Hill, McDonald thrilled to be in pennant race
New acquisitions immediately slotted into D-backs' starting lineup
WASHINGTON -- Aaron Hill and John McDonald flew in together from Toronto, one day after being dealt to Arizona for second baseman Kelly Johnson.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wasted little time writing the pair into the lineup, with Hill at second, batting seventh, and McDonald at short, hitting eighth, for Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Nationals. Though they were hitless in eight at-bats, each made a key defensive stop up the middle.
Both players expressed happiness at going from a team playing for pride to a team leading its division.
"It was a welcome opportunity," McDonald said. "I'm very excited."
"I've never been in a playoff race, and you can't explain that feeling," Hill said. "Just knowing you're coming over here and being a part of what these guys are fighting for over here, and to hope to contribute any way possible, is a blast. I know my family is very excited and looking forward to it."
Hill figures to get the bulk of the playing time at second, while McDonald will share time at shortstop with Willie Bloomquist.
"It will be somewhat split up," Gibson said. "I'll try to keep them as fresh as I can. It will be split up -- it's not like one guy is going to play out there all the time."
This is the fourth organization that McDonald has played for in his 13-year career, but it's his first taste of the National League.
"I think that's the one thing that's going to take the most getting used to," he said. "Learning a lot of the new players, being an American League guy, you could put a lineup in front of me and I'd know where to position these guys. I've got some studying to do before the game on where to play these hitters, and some new pitchers that I've never not just faced, but watched up close. It's exciting, too. Part of the negative is you haven't seen these guys, but the freshness of it is they don't know me, either."
The D-backs are hoping that a change of scenery will help Hill recapture the success he had in 2009, when he slugged 36 homers. He was hitting .225 with six homers at the time of the deal.
"Obviously, I'm excited to be here and look forward, don't look back," Hill said. "The main thing is just going back to having fun and playing the game. When you press and try to do too much in this game, you dig yourself in a hole, and sometimes it's a little too big of a hole and it's tough to get out of over the course of a season. I know we've got a great [coaching] staff here, I've heard a lot of great things about them and met them the last couple of hours. I'll just work with them and believe in what they have, believe in my abilities and help the team win."
Elbow sore, Upton returns to D-backs' lineup
WASHINGTON -- Justin Upton was back in the starting lineup Wednesday after he left Tuesday's game in the fifth inning after being struck in the elbow by a pitch from Jordan Zimmermann the inning before. He went 1-for-3 and scored the D-backs' first run in a 4-2 victory over the Nationals.
Upton iced the elbow a couple of times before going to bed Tuesday, and woke up feeling much better.
"I'm just a little sore, and I can play if I'm sore," he said.
Upton was clearly unhappy after being hit. It was the fifth time this year he was plunked by a Nats pitcher, and he slammed his bat down in disgust.
"I was a little upset about it," Upton said. "My thing is, man, control your pitches. I don't know if you were trying to hit me or not, but control your pitches. Obviously, I know what their plan is, they're going to try to come inside. So be it."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson took issue with Upton for his reaction.
"Upton covers the outside corner well, and if you throw him a couple of pitches out there, you're going to come in on him," Johnson said. "He kind of dives into it and leans into it, and it's the same thing with a couple of my hitters. You try to pitch them in. We've gotten hit more than most. I thought Upton reacted rather poorly. I think Upton overreacted to that."
D-backs outfielder Gerardo Parra has had a nice season so far, but his manager would like to see even more out of him.
"It would be good for him to step up," said Kirk Gibson. "He's ready. It's time. He's got all the ability to do what the team needs and he's capable of being a positive contributor in many ways, and I'd like to see that happen. He's capable of driving the ball, he's capable of bunting, he's capable of getting on base -- and he's very aggressive on the bases, he runs them well. So, the team needs him."
For the second consecutive day Wednesday, the D-backs did not take batting practice, and players were instructed to arrive late to the ballpark. Gibson made the change for Tuesday's game, and when they snapped their six-game losing streak that night, he decided to do it again.
"We'll probably take it [Thursday]," Gibson said. "But again, we're just trying to change things up, we're not trying to stress out about what's going on around here. We're just trying to work our way through it."