How serious is Kirk Gibson about not including Joe Saunders in the starting rotation, and what does that mean for his future? Bullpen? Cut?
-- Howard F., Phoenix
Saunders has not thrown well this spring, I think he would even tell you that. In fairness to him, he's been working on trying to refine his cut fastball, and like a lot of veterans who think they have roster spots when Spring Training begins, Saunders seemed to be more focused on working on things than getting results. That's not to say he was not trying or that he did not care, just that his focus was on getting ready for the season and refining pitches.
My take on the whole thing is that Gibson is simply lighting a fire under Saunders and that he will wind up being a part of the rotation. Saunders is due to make $5.5 million in 2011, so there is no way the team is going to end up just releasing him. Worst case for him is he ends up in the bullpen, but I don't see that happening right now.
Xavier Nady has looked awful this spring, and I'm wondering if he still is going to be the starting left fielder on Opening Day.
-- Kathy H., San Diego
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Nady has not swung the bat well during the spring, and some scouts have said that his bat speed looks slow. The last few days he has swung it a little better, and his throwing has improved in the outfield.
With a guaranteed contract, I still have him penciled in as making the team. As for whether he starts or not, I find it hard to believe that, at least initially, they will start him over Gerardo Parra given how well Parra has played this spring.
It seems we could really use a veteran left-hander in our bullpen. How likely is it that Mike Hampton will make the Opening Day roster?
-- Terri L, Mesa, Ariz.
I liked Hampton's chances a lot better at the beginning of camp than I do now. That being said, I think there's a chance he still makes the team, but he'll have to pick it up here this last week.
Jordan Norberto has pitched pretty good if the D-backs want to keep a second lefty. They do really like Hampton and what he brings in terms of his experience and mentality, so they will give him the benefit of the doubt, but he will need to pitch better soon.
What is the deal with Geoff Blum? I haven't seen him in the lineup for a while now.
-- Chris P., Mesa, Ariz.
Blum received an injection in his ailing right knee Tuesday, and I'm starting to really doubt whether he will be ready come Opening Day. Maybe the knee will feel better by then, but I would think he's got to get into games soon in order to get his timing down with live pitching.
Gibson declined to say Wednesday, when I asked what the latest is that Blum could get back on the field and still be ready for the opener, but I really think that date is approaching quickly.