Tag:Kevin Towers
Posted on: February 29, 2012 7:10 pm
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Arizona's Drew comes back one grounder at a time

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- He works slowly, methodically. One ground ball at a time.

The Diamondbacks remain steadfastly non-committal about whether shortstop Stephen Drew, returning from a devastating ankle injury, will be ready in time for their April 6 opener against the Giants. Odds are against it.

They are insistent that no timetable is set because, well, once a timetable is there, then the player can start to rush, maybe push things a little too hard and that's the last thing anybody wants.

"He's probably ahead of where we thought he'd be," Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said Wednesday. "His range looks good. His arm looks good.

"With him, it will be recovery time. It will take some time to break up the scar tissue."

Drew broke his right ankle and severely damaged several ligaments sliding into home plate in a game last July 20.

How ugly was it? Giants catcher Buster Posey, who broke his own ankle during a play at the plate last May, said this spring that he'll watch replays of his own collision before he'll watch a replay of the Drew play.

"I cringe," Posey said.

It's been a long, tough rehabilitation since then for Drew. Add surgery for a sports hernia over the winter to his list of obstacles, and you can see why the Diamondbacks are determined to let Drew go at his own pace and not screw this one up.

"From what I've seen, he looks great," starter Daniel Hudson said. "We don't want to rush anything.

"Hopefully, when he comes back, he'll be the old Stephen Drew and he can help us with a playoff push."

In 86 games last season, Drew hit .252 with five homers, 45 RBIs and four steals. In three of the four years before 2011, he played in at least 150 games.

"There's a long way to go until he's ready, but it will be great to have him back," Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton said. "He's a big part of our team. Everybody knows, he's so big on defense."

Certainly, Drew's return is as important as anything for Arizona this spring. Towers helped keep the Diamondbacks in first place after the shortstop's injury last summer with his savvy acquisition of Aaron Hill and John McDonald from Toronto.

McDonald and veteran Willie Bloomquist will share time at shortstop until Drew returns.

A big test will be his first Cactus League game action, and that's an unknown, too. He will not be ready when Arizona opens exhibition play Saturday. The next big thing, then, will be to see how he responds playing in back-to-back games, and when he plays three or four days in a row.

"We're pleased with the way he's fielding balls, his body control when he makes plays, his range," Towers said. "I think he feels good where he's at."

Sunblock Day? The wind moved out of the Valley and the temperature crept back up to the mid-60s. The sun returned and all was good. But it will be better Thursday and Friday, with the temps expected back in the 70s.

Likes: What a difference in Diamondbacks camp this spring compared to last. Now, they're defending NL West champs and the talent level and depth is impressive. Then, they were coming off of a 97-loss season, Kirk Gibson was running his first camp as manager and they had no idea what was ahead. ... Frank's enchilada plate at Frank and Lupe's Mexican Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. Great food, great off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. Delicious hand-made tortillas. ... Steve Azar's Slide On Over Here. ... Listening to Diamondbacks coach Alan Trammell work with some of the kids on a back field the other day during work on cutoffs and relays, and hearing him explain to them that they had better learn it now to the point where they can do it instinctually. Because when you get to the major leagues, the crowds are so loud you often don't hear the other player hollering instructions.

Dislikes: Awww, sleep well, Davy Jones.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Oh, I could hide 'neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings
"The six o'clock alarm would never ring
"But it rings and I rise wipe the sleep out of my eyes
"The shavin' razor's cold, and it stings
"Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
"To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?"

-- The Monkees, Daydream Believer

Posted on: October 13, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Orioles to interview Dbacks' DiPoto for GM job

The Orioles have received permission from the Diamondbacks to interview Jerry DiPoto as their search for a general manager to replace Andy MacPhail begins, sources have confirmed to CBSSports.com

DiPoto was Arizona's interim general manager after the Diamondbacks fired Josh Byrnes and before they hired Kevin Towers in 2010, after which he became their senior vice-president for scouting and player development. As interim GM, he was the point man for the Diamondbacks when they acquired four pitchers, including Joe Saunders and top prospect Tyler Skaggs, from the Angels for Dan Haren.

Highly respected within baseball circles, DiPoto, comes from a playing and scouting background. A former major-league pitcher, DiPoto was Colorado's director of scouting before coming to the Diamondbacks as their director of scouting and player development.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, of course, will make the final decision on MacPhail's replacement -- with significant input from manager Buck Showalter.
Posted on: October 8, 2011 12:57 am
 

Arizona's Towers: "We just didn't get last ups"

MILWAUKEE -- From 97 losses a year ago to the 10th inning of the Division Series this year. What a path the Snakes slithered, what diamonds the Diamondbacks carved out of last year's rocks.

When it finally ended with a hold-your-head-high 3-2 heartbreaker in the 10th inning of Game 5 here Friday night, it was a sad but proud Arizona team that headed toward the offseason.

"We fought to the end," said veteran general manager Kevin Towers, who fixed one of the worst bullpens in history to help pave the way for Arizona's remarkable turnaround. "That's what we did all year long. Never say die.

"We just didn't get last ups."

Indeed, the visiting Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead early on Justin Upton's homer, fell behind 2-1 and then tied it 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning on Willie Bloomquist's gutty, successful safety squeeze against Brewers closer John Axford.

Axford had converted 43 consecutive save opportunities until Bloomquist's bunt. But the Brewers won it in the bottom of the 10th anyway.

"You look at both clubs and they're equally talented," Towers said. "They got the key hits at the end. If this series was to end the way it probably should have ended, it had to go extra innings."

Diamondbacks club president Derrick Hall checked in with a tweet as the Diamondbacks headed for their charter flight home Friday night: "I have never been prouder of my @dbacks. Those boys fought all year and their heads are held high. Thanks to our great fans."

"We've come a long way," said rookie manager Kirk Gibson, the overwhelming favorite to be named as NL Manager of the Year. "We set goals in the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, we didn't get all the way there. We talked about changing the culture and what does it mean to be a Diamondback.

"And I just told these guys that they should be proud because they've set the stage and the standard for how we want to play. And they've done it all year. Some of these guys will be back on our team. Some guys will move on. I feel like we've given them a positive experience, and they'll all be ambassadors for the game."

Talk about an offseason that will be colder and longer than usual. Given this year's success, the Diamondbacks are certain they're headed in the right direction and already can't wait to get started on 2012.

"The off season is too long," Towers said. "This was a fun group of guys. I'm going to miss being around them this winter. The comeback wins ... they just had a great attitude."
Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Diamondbacks' Towers shakes things up

It's not necessarily the path to the NL West title. But it was not surprising to see aggressive, first-year Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers strike a deal Monday as Arizona's tenuous hold on first place shrinks.

The Diamondbacks were absolutely pasted on their current trip by NL pennant contenders Philadelphia and Atlanta, dropping two of three to the Phillies and losing all three to the Braves.

Will Tuesday's acquisitions of shortstop John McDonald and second baseman Aaron Hill from Toronto reverse that trend? Let's just say a shift in the schedule, away from the two best teams in the NL, will be the biggest help.

But it's all hands on deck now as the Diamondbacks work to keep baseball's biggest surprise story going, and both Hill and McDonald should help.

In McDonald's case, Arizona is still trying to plug the hole at shortstop left when Stephen Drew fractured his ankle a month ago. And in Hill, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson now has another hand to play at second base in place of Kelly Johnson, whose fuel tank appears on "E". Johnson, since the All-Star break, is hitting .181/.246/.324.

Hill isn't exactly tearing it up (.225/.270/.313), and his OPS is second-worst in the American League (his .584 ranks 150th of 152 players with at least 400 plate appearances). But he's a better contact hitter than Johnson and hit a combined 62 homers for Toronto in 2009 and 2010. In Arizona's thin air and homer-friendly park, maybe Hill can run into a few.

The Diamondbacks need something, and quickly. Their 2-0 win in Washington on Tuesday snapped a six-game losing streak. The ugly corollary to that: When Sean Burroughs cracked his first homer since April 30, 2005 -- a two-run blast -- they were the Diamondbacks' first runs scored in 32 innings.

During their six-game losing streak, Arizona batted a combined .153 with only seven runs scored, three doubles, a triple, three homers, 17 walks and 55 strikeouts. Ugly.

This just after new acquisition Jason Marquis, acquired to help eat innings and serve as a veteran anchor in the rotation, blew out for the season with a fractured leg.

Things could have gone from bad to worse Tuesday when slugger Justin Upton, having a career year, left in the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in the left elbow. Early reports -- a bad bruise, no break -- are encouraging, but if Upton is slowed, that will make things even more difficult.

As things now stand, once the Diamondbacks leave Washington following Thursday's game, 29 of Arizona's final 32 games are against NL West clubs (with a three-game set at home against Pittsburgh mixed in).

Will that help? Hard to say: Arizona is 23-21 against NL West opponents this season. What might help most is this: Arizona plays 19 of its final 32 at home, and the Diamondbacks are 36-26 in Bank One Ballpark so far this season.

Likes: Two bumper stickers I've seen recently. The first: "My Child Was Student of the Month at Pedro's Tacos." The second: "Whassup haters?" Love the first one. ... Cool summer in Southern California, but it's warmed up this week and I got out for a bike ride along the ocean Tuesday. And it was beautiful.

Dislikes: An earthquake in Washington, D.C.? What's next, a damn blizzard in Los Angeles?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She wrote a long letter
"On a short piece of paper"

-- Traveling Wilburys, Margarita
Posted on: July 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 12:03 am
 

Upton draws interest, gets advice from brother

You bet the rumors swirling around his Tampa Bay batting helmet have gotten B.J. Upton's attention.

"Thanks for all the support on twitter - I appreciate it," he tweeted from his @BJUPTON2 account Tuesday -- presumably as Atlanta, or Cincinnati, or San Francisco phoned Rays general manager Andrew Friedman yet again.

"Now I know how my brother felt this offseason," came another tweet from Upton. "Anyone hear any good trade rumors this week? Still here!"

Matter of fact, the buzz grew louder Tuesday surrounding Upton. Several industry sources believe that the Rays, at 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, will dump Upton by Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline the same way they dumped Matt Garza and bade farewell to free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Grant Balfour last winter.

Money -- the lack of it, thanks in no small part to horrible attendance in Tropicana Field -- remains a significant problem for the Rays. And it's not getting any better.

Several clubs are looking for the kind of spark that Upton (.229, 15 homers, 53 RBIs, 23 steals, terrific defense) can provide. He would fit perfectly in San Francisco, especially if the Giants fall short in their quest to obtain the Mets' Carlos Beltran. The Giants, according to sources, have interest. So, too, do the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Cardinals and, possibly, the Phillies writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

And B.J. is right -- brother Justin, Arizona's right-fielder -- went through a similar stretch last winter.

"I've talked to him, and we laugh about it," Justin told me Tuesday afternoon. "When it comes down to it, like last winter with me, it's out of your control. You just have to do your thing, see what happens and let it be."

Difference is, Arizona is committed to Justin Upton, 23. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers made that clear last winter when he traded third baseman Mark Reynolds to Baltimore.

The Rays? Not so much with B.J., 26 -- much to Upton's chagrin.

"Obviously, he's played his whole career there and he lives there," says Justin, who said the brothers probably talk four or five times a week. "He wants to stay. It's always tough in a situation like that."

Ubaldo Jimenez to Yankees?

The Yankees appear to be in the best shape to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez if the Rockies decide to deal him, as colleague Danny Knobler writes. Here are takes from two scouts who have watched Jimenez pitch in recent days:

Scout one: "Quite frankly, he's not the same guy as he was last year. Before, when he needed to go get it, he'd hit 100 m.p.h. When I saw him in Denver, he'd reach back to muscle up and it was 95. [Atlanta's] Scott Proctor threw harder. If Ubaldo at sea level is 91, 92, 93, he's not the same guy."

Scout two: "I can't imagine Jimenez going anywhere. If he's on a real frickin' contender, he's a No. 3 right now. Something's missing."

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

--Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he thinks Friday and Saturday will be the key days when the trade market loosens up and the action begins. "There are a lot of clubs out there with scouts looking at minor league clubs right now," Towers says.

-- While you might think they're looking to replace injured shortstop Stephen Drew, Towers says he is looking for pitching, pitching and pitching. Starting and/or relief.

-- The Giants, Rangers and Phillies have scouts in Cincinnati this week watching Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran as New York GM Sandy Alderson enters the crucial final days before making one of the more significant decisions in recent Mets history. "Beltran looks real good right now," another scout who has been watching in Cincinnati this week says. "He's looking healthy."

-- One club that has spoken with Washington say closer Drew Storen can be obtained in the right deal.

-- Rival clubs say the Angels are diving into the trade market after owner Arte Moreno, hesitant at first, now has approved additional payroll for midseason help. While the Angels are looking for a third baseman, they would send shortstop Erick Aybar to the Mets for Jose Reyes straight up and take the rest of Reyes' $9 million 2011 salary if New York would bite (the Mets won't, they're keeping Reyes). "I'd do that if I'm the Mets," one NL executive says. "They're not going to be able to re-sign him. How can you give Reyes 10 years at $20 million [each] when he's hurt all the time?

-- Minnesota doggedly has insisted it can win a weak AL Central for the past month, and Tuesday night's comeback win in Texas was a big one. If the Twins do decide to become sellers, don't be surprised if they make outfielder Delmon Young available.

-- Well, in a weak market for starting pitchers, look who's coming off of the disabled list to start Friday for Seattle: Erik Bedard. He'll start against Tampa Bay unless something happens between now and Friday, and you can bet the scouts will swarm Safeco Field. Bedard has not thrown more than 100 innings in a season since 2007. He's at 90 now, so look out.

-- Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey continues to draw interest and Minnesota is expected to deal him.

-- The Marlins are looking to add, not subtract, and do not intend to deal closer Leo Nunez unless blown away with an offer. Florida is moving into a new stadium next season and has not gained near the momentum they had hoped this summer.

-- About that odd timing of Milwaukee acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and announcing it just after the All-Star Game ended? Rodriguez's former agent Paul Kinzer had failed to submit proper paperwork for K-Rod's 10-team no-trade list -- Milwaukee was on it -- and with K-Rod having hired Scott Boras recently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was afraid Boras would correct the oversight. That's why, once the Mets and Brewers agreed to the deal, Alderson wanted it finalized as soon as possible, afraid that if they waited even one more day, Boras would get the list in and K-Rod would have power to scotch the deal.

-- Wonder what's taking so long for the trades to happen this week? Wonder why you read some rumors that turn out to be badly off the trail? Some insight from legendary executive Pat Gillick's Hall of Fame speech on Sunday: "As a young scout I, remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scout would know I was interested in a prospect. I remember the assumed names or clever tactics we all used to get an edge and throw others off the scent."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 3:52 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 4:24 pm
 

"Highly unlikely Justin Upton leaves the desert"

While the Diamondbacks shipped out third baseman Mark Reynolds and his 211 strikeouts in trading him to Baltimore on Monday, Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said outfielder Justin Upton probably will not follow him out of town.

"It was going to take a lot to move him," Towers said. "He's a young player, 23, he'll only get better with time.

"If someone is willing to overpay, then maybe. We're not one player away. We'll have a better idea when we leave here, but I'd say it's highly unlikely that Justin Upton leaves the desert."

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks, on a mission to fix a horrible bullpen, moved toward agreeing to a two-year deal with free agent J.J. Putz to serve as their new closer, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

The Diamondbacks were among the most active teams as the winter meetings started on Monday. Immediately after announcing the Reynolds trade, Towers said the Snakes have agreed on a one-year deal with free agent third baseman Melvin Mora. In replacing Reynolds, the Diamondbacks currently project Mora and Geoff Blum to split time at third.

Meantime, the Reynolds deal was the first move in Towers' stab at rebuilding what was one of the worst bullpens in the last half-century in 2010. Coming to Arizona for Reynolds are right-hander Daniel Hernandez, the former starter, and right-hander Kam Mickolio.

"Believe me, it was on my mind that when you're dealing with Kevin Towers, you're dealing with the foremost bullpen expert in our business," Orioles president and general manager Andy MacPhail said.

"I like power arms, and we had [Hernandez] up to 98 m.p.h.," Towers said. "And in the pen we saw a power spike. He has huge sink down in the zone, and he can pitch above the belt because of his velocity."

Towers also likes the "downward angle" the 6-foot-9 Hernandez brings to the mound.

The new Arizona GM called this deal the first move in the process of overhauling the Diamondbacks bullpen. He also said he is confident that the club will leave the winter meetings this week with a new closer. Looks like Putz is on deck.

Posted on: October 4, 2010 12:51 pm
 

Dysfunctional Mets need changes at top: Very top

What we're about to find out as the New York Mets regroup, revamp and retool (and re- anything else that sorry franchise can think of) in the wake of firing general manager Omar Minaya and field manager Jerry Manuel is this:

Whose philosophy will emerge?

That of owner Fred Wilpon, the old man owner who might finally be humiliated enough to take charge of his own franchise?

Or that of Jeff Wilpon, Fred's son, who as the chief operating officer makes a very good bull in a china shop, bullying his way through the front office while essentially acting as the de facto GM?

Fred, according to sources, is said to favor an older, more established general manager such as Sandy Alderson or John Hart.

Jeff, according to sources, has favored the promotion of assistant GM John Ricco in what most view as a completely transparent attempt to put a puppet in charge who would continue to allow Jeff to pull the strings.

"Jeff Wilpon has been the GM this year," one source within the Mets' organization told CBSSports.com. "He has made Minaya's life hell.

"Omar was better off when he was in Montreal and Washington. Since Fred backed off and Jeff stepped up, it's similar to Baltimore. It's like the [Peter] Angelos kids. The Mets are going to end up like Baltimore if they don't watch it. What GM is going to want to go there unless Jeff backs off? It's amazing."

A veteran GM with West Coast ties who was hired to run the Diamondbacks last month, Kevin Towers, according to sources, received a back-channel overture from the Mets earlier this summer as the wheels were coming off but wanted no part of a dysfunctional situation in which, currently, Jeff Wilpon runs unchecked.

"We are extremely disappointed in this year's results and the failures of the past four seasons," Jeff Wilpon said in a statement Monday announcing the firings of Minaya and Manuel. "We need to hire a new general manager with a fresh perspective who will transform this club into a winner that we want and our fans deserve."

Not that Minaya didn't make his share of mistakes, because he did.

But what the Mets need most is a chief operating officer who will back off and actually let the baseball men
run the baseball operations unchecked, without constant interference.

Posted on: September 23, 2010 5:26 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 5:28 pm
 

New Arizona blueprint: Less whiffs, better pen

New Arizona general manager Kevin Towers does not look at the Diamondbacks' situation as a major rebuild. And if things go the way he would like them to, among the first results you'll see is a team with an improved bullpen and, after a record-setting performance (non-performance?) this year, hitters who strike out much less.

The Diamondbacks all season have had the worst pen in the majors. But on Towers' first day as club GM Wednesday -- and with him in the stands -- the Diamondbacks set a new major-league single-season record for strikeouts.

The record breaker was Stephen Drew's whiff against Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa for 1,400 -- surpassing the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers' mark of 1,399. The Diamondbacks finished the game at 1,400.

"Power numbers come with strikeouts, but I think it's a little excessive," Towers was saying in the hours before the game. "I haven't had a lot of time to spend with [hitting coach] Jack Howell, but I do believe we can cut down on the strikeouts.

"Recognizing pitches better, knowing your hot zone. Guys might be pressing. There isn't a ton of experience, and sometimes guys press and change their swings.

"We'll come up with a plan for each and every guy, and hopefully cut down on strikeouts."

Three Diamondbacks currently reside in the top 10 among NL strikeout leaders: Mark Reynolds (first, 204), Adam LaRoche (fifth, 159) and Justin Upton (eighth, 152).

Five D-backs reside in the top 14 among NL strikeout leaders: The aforementioned trio plus Chris Young (tied for 12th, 136) and Kelly Johnson (14th, 135).

It's a trend that has become more alarming with each passing year: While this year's club already has set a record for most strikeouts, the 2009 D-backs ranks 10th all-time (1,298 strikeouts) and the '08 club ranks 11th all-time (1,287).

As for the bullpen, the Diamondbacks' is historically bad. Not only is the 5.76 bullpen ERA the worst in the majors, the numbers are among the worst of any bullpen over the past 50 years.

Among his priorities, Towers lists "improving the bullpen, improving the bench and improving the starting pitching depth." He praised key position players already in place, naming catcher Miguel Montero, shortstop Stephen Drew, center fielder Chris Young and second baseman Kelly Johnson among the assets.

That all of those players play up the middle, where all good clubs must be strong, is heartening to Towers.

Among the starting pitchers, Towers singles out for praise Ian Kennedy, Joey Enright and Daniel Hudson.

Towers historically built stellar bullpens during his 14 years in San Diego, and though he noted part of that was because he had closer Trevor Hoffman for 12 years and Heath Bell for two, that will be the goal in Arizona. Towers mentions delving into the free agent market, the international free agent market, looking at minor-league six-year free agents, every avenue available.

"I don't think this is a situation where we'll have to wait a couple of years," Towers said. "My hope is to be next year's Padres."

Likes: Lots of people think the Dodgers have packed it in given their uninspired play (and given James Loney telling the Los Angeles Times this week that at times this year other teams have played harder than the Dodgers), but you can't accuse manager Joe Torre of quitting. He's shuffled his rotation to make sure Clayton Kershaw gets a start against the Rockies next week. The Giants, Padres and even Braves surely appreciate that. ... Atlanta's Matt Diaz tripping the fan who was running around the field like an idiot in Philadelphia the other night. ... This blog on Derek Jeter from the YES Network's Jack Curry. ... San Francisco traveling to Colorado this weekend, and there's nothing like a hot rivalry stoked by conspiracy theories. ... This obituary on Leonard Skinner, an old Florida high school phys ed teacher -- and the namesake for band Lynyrd Skynyrd. ... And if you've ever used the term "so-and-so has jumped the shark", you owe it to yourself to read this first-person account from the man who, yes, wrote the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumped the shark.

Dislikes: Love Tina Fey. Love Steve Carrell. Date Night? Do not love it. In fact, did not even like it. Disliked it so much I yanked it out of my DVD player halfway through the other night.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Pretty women out walkin' with gorillas down my street
"From my window I'm starin' while my coffee goes cold
"Look over there
"Where?
"There!
"There's a lady that I used to know
"She's married now or engaged or somethin', so I'm told"

-- Joe Jackson, Is She Really Going Out With Him?

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com