03/29/2003 8:47 PM ET
D-Backs name 25-man roster
Kim gets moved up from No. 5 to No. 4 spot
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks went with youth and talent over experience and track records as they pared their roster down to the 25-man limit for Opening Day.
|By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
The biggest decisions made involved the pitching staff. Byung-Hyun Kim was moved up from the No. 5 to No. 4 spot in the rotation, while 21-year-old Oscar Villarreal was named the fifth starter. John Patterson, who had been penciled in as the club's No. 4 starter, was optioned to Triple-A Tucson.
In the bullpen, the Diamondbacks released veteran Mike Jackson, while designating left-hander Greg Swindell for assignment, meaning they have 10 days to trade or release him before he becomes a free agent. Those moves cleared the way for the club to keep young pitchers Bret Prinz, Mike Koplove and Stephen Randolph in the bullpen along with Miguel Batista, Mike Myers and Matt Mantei.
Veteran pitcher Armando Reynoso, a non-roster invitee, elected to step away from the game at this time to address family matters.
Not surprisingly, Carlos Baerga won the backup infield spot as Alex Cintron was optioned to Tucson and Chris Donnels was reassigned to minor league camp.
Villarreal will pitch out of the bullpen to begin the season until the D-Backs need a fifth starter on April 8. The decision was a pleasant surprise for Villarreal, who after the first day of Spring Training called his father Jose in Mexico.
"I told him, 'Hey, no chance. Too many pitchers on the team,'" Villarreal said of his chances of making the Opening Day roster.
Saturday morning, though, Villarreal was summoned into manager Bob Brenly's office and given the good news. Shortly before that Brenly informed Patterson of his decision.
"I knew this was a possibility, but I wasn't aware that it would come down like this," said Patterson, whose last spring outing was his best to date." He didn't feel like I was where I was at the end of [last] year."
Patterson was 2-0 with a 3.23 ERA for the D-Backs last season. Ace Randy Johnson spent a good deal of time talking with the 25-year-old after he received the news, as did Curt Schilling.
The move was somewhat of a surprise given that Brenly had all but named Patterson the No. 4 starter early in camp and said Kim would be his No. 5 starter last week. Kim and Villarreal's strong spring, coupled with the early struggles of Patterson, caused Brenly to shift his thinking and move Kim to the No. 4 spot. Brenly also did not want to shift Kim back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation as the fifth starter would have to do.
When that decision was made, Brenly decided he didn't want Patterson to pitch in relief, something he has done only a handful of times in his career.
"John Patterson has always been a starting pitcher and to ask him to fill a role that's unfamiliar to him and all that goes along with that, we just didn't think that was fair to him or the ballclub," Brenly said. "Villarreal is better suited to that role."
Villarreal was 6-3 in 14 games (12 starts) for Double-A El Paso, before going 3-3 in 10 starts for Tucson. The right-hander's young age did not work against him.
"Villarreal in our eyes deserved the opportunity," Brenly said. "We love his stuff, we love his makeup. There was some initial concern about his age, but he doesn't pitch like a 21-year-old."
Swindell, who is under contract for the 2003 season at $2.75 million, asked to see Brenly after Friday night's game to have his status clarified. It was then that Brenly told him he was being designated for assignment.
Strong performances by Koplove and Prinz cemented their spots in the bullpen. The club decided to go with the left-handed Randolph in part because of the way he pitched this spring, but also because he was out of minor league options and would likely have been claimed on waivers had he not made the club.
"We just felt like Bret Prinz and Mike Koplove both came into camp this year and did everything we asked them to do," Brenly said. "Obviously we were going to lose Stephen Randolph if we didn't keep him. He's got a good enough fastball that he can make a hitter swing and miss. His breaking stuff is very crisp. The only concern was his consistency in the strike zone, but as camp went on, he got much better at that as well."
Having to deliver the bad news Saturday clearly took its toll on Brenly.
"Mike Jackson is a dear friend of mine and it's days like this you hate the job," he said. "This is a day you wake up dreading in the morning."
2003 Diamondbacks Opening Day Roster
Pitchers (11) -- Miguel Batista, Elmer Dessens, Randy Johnson (L), Byung-Hyun
Kim, Mike Koplove, Matt Mantei, Mike Myers (L), Bret Prinz, Stephen Randolph
(L), Curt Schilling and Oscar Villarreal.
Catchers (2) -- Rod Barajas and Chad Moeller.
Infielders (7) -- Carlos Baerga, Craig Counsell, Mark Grace, Lyle Overbay,
Junior Spivey, Matt Williams and Tony Womack.
Outfielders (5) -- Danny Bautista, David Dellucci, Steve Finley, Luis
Gonzalez and Quinton McCracken.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.