conceded the present for the future. That is not the case. We are taking care of our future, but we believe that our 2006 team can compete in the NL West. We also have the depth, as I referred to, as an important ingredient to make any improvements in-season.

Base_Ball: Is there a particular player who surprised you the most with his performance in Spring Training?

Byrnes: Bob Melvin has frequently said that this was probably the best 57-man camp he has ever seen. People like Chris Carter, Jerry Gil, and Casey Daigle were probably the most pleasant surprises in camp. All of them were non-roster invitees who performed exceptionally well.

dan_tarner: How do you plan on improving the pitching staff in the years to come?

Byrnes: We feel that our pitching depth is very good. Our immediate challenge is to find the right pitchers and place them in the right roles. It is fair to say that our position player talent is ahead of our pitching talent right now. We have strategized about every way to improve our pitching (trade, free agency, scouting and development). In reality, we need to explore every avenue because the attrition rate for pitchers is fairly high.

azmatazz: I really liked your trade for Juan Cruz. Given the state of the starting pitching, what are the chances of Cruz assuming a starter's role?

Byrnes: We targeted Juan Cruz because he has the potential to improve our bullpen and our rotation. He has a chance to be a starter for us at some point. We also view Dustin Nippert and Kevin Jarvis as candidates if we need help in our rotation early in the season.

Dave_Falk: Who do you think will need to step it up the most this year in order for the D-Backs to be successful?

Byrnes: Our starting rotation, like most of our competitors, carries the most risk and reward for us. We need Miguel Batista to thrive in his return to the rotation. We need El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) to stay as healthy as possible. We need Russ Ortiz to bounce back. As I have said earlier, we have significant depth to reinforce any problems that arise, but Batista, Hernandez, and Ortiz could really help us with solid starting performances.

Thomas_Decker: We have seen teams like the Cubs lose half their young starting pitchers to injuries. What are your plans to continue to keep pitchers like Brandon Webb and other upcoming pitchers healthy?

Byrnes: Of course, we understand that pitchers are susceptible to injury. That said, we try to consider all factors in order to keep them healthy. We scout/target certain types. We monitor workloads as much as possible. We have a tremendous medical staff in place to strengthen our pitchers and try to prevent injury. From my standpoint, we are always looking to add pitching as insurance against injuries.

sarumantc: Would the Diamondbacks ever consider attempting to develop Jennie Finch( ultra-dominant professional softball pitcher with an Arizona background, married to D-Backs prospect Casey Daigle) as an MLB pitcher?

Byrnes: Good question. Believe me, we are not afraid of trying something unconventional. For now, Casey has pitched tremendously well and has made himself a candidate for our bullpen.

youvebeencounselled: Do you feel the best way to address the pitching depth problems will be through mid-season trades for free agent aquisitions during next year's offseason? The pitching market has exploded on both fronts, but I don't want to see any of the top prospects leave.

Byrnes: Free agency sometimes can do more harm than good. Open market prices for players in their 30's can be a tricky combination. We try to be aggressive targeting pitchers, but we also try to manage our risk. In that respect, trades or homegrown talent are often more attractive ways to access pitching. In any trade, we will guard our top prospects carefully, and we devote a lot of time to ranking and evaluating our own talent.

Base_Ball: How do you like living in Arizona?

Byrnes: I love it. Aside from the beautiful winter, I have really learned how much of a baseball state this is. People do follow and understand baseball. We are motivated to put a successful and entertaining product on the field for our fans.

tab316us: The last two years the Diamondbacks acquired shortstops with their first-round picks, potentially solidifying the middle infield for years to come. What do you potentially see as the area of focus for the upcoming June draft?

Byrnes: Mike Rizzo and his staff have been among the best in the business in the draft. Mike and all of us understand that we do not really want to tell the draft what we want. We need to consider the talent pool and the strategy of our competitors. With our extra picks this year (we received two compensation picks for the Tim Worrell signing), we expect another strong draft. And, yes, we will draft a lot of pitching.

rereit: How has the American League to National League transition been?

Byrnes: Interesting. Given the NL rules, we have different roster issues to consider. With a 12-man pitching staff and no DH, we need versatile bench players. As a result, guys like Damian Easley and Jeff Davanon were attractive to us as free agents. Players like Tony Clark and Andy Green are also tremendous offensive weapons for a National League club.

scout01: Do you have any advice for people that want to make a career in the front office for a baseball team?

Byrnes: I would say the primary ingredient is passion. We work long hours and commit to these jobs, yet we love our jobs. Despite the old school vs. new school debate that prevails, I believe the best front office types have a combination of baseball experience, intellect, passion, and personal values. We are a close-knit group and debate every day about the best ways to build a championship-caliber club. In general, front offices are smaller and more multi-functional than most people would imagine.

Byrnes: Thanks for the great questions. We believe that 2006 will be a step forward for us, and we are excited to start the season in a few days.

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