Melvin says expectations will rise in '08
Success of NL West title will put big target on D-backs' backs
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The D-backs may have snuck up on some teams in 2007, but they are well aware of the fact that they will have a target on the back of their Sedona Red and Sonoran Sand uniforms next season.
That's what happens when you win the National League West and win a league-leading 90 games.
"You know, just the fact that the expectations are raised are based on our successes last year, and we would rather be in that position," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "We know that the expectations will be higher next year and I think our guys are ready for the challenge."
As things stand right now, the D-backs' starting lineup in 2008 will closely resemble the one they used in 2007, but they figure to be better because their young nucleus will continue to improve.
Melvin, who was named NL Manager of the Year by The Sporting News as well as the Baseball Writers Association of America, met with the media and addressed a number of topics:
Leadoff hitter: "You know, obviously it's status quo right now. We'll see. I mean, Chris [Young] did a tremendous job. We may feel like we need him in the middle of the order being that he is a power guy. Still kind of yet to be determined. We do have some options. Stephen [Drew] is one of them. I think we started out the year with Stephen there and went back to him a little bit later, and so he is an option for us. But there's really no set guy that we're looking to lead off as of right now."
Acquiring a starting pitcher: "I like our club. If we do improve here, it's gravy. We're always looking to better our club, yet we like the group we have here and don't want to break it up too much."
Fifth spot in the rotation: "We have some intriguing guys, obviously. Edgar [Gonzalez] did a great job for us. Whether or not [Max] Scherzer is a guy that competes for a starting job, or whether or not we see him as more of a bullpen guy. We have some guys coming along, too, the Greg Smith's and guys like that. So we do have some inventory."
Dustin Nippert's role: "I think the way it looks right now, he's settled into [a bullpen role] very nicely. I'm not shutting down his potential to start, and I think if you asked him what he would like to do, he probably would like to start. But he wants to help the team out any way and realizes he helped in the role he did last year, that he's giving himself more options to stay at the big league level. And he created a nice little niche for himself."
Possibility of Micah Owings playing some first : "We talk about it a little bit. We really haven't settled on anything yet. But certainly it's potentially, depending on how our roster looks, an option.
How he'll handle the team's corner logjam: "We had to go through it last year. We're not afraid to match up on certain days. We'll see how far along [Chad Tracy] is and whether or not he's ready for Opening Day. But based on everybody being healthy again, it's difficult, yet you can never have too many good players. So if we have to match up, we match up. We'll just see, like I said, Tracy's situation when we get there."
How he'll split up catching playing time: "We have two very good young catchers, and both of them probably could be starting somewhere. So, you know, [Chris] Snyder did obviously quite a bit last year to thrust himself into a starting role. Yet you don't want a Miguel Montero sitting around and getting 80 at-bats or 100 at-bats being strictly a backup. So we will mix and match with the group, but I think going in, you would have to consider Snyder the starter."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.