PHOENIX – The Diamondbacks leadership wants to cultivate a winning attitude on the team for the 2011 season.
Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall says that it’s important for the team to find its swagger in spring training because he expects the team to be in the race for the NL West crown at the end of the season.
Hall thinks that the D-backs can contend because of the wide-open nature of the division.
“We’re the D-backs and we want to have that swagger,” Hall said. “We want this (pointing to the Diamondbacks logo on his jacket) to mean something. The last couple of years, this hasn’t meant much; and we want this to mean something and we have to re-establish that.”
GM Kevin Towers stressed that finding that swagger can’t come from management.
“How do you change the culture?” Towers asked. “Basically, the culture will be changed by the players. We can talk about changing the culture, but really how the culture changes is the players have to do it themselves.
“I think we’re good. But they have to feel that they’re good.”
Based on outfielder Chris Young’s comments, the team is beginning to believe in themselves again. He said he and his teammates are expecting a lot out of themselves this year.
“Let’s have the mindset of a winning team,” Young said. “No matter what happened in the past, that has nothing to do with this year and they expect a lot out of us, which is very understandable. We have a great group of guys in this clubhouse and we have high expectations for ourselves.”
Young said the the team’s struggles over the past few years have been a learning experience and should help drive the team this year.
“A couple of tough years is not fun to go through,” Young said. “But it humbles you and lets you know that that’s something you don’t want to experience again. So you do everything in your power to avoid that and just try to change your focus a little bit.”
Manager Kirk Gibson said part of establishing a winning environment is creating competition throughout the roster.
“We know we have to do a better job of competing when we’re playing throughout the long season, so why not compete all the time?” Gibson asked. “If you can’t compete at some of the simpler things, you’ve got no shot in the ninth inning when there’s a lot of pressure.”
Gibson added that the whole team needs to find a singular purpose to drive them this season.
“We have to come together as a team,” Gibson said. “We have to have a purpose together. It’s kind of our job as an organization and as a staff to make sure that they understand exactly who we are and to give them an opportunity to become who we are. If there are people that aren’t on the program, we’re going to have to make adjustments.”
Hitting breaking balls
“We need to get way better at that,” Gibson said about how the team has handled off-speed pitching over the years.
He spent much of his morning watching hitters take turns in the breaking ball cage.
“We want to be gnarly as far as they come flipping curve balls in there in pressure situations. We want to put some back-spin on those balls.”
Waiting on Russell Branyan
According to GM Kevin Towers, Russell Branyan is the only player not in camp. He’s expected to arrive Sunday a couple of days after he was signed to a minor league deal.
Towers had Branyan with him in San Diego.
“He’s a sourthern boy whose presence alone I think can intimidate some people. We used to call him ‘Russell the Muscle’, ‘Paul Bunyan’. He’s pretty intimidating figure.”
Rain, rain, go away
The rain held off long enough for the the Diamondbacks to get in their first full squad workout of spring training.
The pitchers were given what manager Kirk Gibson called a “recovery day”. They will resume their throwing programs tomorrow with the addition of “live” batting practice.
Sports 620 KTAR’s Craig Grialou contributed to this report