Opening Day is finally here for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's been a long and busy offseason that's seen new GM Kevin Towers take bold steps to remake the roster in his image -- defense, pitching, and timely contact hitting. While there are some fans that will always hope for unexpected success, there's generally a mood of acceptance and patience with this team that is very much in transition this year.
Progress this season will be measured in ways beyond the winning percentage.
We will look for signs that Gibson's culture change is taking hold as the team battles through expected rough stretches with grit and determination. We will watch closely to see if the young core of Justin Upton, Chris Young, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero make progress and if arms like Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson show signs of brilliance or at least indications that they will have long, productive careers. We will also keep one eye on the farm system where the future of the team is said to be growing nicely.
Things kickoff in Colorado against the Rockies with the team already facing it's first setback of the season. Shortstop Stephen Drew will not start today due to a lingering abdominal strain. He originally tweaked the ab on a throw in mid-March. After a few days off he came back and re-aggravated the injury with another throw across his body. Swinging the bat doesn't seem to bother him so he is available to pinch-hit. Willie Bloomquist will start at short and leadoff the order.
A couple of other interesting decisions from Kirk Gibson include Juan Miranda getting the nod at first over Russel Branyan or Xavier Nady and Gerardo Parra starting in left field. In both cases, Gibby stayed true to his word and put a higher value on defense over power although both guys (Parra and Miranda) did swing a nice stick during the spring.
Ian Kenndy is the D-backs Opening Day starter. He's excited to go.
"It's been counting down to this day, I can't believe it's already here," Kennedy told the media yesterday in Colorado. Here's the full audio of Kennedy talking about his game plan and the challenges of pitching in Denver: Ian Kennedy March 31
The Rockies will throw their ace, Umbaldo Jimenez.
Here's the full Opening Day lineup for the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks:
2B Johnson (L)
1B Miranda (L)
C Montero (L)
LF Parra (L)
First pitch is slated for 1:00 p.m. local time on Fox Sports Arizona with the game also being broadcast on 620 KTAR radio. The great fan community at AZ Snakepit will have a live game thread and tons of fantastic analysis and discussion going on all day. Check it out.