Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported to their first workout of the spring Monday. Using the new Salt River Fields training facility for the first time, the players competing for starting rotation spots experienced an intense start.
“You’re never ready for your first day,” pitcher Barry Enright said. “They tell us to go out to the mall and stand in our cleats on the concrete and you’ll be ready. We always say we’ll do it from year-to-year but we never end up doing it.”
Manager Kirk Gibson, rid of the interim tag and beginning his first full season in charge, was pleased to find all his players prepared and in shape. Monday’s workout was extensive, but Gibson said the goal is for the players to understand what will be expected of them the rest of the week.
“They want you to come out here in shape and I tried to do that the best I could, but it’s still going to kick your butt a little bit,” pitcher Joe Saunders said. “I’m excited. They’re going to push us this spring training.”
New Diamondback Zach Duke said he was pleased with the intensity in Monday’s workout.
“I like challenges,” he said, “I like being upbeat and having a lot of intensity during the reps, so I enjoyed it.”
As far as challenges go, Duke is facing one of the hardest of all the players who showed up: leaving his newborn child back at home. D-backs GM Kevin Towers believed Duke would miss the first couple days, but was proven wrong.
“It was definitely hard to leave [Sunday],” Duke said, “but thankfully [with] technology being as good as it is today, I can still do the video chats and things so I feel like I’m still there a little bit.”
While not home, Duke is at the newly-constructed Salt River Fields facility, located near the Pavilions in Scottsdale, of which much was made during the offseason. After their first experience, the D-backs were not disappointed.
“[It’s] way different,” Gibson said, when asked to compare the new facility to the previous one in Tucson. “It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. The people who put it together should be commended.”
“They did a great job with this place,” pitcher J.J. Putz said. “They’ve definitely got all the fields we need and I think it’s great how the fans can interact with us on a more intimate basis.”
The spring workouts are giving fans more access than ever due to the more approachable atmosphere of the facilities and Gibson’s philosophy on the importance of involving the club’s fans. The manager has even inserted autograph signings into the players’ daily schedules.
“That’s something that’s important in my foundation,” Gibson said. “Sometimes when we’re young we think we’re the most important thing about the game. If the fans left the game, none of us would be around.”
Regardless of how intense Monday’s workouts were, pitchers and catchers are doing their best to get on the same page and work through spring training with a positive outlook. After all, a new season for the club has officially begun.
Arizona Sports’ Craig Grialou contributed to this report