Notes: Coaches focus on baserunning
Skipper would like players to get better reads on basepaths
TUCSON, Ariz. -- D-backs manager Bob Melvin would like to see his team run the bases better in 2007.
With that in mind, Melvin has turned to bench coach Kirk Gibson, a longtime former Major Leaguer who was known for his hardnosed style of play, to take the lead.
"My experiences playing with Gibby, he was probably the best baserunner I've ever been around," Melvin said. "His knowledge of it goes way beyond anybody I've been around. We're going to let him go with the guys on the bases."
Gibson did just that on Saturday as he ran practice while Melvin was up in Phoenix attending the team's annual Fan Fest.
It's not so much that the D-backs are focusing on stealing bases, but rather on being intense and getting good reads on the basepaths.
"A fielder wants to get rhythm to move on a ball," Gibson said. "If you're hitting, you need rhythm. The other thing is your mentality. When you're at the plate you're very intense. When you're in the field, you've very intense, so we want to have some intensity out there and some rhythm out there. Your game can't drop off [on the bases]. It can have a huge impact on the game."
With a camp filled with younger position players, the D-backs staff is getting them at a good time to reinforce things they've learned coming up through the Minors.
"They were much improved today," Gibson said. "These guys are hungry. I'm very impressed. They work very hard."
Ouch: Outfielder Scott Hairston was working on getting leads from second base with Gibson when catcher Chris Snyder roped a batting practice line drive that struck Hairston just below the elbow.
"He froze," Gibson said. "I almost got hit six or seven times out there. That's part of the game, but it's unfortunate."
Hairston left the field with trainers after the incident, but he said afterwards that it's more of a bruise on the muscle than anything else.
"At this point I know it's going to be all right, I just don't know if I'll be able to go [Sunday]," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see. It was just one of those things. I didn't have that much time to react."
Step to it: Center fielder Chris Young has unique mechanics when taking batting practice. Young doesn't step with his front foot, but rather just shifts his weight.
"I've learned if I step in [batting practice,] it just gets me into bad habits," he said.
During games, he said he tries to keep his stride at the plate short. By doing that he can see the ball better and let it travel farther, which helps with pitch recognition.
Making adjustments like that could be one reason why Young has been able to reduce his strikeout totals of late.
Familiar face: The D-backs will face Javier Vazquez when they open the Cactus League season against the White Sox on Thursday. Brandon Webb will start for the D-backs.
Vazquez spent the 2005 season in Arizona before being traded to Chicago.
Testing: The D-backs 40-man roster guys underwent drug testing by Major League Baseball on Thursday. As part of the Basic Agreement, players are tested at least once and a maximum of four times during the spring.
Small world: Young's manager in rookie ball was Hairston's father, Jerry, a longtime member of the White Sox organization.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.