PHOENIX -- There may be something to this whole arm-slot business.
Rehabbing starter Brandon Webb credited his recent progress -- he threw off the mound Saturday for the first time in 100 days -- to correcting his delivery angle, and recently called-up reliever Blaine Boyer said his was way too high during his early-season struggles.
Boyer, whose contract was selected Tuesday when the D-backs designated reliever Saul Rivera for assignment, was a key member of Arizona's bullpen entering the season. Then, thanks to issues with his command, he went 1-2 with a 7.82 ERA in 14 games and was outrighted to Triple-A Reno.
"My time down there in Reno was outstanding; unbelievable coaching staff," Boyer said. "I just constantly worked on throwing strikes."
Specifically, Boyer partnered with Aces pitching coach Mike Parrott on a four-step process that "Bird," as his pupils call him, also taught to former D-backs reliever Jose Valverde.
Step 1: Field a ground ball, immediately turn around and, without thinking, throw it against the wall. Repeat this about 20 times.
Step 2: While holding a small hand towel, progress through your windup retaining the same throwing motion that came naturally in the first step.
Step 3: Repeat said throwing motion throughout a bullpen session.
Step 4: Do it in the game.
And that's just what the 28-year-old Boyer did. In five appearances (six innings) for Reno following his demotion, the right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and two saves. More significantly, he walked just one and struck out nine.
"Last year, even when I would not throw a ball right, I still had good run to it, and it was somewhere in the zone," Boyer said of his two-seam heater. "Compared to this year, it's just been where ... there was really no rhyme of reason to why I was missing. So I knew it was an arm-slot issue. Trying to find it was what I needed to do. I was able to take a deep breath and find it down there, and come back up [to the Majors]."
D-Train skipped in D-backs' rotation
PHOENIX -- D-backs manager A.J. Hinch confirmed on Sunday his rotation for the upcoming Interleague series with the Red Sox, which starts Tuesday in Boston.
And Dontrelle Willis isn't in it.
Given Monday's off-day, Hinch said Ian Kennedy, Rodrigo Lopez and Dan Haren would stay on schedule.
"Keeping them on their normal rest is important," the skipper said.
The manager added that he decided to skip Willis, at least in part, because the left-hander split the fingernail on his left middle finger in his past start, a four-inning outing Thursday in Arizona's 11-7 loss. As a result, Willis will throw off to the side prior to his next start, which would come on either Friday or Saturday in Detroit. Hinch said Willis and Edwin Jackson, both former members of the Tigers, would pitch the first two games of that series.
Willis said Sunday that his broken nail was improving -- he applied acrylic to strengthen it -- and hoped it would be fully healed by the time he becomes, at least temporarily, a relief pitcher. Hinch said Willis would be available out of the D-backs' bullpen during their set at Fenway Park.
Given that Willis would be the bullpen's lone southpaw, Hinch didn't rule out using him in any situation, though he's most likely to pitch in long relief.
"Anything to help the bullpen out, I'm all for it," Willis said. "I had to do it a couple of times in Detroit, so I just want to get there and compete."
As for facing his old teammates -- Willis spent parts of three seasons, 2008-10, in Detroit -- he downplayed his advanced scouting report.
"You could know everything, but you still have to execute," Willis said. "They know me, too."
Replay opinions differ after Reynolds' poke
PHOENIX -- Mark Reynolds hit a seventh-inning Kyle McCellan fastball on Friday night that appeared to bounce off of the left-field warning track and into the stands before coming back onto the field of play. Many fans in the stands, and the players in the D-backs' dugout, believed Reynolds collected a ground-rule double.
Third-base umpire Chad Fairchild didn't see it that way, and Reynolds was resigned to a single.
"He had 100 percent conviction on [the decision]," said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, "which makes him not want to ask for help from other umpires."
Which, in turn, begs the following question: Should instant replay be extended beyond clarifying home-run calls?
"If it gets all the calls right and doesn't slow down the game, then I'm all for it," Reynolds said on Saturday, adding that he would be OK with replay used for out and safe calls on the basepaths and fair and four calls down the lines. "Maybe like the NFL, where the managers throw red flags out on the field."
Reynolds has a teammate just a few lockers away who feels differently.
"That's a play that is up to [Fairchild's] discretion," said D-backs reserve Ryan Roberts. "You got four umpires who see the same play, and they can ask each other and make the call on something like that. I think the replay is good for a home run [call], and that's it.
Roberts took the stance despite the fact that he had a long ball -- correctly -- overturned on Sept. 29 of last season. He ended up on second base.
"You don't want to use cameras and computers to call balls and strikes," Roberts added. "[Mistakes] happen in the game. If it goes your way, it goes your way."
Manager A.J. Hinch said he would like to give reserve Ryan Roberts his second start in 2010, but admitted he hoped to avoid sitting second baseman Kelly Johnson. Entering Sunday, Johnson was in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .371. "He's been our best player in recent weeks," Hinch said. ... As planned, right fielder Justin Upton received the day off on Sunday. Hinch didn't want to exacerbate Upton's 6-for-31 slump on the homestand by pitting him against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who Upton is 0-for-8 against with seven strikeouts. Gerardo Parra filled in for Upton in right field and batted eighth. ... Miguel Montero, who was activated off of the 15-day disabled list and pinch-hit on Saturday night, was in Sunday's starting lineup, playing catcher and batting sixth.
Infielder Tony Abreu (sprained left wrist) went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI on Saturday night in his second rehab game at Triple-A Reno. Abreu was at shortstop after playing second base on Friday night. He's likely to join the big league club early in its six-game road trip ... Mark Reynolds won't admit it, but Hinch will: The third baseman's strained right quadriceps muscles are still bothersome. "He's healthy enough to play," Hinch said. "I don't know that he's going to win many races. He's certainly not running the way he has in the past. ... He'll never ask out." Despite the ailment, Reynolds entered Sunday with three home runs over his last six games.
Multiple media outlets reported that Arizona has agreed on contracts with two of its First-Year Player Draft selections: third-round pick Robby Rowland, a California high school pitcher, and 19th-round choice Adam Eaton, an outfielder from Miami University (Ohio). The players will begin their professional careers at either Missoula or Yakima. The D-backs had not yet announced the signings, as of Sunday afternoon.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.