07/26/12 10:00 PM ET
D-backs' brass ready for trip to Japan
By Tyler Emerick / MLB.com
Wheeler adjusting to life in the bigs
PHOENIX -- Since his promotion from Triple-A Reno on Friday, D-backs third baseman Ryan Wheeler has admittedly experienced more changes off the field than on it in his first Major League stint.Just four days after being called up, the 24-year-old saw the club trade its previous mainstay at third base, Ryan Roberts. The move freed the D-backs to give more playing time to Wheeler, who entered Thursday with nine at-bats in the big leagues. "I know that will open up opportunities for me, but the way that I come to the field and approach the game won't change at all," WheeIer said. "I think this shows they are confident in their system. They are giving me my shot now." With the D-backs facing left-handers their previous three games, the left-handed-hitting Wheeler, who batted eighth on Thursday against the Mets, received three days off to start the week after appearing in three games over the weekend. The time away from the lineup forced Wheeler, who played virtually every day while in Triple-A, to keep his body active in different ways. "I think I've done a good job of tiring out my body so it's felt like I have been playing," he said. "I've been taking 20 minutes of ground balls, running back and forth, I've been doing a running program and throwing more, it's just more pregame stuff to get the legs tired and arm going." The rookie's extra activities caught the attention of D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. "He's been working his tail off," Gibson said. "You want to make some little adjustments early on because I don't think you just throw him to wolves. He's done a lot of work and he's ready to play." Besides being coached up when not in the lineup, Wheeler has had to deal with the initiations that come with being a rookie in the clubhouse. The 24-year-old walked into the clubhouse Thursday sporting a new haircut, barbered by veteran teammate J.J. Putz. The closer wanted to give Wheeler the hairdo of another teammate, but they instead settled on a trim job. "I negotiated the clipper guard up a little bit, they were going to give me a four on the side and I got it up to a seven so it doesn't look that terrible," Wheeler said. "They were going to give me the (Henry Blanco) haircut. I said I cannot do that but they got me anyways." In addition to the haircut, Putz also engineered Wheeler's walk-up song to switch to "Candy Girl" by New Edition, a tune the young player was familiar with but not particularly a fan of. "When I was walking up, I was confused because I didn't recognize it right away, so I thought there might be a theme of the day like in the minors," Wheeler said. "Then I was listening and I heard it, and I was like 'Oh my god.' I remembered it playing in J.J.'s locker before the game." But like a true good sport, Wheeler has taken all the pranks in good fun and sees it as part of the experience of playing in the Majors. "The guys have been awesome," he said. "It's been everything I expected and I'm starting to get more comfortable every day."
Even though the club is 98 games into the season, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson still goes through a daily routine of deciding who to start among his four outfielders -- Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra."I've got to do it. I'm sure none of them really like it," Gibson said. "Someone has got to sit. I'm doing what's best for the team in the long haul. I'm trying to keep everyone engaged and win as many ballgames as possible." Even though one has to sit, the club generally uses each of its four outfielders at some point in the game, whether it's as a pinch-hitter or a defensive replacement, meaning they all have to be ready at any given time. "The thing about it is, whoever isn't playing may have an opportunity to win the game later," Gibson said. "So you can't let it affect you." Miguel Montero has hit safely in 14 of his last 17 home games since June 19. On Wednesday, he went 3-for-3 with a homer and moved into first place in franchise history with 538 games at the catcher position. "He can look terrible on two swings, and then boom," Gibson said. "That's one of the things that makes him dangerous."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.