03/12/11 7:16 PM ET
Branyan or Pena could swing way onto roster
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Likewise, outfielder Wily Mo Pena was seen as a long shot to land a spot in the outfield.
Yet, if they keep on hitting the way they have so far this spring, there may be a way for one of them to make it as a bench player.
Both manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers have talked about the value of having a good bench, and either Branyan or Pena would provide some serious thunder as pinch-hitters.
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"We've got two guys in looking at our team," Gibson said, referring to whether he could see carrying a player strictly for his prowess off the bench. "The closers in our division are right-handed. That would maybe lend well to a guy like Russell, but Wily Mo Pena, I mean my gosh, he's been outstanding. That's a possibility that we would have a guy on our club kind of like that. A veteran guy that can influence the game when we're behind or we need someone to drive the ball even early in the game."
Neither Branyan nor Pena is known for his defense. Branyan, though, maintains that defense is the last part of his game to come around each spring so it would be unfair to judge him on that yet.
Gibson has liked the approach Pena has taken at the plate as the spring has worn on.
"Wily has worked on a lot of stuff," Gibson said. "[Friday] he laid off a couple of breaking balls, then he got a ball he could pop. Where before he was thinking more pull and he would pull off those balls."
How the bench ends up shaking out will also go a long way toward determining whether the D-backs can afford to carry someone who is limited defensively, or two players in Branyan and Miranda who both are limited to first base only.
The versatility of expected reserves Willie Bloomquist and Geoff Blum could help Branyan or Pena make the team.
Bloomquist can play all around the infield and outfield while Blum can play any of the infield positions if needed.
Regardless, Gibson has tested both players by having them sit in the dugout for eight innings before throwing them up there to hit in the ninth.
"I want them to get used to that type of deal," Gibson said. "It's not an easy job, but they've got some experience and could fit in there well."