Diamondbacks Report: Childsplay

Diamondbacks Report: Childsplay

What most of the Diamondbacks lineup lacks in experience, they make up for in confidence. ALSO: Micah Owings' chances of making the 25-man roster, and health updates for Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, and Jeff DaVanon.

INSIDE PITCH

Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes has said it's the kids' turn to see what they can do, and with that, the young executive has reached into his pockets and tossed the car keys of the franchise to the likes of Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew and Conor Jackson. Now he has to hope they won't crash.

There have been younger teams in the majors, but Arizona most certainly will be among the youngest in baseball this season -- at least in terms of its everyday position players -- and the youngsters are being counted upon to help make the Diamondbacks legitimate contenders.

Though they will have a fairly solid pitching rotation on which to lean, from Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson to Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis, it won't be an easy task.

"That's one thing (manager) Bob Melvin and the coaches keep telling us, that everything's earned up here," said right fielder Quentin, 24. "You're fighting for a job. The last thing they want is any type of complacency.

"This is the ultimate level, there's a lot of pressure here, but we have to embrace it, stay sharp and be ready because somebody is always there to take your job. We've got to stay hungry and have that fire."

That wasn't so much the case just a few years ago, when some of the club's top prospects at the time seemed far too comfortable and nonchalant soon after being recalled from the minors to help out a injury-riddled roster. Veteran players questioned some of the youngsters' work ethics and dedication and voiced those concerns to management.

But this specific group seems different and perhaps even destined for something far greater and more memorable.

"It's not all about potential, it's about performance," Byrnes said. "These guys dominated in the minors, and Drew, Quentin and Jackson showed in the majors in their first extended playing time that they can play well at this level, too.

"They all can do enough defensively so that even if there are some growing pains offensively, they're going to be able to help us win games. And I think history suggests that it isn't as long of a learning curve as you might think."

Byrnes points out the rapid rise of such young talent in the majors as Webb, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season at age 27, along with the likes of Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and the Marlins pitching staff.

"I think our guys will perform, too, enough to give us a chance to win this year," Byrnes said.


NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Brandon Webb missed his scheduled start on March 17 because of a stiff neck suffered earlier in the week. The neck began bothering Webb when he was playing catch, but it wasn't thought to be a major concern. His range of motion was limited, however, and he was to be monitored daily. He was to pitch in a simulated game before resuming his normal schedule.

--LHP Randy Johnson visited Dr. Robert Watkins, a Los Angeles spine specialist, for a routine checkup to monitor the progress of the veteran's rehab from October back surgery to repair a herniated disk. Johnson was one more side session against hitters away from making his Cactus League debut.

--LF Eric Byrnes has made it a priority this spring to try to use the whole field instead of solely relying on trying to pull the ball. Of his career-high 26 home runs in 2006, the right-handed hitter hit none to right field.

"There's a whole other side if the field I've never used in my career," Byrnes said. "(Pulling the ball) is my strength; I know that. If I can use the whole field, I think I can become a lot better baseball player."

--The Diamondbacks optioned INFs Danny Richar and Emilio Bonifacio, OFs Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Romero, LHP Evan MacLane and RHP Jailen Peguero to minor league camp and reassigned OF Justin Upton, RHP Adam Bass and C Wilkin Castillo to minor league camp.

--OF Jeff DaVanon, who likely will start the season on the disabled list as he slowly recovers from left ankle and right knee surgeries, on watching his competition: "I'm a bench player, and I see these guys in here and they're bigger, stronger and faster. I want to be able to be out there and show I can still contribute to the team, too."

BY THE NUMBERS:
53 -- Number of pitches thrown by LHP Randy Johnson in his first look at live hitting during a batting practice session with six hitters. 8 -- Number of swings that produced hits against Johnson in the same side session, with only one ball struck well to the outfield by minor league C Josh Ford.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I never want to rule anything out. A lot of times it's a tougher road for a guy you haven't started the clock on and has options and so forth." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin on RHP Micah Owings' chances of making the 25-man roster, which could be a reach seeing as he isn't on the 40-man roster and doesn't need to be protected for another two years.

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