D-backs manager A.J. Hinch answered questions about the 2010 season during a live web chat with fans on Thursday. Hinch gave updates about Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson, commented on the bullpen and discussed the approach he will take during Spring Training. Hinch: Hello everyone. Thanks in advance for your questions. Like many of you, I can't wait for Spring Training to begin. dbacker20: Any updates on Webb's rehab? Will he be reporting with the pitchers and catchers in a little over a month?
Hinch: Brandon is already here in Phoenix working with head trainer Ken Crenshaw and his staff. He has begun a throwing program and looks great. In fact, I played catch with him the other day and saw firsthand how much more comfortable he look throwing the baseball. benpav: What do you expect from Chris Young and Justin Upton this year? Can Young continue to build on how he did at the end of 2009, and can Upton continue to make leaps toward superstardom? Hinch: Good question. Young experienced quite a roller-coaster year last season and showed improvement as soon as he came back from Triple-A. His September performance was very encouraging that he will contribute at a high level this season. Upton had an exceptional All-Star season and has developed into one of the more dynamic players in the big leagues. Players take steps forward at different paces, but I can't see a reason why both players wouldn't continue to get better and more consistent. loveukoppy: How will the signing of Adam LaRoche affect the dynamics of the D-backs' infield and clubhouse? Hinch: Obviously, this has been a hot topic from the headlines of today. Although we aren't finished with the signing process as of this chat, it looks very encouraging that we may be able to bring a talented position player on board to strengthen our club. 1dachshund: Why do you think catchers seem to make the best managers? Hinch: Excellent question given my love for catchers. Ex-catchers seem to find a way to the manager chair because of their involvement in every aspect of the game. No other position on the field has as much interaction with the manager, coaching staff, pitching staff and offensive players as the catcher. Therefore, we tend to develop a good sense of the game as a whole. Managers can certainly come from any background, but the ex-catcher supply is plentiful. BarryB23: I know you don't control the purse strings on the team, but your input is certainly important. How do you feel about your bullpen as it stands right now? Do you believe that the team could use the talents of a Jose Valverde? Hinch: We have had a successful offseason addressing needs in the bullpen. We were able to develop young relievers throughout the course of last season (Juan Gutierrez/Esmerling Vasquez/Clay Zavada/Leo Rosales). With Chad Qualls returning as our closer and the additions of proven veterans in Aaron Heilman and Bobby Howry, I am confident that once the roles in front of Qualls are assigned, we will have a dependable relieving core. cowboybomb: Will we see Conor Jackson back in the lineup this year? Hinch: I definitely look forward to having a healthy and productive Conor Jackson back in the lineup. As many of you already know, he had a successful stint in the Dominican Winter League and came back with a lot of confidence. Last season, we missed his ability to grind ABs and be a disciplined hitter at critical moments of the game. His return combined with the disciplined approach of second baseman Kelly Johnson will add to the quality of our team offense. tjmcgreevy: Do you expect to have a fast lineup? Will we see a lot of running or are you looking for hitters to carry the offense? Hinch: Our offense, while at times streaky, can beat our opponent in many ways. We do have the ability to steal bases up and down the lineup, so I like to put pressure on the other team. We stole over 100 bases last season, and I'd like to see that trend continue. Kirk Gibson does a great job with our basestealers, and they've shown steady improvement over the course of the last few seasons. We don't have blazing speed on the roster, but I like our ability to be aggressive and take bases when we can. snakecharm: The team seems to have a plethora of available outfielders this season. How will you decide your outfield on a day to day basis? Hinch: I'll answer this question for not only outfielders, but also the rest of the roster. Clearly, playing-time competition is one of the greatest motivators for professional athletes. Competition within a roster can bring out the most production in a player. That being said, we have the luxury of having a very versatile team at many positions. Having the versatility of Ryan Roberts (INF/OF), Augie Ojeda (2B/SS/3B), Jackson (1B/LF), potentially Tony Abreu (2B/SS/3B) gives me many options on a daily basis. Giving players rest at the right time, matchups that are positive, and enough competition to keep them on their toes are all benefits of how our roster is constructed. snakecharm: Now that you get to start from Spring Training with your team, what changes do you plan to implement? Hinch: Everyone involved with the D-backs (players, staff, front office, fans) experienced the highs and lows of what can be a frustrating season. Given all that we experienced last season, we are glad to be starting 0-0 again. We have a strong tradition of winning in this organization, and I look forward to doing my part to reestablish us as a contender. This spring, my staff and I will work tirelessly to create that winning environment in our clubhouse and around our club. We have the ingredients to do it, and I believe in our team. Whether it is an increase in intensity, a focus on defense, or a spirit in which we play, I hope you enjoy the 2010 D-backs. Hinch: Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to doing it again sometime. Thanks for being fans of our team and I look forward to the season ahead.