Notes: Leadoff spot remains a mystery
Manager's comments make Drew an unlikely candidate
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- D-backs manager Bob Melvin has said that he thinks shortstop Stephen Drew can hit just about anywhere in the lineup.All Drew cares about is being in the lineup. As for the specifics, he'll leave that to Melvin. "Whatever they want to do," Drew said. "[Melvin is] just going through lineups right now, checking out different things, so who knows where I'll be in the end. It doesn't matter to me. It's still the same game." The D-backs lack a prototypical leadoff hitter, and at one point it appeared Drew might be a candidate to hit there. But judging by Melvin's comments on Wednesday, that is no longer the case. "I don't really know if I want him in the leadoff spot," Melvin said. "He can drive in runs, hit behind runners, can be fairly aggressive, probably isn't the highest walk guy we have. I've been reluctant to put him in the one spot, and I don't know I will, to tell you the truth." Eric Byrnes, Orlando Hudson and Chris Young are all candidates to hit first. The two best suited for the position are Alberto Callaspo and Jeff DaVanon, but neither figures to be an everyday player. RJ update: Randy Johnson threw close to 55 pitches in his fifth bullpen session of the spring on Wednesday, including some sliders and split-finger fastballs. "Today was probably the best side day of any day that I've had since I've started just because I feel like things are getting better," said Johnson, who is working his way back after October back surgery. "The results were better with the pitches I was throwing. I felt like my legs were getting to where they need to be, and I just felt like everything, today, came together." The next step for Johnson will be firmed up on Thursday after the club assesses how he feels physically, but it appears likely he will throw a session of batting practice on Saturday.
"I'd like to think I've got to be getting pretty close to batting practice," Johnson said. "I'm not sure, but I know anything beyond this point will just come as I throw more. To feel comfortable out there with all my pitches and to feel like the pitches are where they need to be at this point, considering I've only thrown my slider a couple of times, I feel like things are pretty good."Johnson no longer gives any thought to his back while throwing. "I've thrown a couple of times at 50-plus pitches, and tonight it gets a little sore and it works its way out," he said. "It's just building a tolerance to it like anyone else. I go out there now and I get the ball and try to do what I've tried to do over my career -- and that's throw strikes and get hitters out." Acceptable: Jose Valverde allowed a run on a hit and one walk in his first inning of the spring on Tuesday night against the Padres. "What I want to see is if his arm looks healthy, if his delivery looks fairly consistent which it was," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "He threw a couple of good splits, a couple of not so good, but overall the ball came out of his hand good, the velocity was good. I was pleased. I have a lower expectation the first time guys see hitters, because you're dealing with the adrenaline for the first time, and there's no way to prepare for that in bullpens or batting practice. I do expect he'll be sharper in his next outing." Valverde will no doubt be watched closely this spring as the D-backs are counting on him to be their closer. Over the past few seasons, Valverde has been dominant at times but has also had his share of struggles. Not acceptable: Melvin has been less than pleased with how his team has run the bases lately. The D-backs have a young core of position players that reported to Spring Training basically with a job already in hand, but Melvin said nothing is guaranteed. "We want these guys playing hard," Melvin said. "I'm not happy with the way the baserunning has gone here recently. We're trying to go first to third a lot, and we're not doing it as much as we should. The one thing we want to do in the non-steal situations is run the bases hard, take the extra base, go first to third a lot, and I'm not seeing enough of it right now. If it's something you're not used to doing, then you have to keep pushing it, because when you get into a game, you tend to fall back to the way you did it before. You can do it all you want in pregame drills and stress it all you want, but when they get into the game, that's when they have to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zones a little bit and find out what they can do. And if we don't see it, we're going to address it." Up next: After two games in the Phoenix area, the D-backs return to Tucson on Thursday to take on the Angels at 1:05 p.m. MST. It will be the first matchup of the spring between the two teams. Left-hander Doug Davis, acquired in an offseason deal with the Brewers, will make the start for the D-backs. Dustin Nippert, who is battling for one of the final spots in the rotation, is also scheduled to throw.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.