TUCSON, Ariz. -- When Brandon Medders finished off a quality Spring Training at the D-backs' Tucson base in March, he did not expect to visit the city for another year. A bad couple months later, that's exactly where he found himself, however, after giving up the winning run in the 11th inning of a loss to the Giants on June 7. Things slowly started to unravel for Medders from his third pitch of the season on Opening Day in Colorado, when Jeff Baker knocked a cutter out of the ballpark. The long balls kept coming as Medders continued to miss location, leading to eight homers allowed in 22 1/3 innings, more than he had given up in the first two years of his career, spanning 102 innings.More
The home runs caused Medders to try to make perfect pitches, which in turn led him to walk 14 batters, including the leadoff hitter in his final game against the Giants, who eventually scored. The walks contributed largely to a 4.84 ERA that made him look little like the pitcher who entered the season with a 3.09 career ERA. "A little bad luck there at the beginning, and then it turned into a mental thing, so I come down here, get my head right and do the things that I need to work on," Medders said. "I just want to be right, and then when the time comes I want to be ready to go back up, help the team." Medders set out to work on his control and confidence, but the early results were not promising in Tucson. Despite throwing two scoreless innings Sunday, Medders owns a 1-2 record with a 5.89 ERA in 18 1/3 innings, including nine walks, but he has allowed just two homers. The reliever took a step in the right direction in Sunday's contest, in which he gave up only one hit and did not walk a batter, leading Tucson manager Bill Plummer and Medders to agree it was his best outing of the year. The righty said he "sure did" feel more like the pitcher of the past two seasons who was expected to be a key cog in Arizona's bullpen than the reliever who started this season. "That was the best I've felt in a long time," Medders said. "I felt pretty good. I felt like I had command of all four of the pitches that I throw, and my mind felt free and confident. That period was probably the most that I've felt confident. I felt like I had everything in mind, artillery working." Hammock waiting his turn again: When the D-backs sent Robby Hammock down to Triple-A on June 10 after Chad Tracy returned from the disabled list, manager Bob Melvin gushed about Hammock's versatility in the field, saying he "absolutely" belongs in the Majors. Although Hammock's ability to play five different positions, as he has in 25 games for Tucson, makes him an ideal player at the end of the bench in the National League, Hammock said it also hurts him at times. "It just hurts me in a way -- in some situations, in some games, if somebody's hurt and we can't really play them, I'm the last guy to go in a game," said Hammock, who hit .237 in 28 games for the D-backs this year. "I'm always kind of being saved as the insurance guy, so sometimes it can hurt." It also could hurt him in that he's not a defensive wizard in the infield like Augie Ojeda, or a true outfielder like recently recalled Jeff Salazar. His calling card and what he said got him to the Majors in the first place comes from his play behind the plate. Since many teams don't activate a third catcher, however, Hammock does not expect to return to Arizona this year unless a backstop gets hurt. Plummer called Hammock "outstanding" behind the plate, saying he would thrive as a backup catcher in the Majors on top of giving a manager a bevy of options to use later in the game. In the mean time, he's been Tucson's primary No. 3 hitter, with a .376 batting average, including a walk-off single in his first game of the year. "There's so many circumstances that it just can't be controlled, and there's nothing I can do about it," Hammock said. "I just have to be patient and wait." Callaspo comfortable in Tucson: After earning the system's Minor League Player of the Year honors, Alberto Callaspo started the season in a utility infielder role now played by Ojeda. A starter throughout the Minors, Callaspo struggled in his new role off the bench, hitting .206 in 45 games. "Sometimes it's hard for a guy to adjust to that role right away," Plummer said. Back in his comfort zone in Tucson, where he's the everyday leadoff man at second base or shortstop, Callaspo owns a team-best .390 batting average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 20 games since being sent down on June 14. That includes a five-hit game June 20 in which he finished a double shy of a cycle and drove in four. "To play every day I can do what I do right now," Callaspo said. "I just had to play every day and make an adjustment. That's it." Quentin set to start Minors stint: Carlos Quentin used the full 72 hours he had to report to Tucson, which gives him a week off in combination with the Triple-A All-Star break. He is expected to get right to work as the No. 3 or 4 hitter when the Sidewinders return to action Thursday, as the club plays five games in three days because of a couple of rainouts. In 66 games for the D-backs, Quentin hit .210 (42-for-200) with five home runs and 28 RBIs. "I don't know if anything's good for a kid that gets sent down from the big leagues, but basically, now it's his job to get himself back, and that's one of the things that's tough about this level at times," Plummer said. "I'm sure he's going to do well for us, and hopefully he's not here that long." Harville breaks saves record: Closer Chad Harville set the Tucson single-season saves record Saturday by nailing down his 22nd save of the campaign. He's 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA on the season in 40 innings. "He's been our most consistent guy all year out of the bullpen from the start to right now," Plummer said. "Hopefully he'll get an opportunity to be in the big leagues." Harville joined teammates Mark Johnson and Alex Romero in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less