4/21/2013 12:45 A.M. ET
D-backs struggling to produce two-out hits
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- As the D-backs slipped from second to third place in the National League West standings after a series opening 3-1 loss to the division-leading Rockies on Friday night, a stark statistical divide distinguished the two teams.
While the Rockies are capitalizing on scoring opportunities with a .331 average with runners in scoring position, the D-backs are scuffling a bit, hitting just .243. The D-backs are hitting a solid .338 with runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but are not performing in the clutch, falling to .119 with two outs while the Rockies stay strong at .292 with two outs.
"You just try to work on your approach," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Even if you have a good approach, there's no guarantee you're going to get the guy in. It's a tough game. We'd like to do better at it. Continue to talk about a good approach and give yourself a chance to succeed."
Part of the issue could be attributed to a slew of injuries that has forced the D-backs to depend on some younger players off the bench. Comfort in the clutch is often an acquired habit.
"You can't overload a player every time something goes wrong, or [with] every thought that you have in your mind," Gibson said. "It takes time, it's a process to do so. We try to measure when to do that, when not to do that. They know anyway. Even though you have every intention when you get to the plate, it doesn't always work out that way. The pitchers trying to trick you. ... It's the game of baseball, it's tough. It's not as easy as one might think."
Injured D-backs trio mending, return dates up in air
DENVER -- The D-backs are slowly getting healthier, though it will be some time before the club can start booking return trips for a trio of their players on the disabled list.
Right-hander Daniel Hudson is rehabbing well from July 9 Tommy John surgery.
"Hudson had a total-body workout today," general manager Kevin Towers said on Saturday. "He'll be off [tomorrow] and then back to his throwing program Monday."
Hudson has been throwing live batting practice, including a 20-pitch outing at extended spring training at Salt River Fields Tuesday.
"He feels good," manager Kirk Gibson said. "The best-case scenario [for his return] would be pre-All-Star break."
Adam Eaton is recovering from a strained left elbow, and began throwing on Friday. He's been hitting since April 4, and has four plate appearances as a designated hitter at extended spring training.
"He's 2-for-3 with a walk," Towers said. "He'll throw 60 feet tomorrow."
Gibson figures it'll be about a month from the day he started throwing before he's ready to help the D-backs.
"He'll throw every other day for two weeks," Gibson said. "Then he'll go to two days in a row. Probably a day or two days off, then get into three in a row. ... We're not going to rush him."
When he's within a couple weeks of returning, Gibson expects Eaton will go to Triple-A Reno and DH.
Jason Kubel is recovering from a strained left quad and is in "calm-down" mode now as he lets the swelling in his quad subside.
"He'll just do mobility stuff and regular manual strengthening, just what's tolerable while they try to calm everything down," Gibson said. "The MRI showed some fluid in there, which means there's swelling. He'll try to work that out, as well, and then they start ramping up at that point."
Kubel is eligible to return on the 28th, but until the swelling clears, it's tough to predict if he'll make that target date.
Parra, Montero not in lineup, but come off bench
DENVER -- Gerardo Parra missed his first inning of play on Saturday as manager Kirk Gibson finally found a day to rest him.
"He's been going hard, and we've got 16 [games] in a row again, so kind of going through the lineup and try to get guys off," Gibson said of the decision to sit his leadoff-hitting left fielder. [Martin] Prado's been another guy. I don't know if it's going to come any time soon. His versatility's very important to the team right now."
Catcher Miguel Montero, who had played in every game (not all starts) entering Saturday, was also not in the starting lineup in favor of Wil Nieves. Shortstop Cliff Pennington and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt have started every game so far.
However, Parra was forced into action in the seventh, replacing Cody Ross in right field after Ross was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Montero pinch-hit in the ninth, delivering an RBI groundout.
"Altitude, travel, playing a lot of games in a row, you have to be sensitive to what's going on there," Gibson said of the decision to give Montero a break. "He got pounded the other day with a foul tip in the middle of his legs -- really black. He had about three or four of them there in that Yankee game."
D-backs pitchers struggling with the bat
DENVER -- There are managers who want nothing more from their pitches at the plate than that they avoid injury. There are managers who want their pitchers focused on nothing but bunting. And then there's D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson.
Gibson emphatically asserted that he "definitely" sets the expectation that his pitchers will be productive at the plate. So far, however, his pitchers are 0-for-27 on the season.
"I try not to get too frustrated with anything that doesn't go right," Gibson said. "You can't let whatever goes wrong take you off the direction that you want to go. They get frustrated, I try to keep them upbeat. You got to move on, 'cause the game's still moving, you know? If you're a good player, you're a good player. Because you don't get a bunt down, you don't get a hit, it doesn't make you a bad player. You can't get in your own head and have it adversely affect your abilities."
Arizona pitchers have put five bunts down successfully.
"We did take batting practices with the pitchers in New York to try to keep them going," Gibson said. "We've been OK on our sac bunts with the pitchers. The hitting part hasn't shown good there."
A key opportunity to deliver a hit came in the fifth frame on Friday, when the D-backs got two hits and a walk, all with two outs, to load the bases for Ian Kennedy.
"Ian had a good at-bat when we had the bases loaded there," Gibson said. "He just hit a ground ball right to [shortstop Troy Tulowitzki]. Ian's swung the bat pretty good this year. He hasn't had a lot to show for it. But yesterday he got a lot of breaking balls his first at-bat. When he came up with the bases loaded, not a bad at-bat."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.