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03/06/12 7:19 PM ET

D-backs take notice of Davidson's defense

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The work that Matt Davidson put in during the offseason on his defense got the attention of D-backs manager Kirk Gibson early in camp.

Davidson made a few nice plays at third base in the team's opening game.

"Davidson I thought played pretty well over there," Gibson said after the game. "Showed soft hands."

Defense has not always been regarded a strength for Davidson, who was selected 35th overall by the D-backs in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

"Just really being more light on my feet and being more athletic over there," Davidson said when asked what he focused on this offseason. "I did a lot of drills, agility and footwork stuff. I didn't really focus on mechanics, but just took a lot more ground balls and tried to get quicker and more athletic."

Hitting does not figure to be a problem for Davidson, who smacked 20 homers last year for Class A Visalia. He is ranked by MLB.com as the D-backs' No. 5 prospect.

"I like the way he looks at the plate," Gibson said.

Now that Bobby Borchering, who was part of Davidson's Draft class, has been shifted from third base to the outfield, Davidson will no longer have to split time between third and first.

Davidson has spent time this spring working with third-base coach Matt Williams, who won four Gold Gloves during his big league career at third base.

One of the things that Williams stresses to the infielders is the importance of footwork, and what he's got Davidson doing more of is using one hand when he fields grounders.

"Since the ball is hit so hard up here you don't really have a lot of time to get in front of it and use two hands," Davidson said. "You've got to be comfortable with using one hand."

Saunders sees positives in first spring start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Joe Saunders was trying to go inside with a four-seam fastball to Rangers outfielder Conor Jackson on Tuesday afternoon, but the ball wound up somewhere else.

"I threw one middle-middle and didn't get it back," Saunders said jokingly referring to the fact that the pitch was right down the heart of the plate. "But my arm feels good and I like where I'm at. Hopefully I'll get them next time."

Saunders allowed two runs on five hits, including a homer to Jackson, and walked a batter while tossing two innings in his spring debut, a 16-3 loss for the D-backs.

"My offspeed stuff was good today," Saunders said. "It was just a matter of trying to locate the fastball in on the right-handed hitters. My sinker away was good. It was just a matter of trying to burying that four-seamer down and in on those guys. If that comes along, I'll be right where I need to be."

Saunders certainly is in a better spot than he was last Spring Training, when an illness early in camp put him behind the other pitchers, and his ineffectiveness kept him from securing a rotation spot until the final week of camp.

An offseason conditioning program has helped tremendously.

"His body is in way better shape," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "You can just tell by looking at him."

D-backs' Minor Leaguers eager to get going

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs invited 38 players to report to Minor League camp early, and another 10 players rehabilitating from injury also were asked to come.

Each year other players show up early on their own -- and on their own dime -- so farm director Mike Bell figured on there being some extras once again.

"We thought it might be big," Bell said. "But typically we get about 60 here, so we thought maybe 70, 75, but things just kind of blew up."

In all, 87 players showed up.

"We had to get a couple more staff members here," Bell said.

Tuesday was the last day of workouts for the Minor Leaguers. They will have the next two days off while the Minor League staff goes through its annual meetings. Physicals for pitchers and catchers will be held Thursday and they will go through their first official workout Friday.

"Spring Training is so short I think it really gives them a head start," Bell said of the early arrivers. "I think it's well worth the money."

Position players will report and take physicals Sunday with the first full-camp workout taking place Monday.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.