05/09/2013 10:29 PM ET
Gibson says he enjoyed time with Upton before trade
By Tyler Emerick and Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Four days before Justin Upton makes his return to Chase Field for the first time with the Braves, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson spoke Thursday about his much-discussed rapport with the slugger, who was once the cornerstone of the Arizona franchise before being traded to Atlanta in the offseason.
"I hear a lot of people say we didn't have a good relationship, but I disagree," Gibson said. "I enjoyed my time with him."
At the time of Upton's callup to the Majors in 2007, Gibson was the D-backs' bench coach. Over the next six years, the pair continued to work together through good times and bad. In 2011, Upton hit 31 homers, drove in 88 runs and finished fourth the National League MVP balloting. A year later though, the outfielder took a step back in his production in 2012, collecting 17 home runs and 67 RBIs while playing through a thumb injury and multiple trade rumors.
Upton and the D-backs finally parted ways in January as part of the seven-player deal that sent the former No. 1 pick to Atlanta and Martin Prado to Arizona.
"I worked with Justin since he came up as a little kid," Gibson said. "He had a tough year last year and there were a lot of reasons for it. I understood his frustrations because I went through a lot of the same when I was a young player."
Gibson acknowledged some of the negative attention the trade has received, but he added that deals are not always so black and white.
"The reality of it is sometimes you have to trade a really good player to fulfill your needs and we certainly did that," he said. "It was a bold move in many eyes but [D-backs general manager Kevin Towers] has the experience and I think he did a great job. Justin Upton busted his ass when he was here, let's not forget about that. But that's just baseball, guys are going to get traded, it doesn't have to be a bad thing."
Despite Upton's resounding success so far this year for Atlanta -- 12 homers, 21 RBIs and the April NL Player of the Month Award -- Gibson still wishes his former player the best, except when faces the D-backs.
"I don't root against him, I want him to play well," Gibson said. "But at the same time we're going to try to beat him when he comes here. He knows that and he going to try to get me, and I respect that."
MRI reveals Putz won't need elbow surgery
PHOENIX -- D-backs closer J.J. Putz will avoid surgery after an MRI revealed no major damage to his throwing elbow. Diagnosed with a sprained UCL ligament, the timetable for the 36-year-old's return is uncertain as of Thursday, but Putz will be shut down for at least two weeks before the club re-evaluates.
"I think we dodged a bullet," Putz said of not needing surgery. "It's not great but it could've been a lot worse. I was pretty pleased, it's a big sigh of relief."
The right-hander was first placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday after experiencing stiffness in the elbow while throwing in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game against the Dodgers.
In 2011, Putz endured a similar injury to his elbow and missed exactly four weeks from June 29 to July 26.
"It's pretty similar," Putz said. "Hopefully it won't be any [longer] than that."
Putz had struggled so far this year before getting hurt, converting just five saves in nine opportunities, but he wasn't sure when the injury occurred or if it affected him before Tuesday.
"It's hard to say, something is always nagging," he said. "So you don't read too much into it until you feel something that you haven't felt."
While Putz rests his elbow, he'll still try to remain a force in the D-backs clubhouse, even if that means taking on a new role for him.
"Just try to be a good cheerleader, maybe get some pom-poms," he said. "I'll just get the work done and stay out of guys ways."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Wednesday that reliever Heath Bell will initially get the save chances in Putz's absence, with David Hernandez remaining in his eighth-inning role.
Hill, Bloomquist eager to return from DL stints
PHOENIX -- Aaron Hill and Willie Bloomquist are waiting on the disabled list for their respective injuries to improve before taking their next steps forward in returning to the D-backs.
Hill, who suffered a broken hand on April 9 and has been on the DL since April 15, was hoping to be out of his soft cast this week but the bone was still tender when he tried to pick up a bat and doctors ordered him to keep the cast on for another week.
"Until we see it heal, we don't want to mess with it," he said. "You just feel it when you do something, but that's why they have it in a cast."
The second baseman will visit the doctor again Sunday and undergo another CT scan on Monday with the hopes of seeing enough improvement to hit off a tee at some point next week.
In the meantime, Hill is working out at the club's Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, running, keeping his footwork sharp and standing in on bullpen sessions to track pitches with his eyes.
In Bloomquist's case, the shortstop thought he was feeling good enough to play in extended spring games, but in his first at-bat on May 2, he felt some pain and has since gone back to swinging only in batting practice. The 35-year-old hasn't played since straining his oblique in the final days of Spring Training this year.
"I hadn't taken a swing with that intensity before and I wasn't ready for that type of intensity," Bloomquist said. "It was just something to let me know that I'm not ready. It wasn't a grab or pull, just a little bit of pain."
Earlier this week, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson called the incident a setback, but Bloomquist disagreed.
"I wouldn't call it that," he said. "It was the only way to find out if I was ready, I had only taken batting practice before."
Bloomquist hopes to try swinging in a game scenario again sometime next week but acknowledged that it isn't his decision.
"We're just trying to find when is the right time to try it out," he said. "It's a tough injury in the fact that it feels good to me."
Now six weeks since the initial injury, Bloomquist admitted to being frustrated with how long his recovery has taken but he said he knows players who have taken even longer.
"I was expecting to be back by now but I've talked to guys who've had similar injuries and they said it took them seven, eight, nine weeks before it felt right again," he said. "Does it make me feel better? No, but it lets me know I'm at least not behind schedule."
Bell receives mom's scouting report after save
PHOENIX -- As reporters made their way into the visitor's clubhouse at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, Heath Bell was in the hallway outside on the phone.
Later when he was asked about Skip Schumaker's leadoff double against him in the ninth, Bell said that he hadn't realized Schumaker had good career numbers off him until his mom told him so after the game.
"I just got off the phone with my mom and I guess Schumaker owns me so I tip my hat to him," Bell said.
Wait, so his mother, Edwina, knew and he didn't?
"Yeah, she's pretty good," Bell said with a smile. "Maybe I should call my mom before the game not after."
It was suggested to him that his mom should give him a scouting report on how to get Schumaker out.
"She actually did, so next time I face him we'll try it out," Bell said. "I'm not going to tell you because I made that mistake a few years ago and I did face [that player] and he did watch the interview and he knew what pitch was coming."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. 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.