Notes: Fifth rotation spot up for grabs
Owings and Nippert now in line to try to claim spot
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The No. 5 spot in the D-backs rotation became even more wide open Tuesday afternoon.
One day after Enrique Gonzalez surrendered seven runs (five earned), Dana Eveland allowed nine runs on 11 hits in four innings. Both were believed to be favorites to secure spots on the team, but in the last few days, the race for the final rotation slot and presumably one spot in the bullpen has gotten very, very interesting.
"It looks like at times it's clearer but one outing could switch it either way," manager Bob Melvin said.
That one outing could come Thursday night when Micah Owings is scheduled to follow Randy Johnson to the Chase Field mound against the Padres.
"He gets marquee, right behind Randy and in front of our home crowd so it will nice to see both those guys actually at home," Melvin said. "This is probably, as far as Owings' outings have gone, the one that probably stands out the most and I expect him to respond. Everything we've thrown at him he's handled beautifully this spring. He watches the game, he understands it, he's sitting on the bench for nine innings of every game. He's quite the student as well and is excited about being here."
One obstacle that is out of Owings' control is that he is not on the club's 40-man roster and with Johnson expected back by mid-to-late April there is at least some question as to whether the team would add him for what could be just a few weeks in the big leagues.
One possibility could be to have Owings start the year in the No. 5 spot and then shift him to long relief when Johnson returns. If it did that, though, the organization would have to be confident that he would get enough work so as not to set back his development.
Of course if Owings doesn't pitch well Thursday, the team could decide on Gonzalez or Eveland, or even Dustin Nippert who starts Wednesday against the White Sox.
Speaking of jobs: Melvin on Tuesday made official what had been pretty much assumed for a while -- Edgar Gonzalez will be the No. 4 starter and outfielder Scott Hairston has secured a spot on the roster.
Melvin called both players into his office Tuesday morning to give them the news.
"In a tough time in camp when some of the conversations are difficult," Melvin said, referring to having to cut or release players, "it's especially nice to be able to have those kinds of conversations as well."
Hairston celebrated by hitting three home runs against the Rockies.
"If I had known Scotty Hairston would have responded like that I would have waited until Opening Day to tell him he was on the club," Melvin joked. "That was pretty impressive wind blowing out or not. Smokes a ball to right-center field, left, the second one the wind helped it, but the third one goes out of Yellowstone."
Hairston was all smiles well before the game started when he learned he would be on a big-league Opening Day roster for the first time in his professional career.
"I'm very excited," he said. "When [Melvin] called me into the office I wasn't sure what to expect, but he was smiling so I figured it must be good. It's very special."
Webb ready: Opening Day starter Brandon Webb threw six innings in a Minor League camp game so he would not have to face the Rockies five days before seeing them in the opener.
Webb threw nearly 90 pitches and said he feels ready for the start of the season.
Quentin update: Oufielder Carlos Quentin (labrum tear) took some soft toss followed by around 20 pitches from Melvin in the cage and reported no problems with his left shoulder. Quentin is expected to take batting practice Wednesday and then get into some Minor League games.
Bounce back: Reliever Doug Slaten pitched a scoreless inning two days after Melvin said the lefty's roster spot could be in jeopardy if he didn't begin to pitch better.
"Slaten showed me something today," Melvin said. "Walks a guy then a (infield single) and now its first and second nobody out and ended up getting out of it. Ended up making his pitches and getting out of it so he kind of responded very well today to probably some added pressure on him."
Up next: The D-backs close out the Tucson part of their schedule Wednesday with a 1:05 p.m. MST game against the White Sox. Nippert will square off against John Danks.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.