What is the biggest difference we can expect to see from Kevin Towers being the general manager instead of Josh Byrnes?
-- Carl S., Phoenix
Towers has made a lot of changes to his front office since taking over, replacing the scouting and player development directors as well as the assistant general manager, as he begins to implement his philosophies. In addition, the D-backs have added some pro scouts and an advance scout, whereas previously that work was done by video.
As far as constructing a roster, one of the biggest differences between Towers and Byrnes will be the emphasis in how they build a pitching staff. It is not that Byrnes did not want to have a good bullpen, it is just that he believed in building a pitching staff from the front (i.e. starting pitchers) to the back (i.e. relief pitchers). Towers, however, believes a pitching staff should be built the other way and has stated his intention to do that in Arizona. With that in mind, you will see him continue to revamp the bullpen particularly when it comes to late-inning pitchers.
The bullpen last year was just atrocious, and all we kept hearing about was how these guys had great arms? What about getting results? Are we going to have to see the same guys again next year? Juan Gutierrez is not cut out to be a closer.
-- Kyle M., Tempe, Ariz.
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Kyle, I think you will see a vastly different bullpen in 2011. Whether the results will be different remains to be seen, but there figures to be a lot of new faces. I would think only two guys from last year -- Gutierrez and Sam Demel -- will go into Spring Training as favorites to win a job. In addition, I think it's safe to say that Gutierrez will have to earn his late-inning roles next year. He's not going to be counted on to close games or even pitch the eighth inning. He will need to earn his spot.
Towers earned respect throughout the industry for the bullpens that he built in San Diego, and a lot of times those bullpens were constructed with pitchers that other teams overlooked or gave up on, such as Luke Gregerson or Edward Mujica. Look for him to leave no stone unturned while trying to find new members of the bullpen. That will include not only looking at the free-agent market and trades, but also six-year Minor League free agents, non-tenders and pitchers who may be starters in other organizations that he thinks would make good relievers.
You've had the chance to watch [Kirk] Gibson manage for a half of a season. How do you evaluate him as a manager?
-- Chris R., Detroit
Chris, given all that Gibson had to deal with in 2010, I'm not sure we can fairly evaluate him as a manager yet. He took over a team that was in disarray, and in the first few weeks of his tenure, he saw veteran players like Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson traded away. I think you saw the team play with more intensity than they had previously and Gibson earned the opportunity to get a chance to have a full Spring Training to implement his program. I think once he's gotten the chance to do that, we will be able to more fairly evaluate his abilities as manager.
Gibson told me a few weeks after he took over that if he returned in 2011, the demands he made on players might be too difficult for some. We will see if that is the case next year, because I think no longer having the "interim" tag in front of his title will give Gibson the freedom to be more assertive in how he goes about doing things.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.