In 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks won 94 games, captured their first division title since 2007 and gave the Milwaukee Brewers all they could handle in the Division Series of the playoffs. It all led to manager Kirk Gibson winning the National League Manager of the Year and left people believing they could be the team to beat out West again as the season opens this week.
Not so fast, Gibson says. He understands the solid season his team had last year and the accolades that come with it, but he’s not ready to crown his team before the season even begins. He says the Diamondbacks will need to recapture the things that made them good a year ago if they hope to recreate — and even escalate — the 2011 season.
Kirk Gibson joined KTAR in Phoenix with Gambo and Ash to discuss the progress made during spring training, Paul Goldschmidt heading into his second season, the preseason perception about his team, the rehab of Stephen Drew, being aggressive on the base paths and the progression of Chris Young.
Do you feel like you accomplished just about everything you wanted to in spring training?:
“I know we worked on the things we wanted to work on. Ultimately we did the same thing last year. Some different things we worked on this year, but when we got into the season last year, the players bought in and started executing those things. And it helped us win ball games. It’s going to be up to us all this year to do the same thing.”
Are you tempted to bat Paul Goldschmidt higher in you batting order?:
“I stated earlier that I was thinking about putting him down early to keep the pressure of him. I think it’s important that he gets off to a decent start this year, this his second year. I don’t want him to be up there in the 4, 5 probably. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t move him. My thoughts are that there’s a lot of RBI in the 7 as well, especially on this team. We’ve got a very solid lineup.”
On preseason perception:
“The awards and everybody’s talking about how good we are and everything. The reality is nobody knows who’s going to win. That’s why we play every year. We feel good about ourselves. We do have some confidence from what we accomplished last year, but we’re going to have to get down and do what we do. We’re going to have to be hungry, relentless, very dedicated to our goals and we’re going to have to stick together just like we did last year because the tough times will happen. They’re going to come and there’s going to be many people pushing the panic button and we can’t be one of those people.”
On the status of Stephen Drew:
“I think we all wish that he’d be ready to play, but he’s not. He’s getting closer. Is it a week? Probably not. Is it a month? Hopefully it’s not that long, as well. I will tell you after watching Stephen … he’s come a long, long way. What I sense is he has more confidence in what he does and what he can do and what he’s willing to do.”
You guys were more aggressive on the base paths last year, but it also led to more outs there. What’s the strategy going into this year?:
“It’s a catch 22. Of course you’d like to make less outs on the base paths. Just think about if somebody was telling you they wanted you to be aggressive and they want you to go, go, go and when you made an out nobody ever said anything to you in a negative way. Obviously we make note of situations when you’re down 7-1 and we’ve got a man on first and second and someone hits a line drive directly to the shortstop and you get doubled off. That’s a mental error. … I think it has a bad effect when you’re always correcting and being negative about situations when people run into outs. … We’re not going to play a dull, boring because we’re behind. We’re going to make some outs in the process and we accept that, but we want to have energy regardless of the score.”
On the progress of Chris Young:
“I would say that Chris Young, if you watched him this spring, actually watched how he’s evolved as a hitter. From 2007, when I was here, he’s got a lot more length in his swing, he’s staying on many more balls, he’s not pulling off them. He’s hitting the ball much more squarely in games and that’s why I might hit him fifth.”