Church expresses desire to return in 2011
Outfielder could play integral bench role for Towers' D-backs
PHOENIX -- When new D-backs general manager Kevin Towers was asked about his offseason priorities, he used three words: "Bullpen and bench."
Ryan Church wants to be a member of the latter in 2011. The arbitration-eligible outfielder -- he was acquired from the Pirates on July 31 -- met Towers before Wednesday's win over the Rockies.
"We finally have everything concrete and have the guy who will be running the show," Church said. "Now it's just all up to what they're going to do with staff, with players.
"Nothing is guaranteed. I'm playing for next year, whether it be here or somewhere else. I'd love to come back. I love the direction this team is going. It's a great clubhouse, a great front office. It's an exciting time because you know his track record, what he's done."
Reading into the GM's own comments -- he did say more than three words -- changes could be in store, especially for two sectors of the ballclub he believes are critical to success.
"Your good teams have experienced bench players that know their role," Towers said. "With double-switches in the National League, it's vital and it's important to have a manager that has weapons on the bench and in the 'pen where he can choose and manage the game, knowing the type of matchups he might get late in the ballgame."
If Church sticks around, his defense will be one reason why. In his seven Major League seasons, he has made 119-plus starts at each outfield position. He also carries a .993 career fielding percentage, and has not recorded an error in his past 90 games, a team high. Wednesday's victory ended with Church making a sliding grab in left field.
An inconsistent bat, however, has kept Church from starting every day. He batted .182 in 69 games in Pittsburgh but, despite sporadic playing time, has picked up the pace in Arizona. Over his past seven games, he's batting .375 (6-for-16) with two home runs, two doubles and six RBIs.
Church did not start Thursday's series finale against Colorado, but he was available -- off of the bench.
Maddux not joining D-backs' coaching staff
PHOENIX -- Hitting coach Jack Howell, quite the character around the D-backs' clubhouse, briefly interrupted interim manager Kirk Gibson's pregame talk Thursday with reporters to ask a question of his own.
"Excuse me?" Howell asked, "Do you know, will the coaches be coming back next year?"
"I hope we all do, yes," the manager replied, breaking through the laughter in his office.
While the joke played off well, the question wasn't so out of bounds. Kevin Towers, named the club's general manager on Wednesday afternoon, told USA Today's Bob Nightengale that he hoped to hire former Cy Young Award winning pitcher Greg Maddux as either his pitching coach or bench coach. It became apparent on Thursday that it will not happen.
Maddux will resume his post as special assistant to Cubs GM Jim Hendry next season and has expressed no formal interest in returning to the dugout in a coaching capacity.
"[Towers' comments] didn't bother me because I knew what Greg was going to do," Hendry said. "I don't blame anybody for wanting Greg Maddux."
The Hall of Famer-to-be aids Chicago in scouting, player evaluation and instruction.
"He could probably do any job in the game that he chooses to down the road," Hendry said. "He made the commitment to his family to work this way. When he wants to come back, if he wants to be in uniform, I'll always try to accommodate him."
Gibson mum on NL MVP preference
PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson didn't dare cast a public vote for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, though two strong candidates -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- are in the visiting dugout at Chase Field.
The D-backs' interim skipper -- the Baseball Writers' Association of America bestowed the honor on him in 1988 -- noted the varying definitions of what "most valuable" actually entails.
"I was surprised when it happened to me," Gibson said. "My MVP party, I hated it because everybody was there for me. It was all 'Kirk, Kirk, Kirk.'
"We had a World Series parade that year, and that was fun. That's just the way I think. I'm being old-fashioned, but that's just how my mind works."
Gibson said his MVP plaque has never been displayed in his home.
Rodrigo Lopez, who was struck on the palm of his pitching hand during Wednesday's game, will start on Tuesday in San Francisco, in his usual rotation slot. ... Right fielder Justin Upton (left shoulder irritation) was absent from the D-backs' starting lineup for the eighth consecutive game on Thursday. "He's been working really hard," said interim manager Kirk Gibson. "We do want to make sure before we leave here that he's healthy, so we're taking that approach." ... Kelly Johnson didn't just go deep in Thursday's game, he also set a new career high in stolen bases when he swiped his 12th of the year off of Colorado's Manny Delcarmen-Chris Iannetta battery in the sixth inning.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Carrie Muskat contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.