09/21/12 8:54 PM ET
D-backs rookies address rite of passage
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, along with outfielder Adam Eaton, catcher Konrad Schmidt and third baseman Ryan Wheeler, were among those who donned Playboy bunny outfits.
"It's one of those things where it's the most fun you'll have in your entire life doing something like that, but you never, ever want to do it again," Eaton said with a laugh. "They want to embarrass you as much as possible, but then afterwards, they pat you on the back and welcome you in. it's a good feeling."
The players wore the outfits on the charter flight to Denver, then were dropped off at Coors Field and had to walk a little more than a half-mile to the team's hotel downtown.
"It was a pretty long walk, lot of honks and stuff and people yelling," Corbin said. "But we were just glad there was a big group of us and not just one of us. It was fun. Just going out there and having fun with it is all you can do."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said veteran closer J.J. Putz asked permission before going through with the prank, which the D-backs do each year.
"It got rid of the dampened mood to the game," Gibson said, referring to Thursday's 6-5 loss to the Padres. "It was kind of a tough loss yesterday. By the time we got on the plane, it was somewhat humorous."
Key for Skaggs: Location, location, location
DENVER -- For D-backs rookie left-hander Tyler Skaggs, it's not a matter of velocity as much as it is about location.
After three strong starts to begin his Major League career late last month, his last three have resulted in a 10.50 ERA, and some have raised concerns about his velocity being in the upper 80s toward the end of his last start -- as opposed to the low 90s he hit earlier in the game.
Those concerns don't appear to exist in the clubhouse, however.
"It's a little bit down, but this time of the year, for a young kid, it's not uncommon," pitching coach Charles Nagy said. "The ball is still coming out of his hand good. Physically he feels fine, so there's no concern."
Skaggs and Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, speaking in separate interviews, cited a similar reason for his recent struggles: fastball location, not the speed.
"I'd say No. 1, it's fastball command," Gibson said. "I think his changeup has really come a long way. If you don't locate your fastball, you're in trouble. The balls that have been hit hard if you look at them, there's elevation to them and they're just not in the zone where they need to be.
"He's got to figure some things out and trust some things. He'll do so, he's young, he's got great stuff."
Skaggs acknowledges a drop in velocity, but insists that physically, he feels great.
"I feel good," Skaggs said. "It's not middle of the season, where everything is clicking and I'm throwing 94 [mph]. I mean that makes it real easy to pitch when you're throwing 94 or 96. But my body feels great and I'm confident, it's just frustrating, because it's not a good feeling to go out there and keep losing.
"I just need to work on location. I've been leaving a lot of pitches up. Everything else has been good. The curveball has been so-so, but the changeup has been an unbelievable pitch for me. I'm really confident with it right now I feel like I can throw it at any time."
As for the suggestion that Skaggs be shut down for the rest of the season, Nagy points out that the next two weeks will give Skaggs the experience of pitching deep into September for the first time, and the D-backs' opponents the rest of the way also provides a benefit.
"We're playing a lot of our own division, so to be able to see hitters they're going to see a lot of in the future is valuable," Nagy said.
It has been nearly two months since the D-backs faced the Rockies, and Colorado has changed its roster quite a bit since.
"We don't have a ton of experience with a lot of these guys," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "So we come in and prepare as best we can and try to get an idea, but we'll have to make changes on the fly."
Eaton watched Reno win the Triple-A Championship this week with a great deal of pride. Eaton hit .381 for the Aces before getting called up to the big leagues.
"A little part of me," Eaton said when asked if he wished he were there for it. "I mean, you were in the trenches with those guys for 120 games. To see them do it made me extremely proud, because they fought their butts off all year. I wouldn't trade anything for being in the big leagues though."
In addition to Eaton, Skaggs and Corbin figure to get championship rings from Reno and Double-A Mobile, as they all spent time with both those clubs.
Mobile and Reno joined Rookie Missoula in winning championships with Rookie Yakima and the club's entry in the Dominican Summer League also making the playoffs.
"I think it really says a lot about where this organization is," Corbin said.