Demel earning a look in big spots
Newly acquired D-backs reliever trusted against tough foes
PHOENIX -- In his first two Major League appearances, Sam Demel pitched so well when the D-backs faced a deficit -- four runs on June 16 and seven runs on Tuesday -- that he may enter the game when his club holds a lead. And with Arizona's bullpen ERA inflating to a Major League-high 7.15 entering Wednesday, that first opportunity could come sooner rather than later.
As if on cue, Demel entered Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees with the score tied at 4 in the sixth. He induced an inning-ending double play, and after Arizona grabbed a 5-4 lead, he pitched a scoreless seventh. He would have secured his first Major League win had it not been for the Yankees' late-inning comeback.
"That's as difficult a situation as he's been in here for three outings," said manager A.J. Hinch, plucking what seemed to be the lone positive out of a gripping 6-5 defeat. "Coming in and getting the double-play ball was excellent. Going back out and dominating [Nos. 2-4 in the order] with the strikeouts is very impressive, so I'm glad he's building confidence and getting that under his belt, because he's going to be asked to get some important outs here moving forward."
Demel, however, plays the role of content but coy rookie.
"It's the same job, whether it's late in the game, early in the game or the score is lopsided, one way or the other," the 24-year-old right-hander said, straight-faced.
Demel added that -- despite his 42 career Minor League saves indicating he was called upon in late innings -- his Minor League coaches in the Oakland Athletics organization made a concerted effort to vary the game situations he inherited. Demel pitched as early the fifth inning.
That appears to be paying off. Demel, who was sent to Arizona in a June 15 swap for Conor Jackson, has pitched two perfect innings against the Boston Red Sox and now the New York Yankees. Quite the Major League indoctrination.
"Two good teams to start against," Demel said. "They have two of the best lineups in baseball. It's good to start at the top."
Demel added that as an unseen hurler, he has a temporary advantage against the opposition. His mystery helped him retire big-name bats like the Red Sox's J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre, as well as the Yanks' Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira.
"The main thing is, it's not the first time you face guys," Demel said. "It's the second, third, fourth, fifth -- after they've seen me a few times. And that's when the adjustment period starts for me."
Grace rounds out D-backs Legends Race
PHOENIX -- The four-man unit to be memorialized by mascots is now complete.
The D-backs announced on Wednesday that Mark Grace will join Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Matt Williams as the characters who will participate in the upcoming D-backs Legends Race.
Grace, the color analyst on Fox Sports Arizona's broadcasts of D-backs games, played first base for Arizona from 2001-03. Most famously, he led off the eventful final inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, which gave the then-4-year-old franchise its first championship.
Similar to the Sausage Race at Miller Park and the Presidents Race at Nationals Park, the D-backs Legends Race presented by Henkel will take place at the end of the fifth inning at all home games, beginning with a July 2 game with the Dodgers.
The race will feature the four D-backs legends -- 10-foot-tall men in uniform with large foam heads that will resemble players who have made a significant contribution to the organization on the field. The characters will run a race that will start close to the right-field foul pole and end at the on-deck circle near the D-backs' dugout.
After the July 2 game, the D-backs mascots will greet fans before games at the main rotunda entrance of Chase Field and pose for photos in the St. Joseph's Hospital Sandlot on the upper level after the race through the end of the game.
For more information about the D-backs Legends Race and an opportunity to win tickets and view the inaugural race in person at Chase Field on July 2, go to dbacks.com/legends.
As part of rehab, Webb throwing regularly
PHOENIX -- Rehabbing D-backs pitcher Brandon Webb is rebuilding himself on the mound, and after a 65-pitch side session on Wednesday, the right-hander said he's finally "piecing stuff together."
Before the D-backs' series finale against the Yankees on Wednesday, Webb -- who underwent right shoulder surgery last August -- played long toss and threw off flat ground in the bullpen before toeing the rubber in the 'pen. He said his arm speed there was the fastest it has been during his recent progress. Webb has been throwing off a mound regularly since June 12.
"Anything that I do feels better," Webb said.
Webb added that he's also becoming more consistent at repeating his arm slot, though D-backs pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. will still stop the righty mid-motion if the angle isn't just right.
Webb, who threw during the D-backs' visits to Boston and Detroit last week, will throw this weekend during Arizona's three-game set in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pitching out of the full windup is Webb's next step.
Webb last threw a pitch in a Major League game on Opening Day 2009. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 4 and transferred to the 60-day DL on April 17.
Rhythm key for D-backs reserves
PHOENIX -- It may have seemed superfluous for D-backs skipper A.J. Hinch to pinch-hit reserves Tony Abreu and Augue Ojeda late in Tuesday's 9-3 loss to the visiting New York Yankees. The team was, of course, down by seven runs at the time.
"When we're down like that, I wanted to make sure Abreu got an at-bat and I wanted to make sure Augie got an at-bat," Hinch said after the loss. "It was more about getting our bench guys a look in case they're needed tomorrow."
Which was greatly appreciated in the reserves wing of the clubhouse. Abreu and Ojeda, who back up starting infielders Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds, also believe one plate appearance in one given night could make for a more productive game another night.
"Guys on the bench that don't play much -- any time they get an opportunity to get an at-bat -- we're more than happy to have it, to see some live pitches, because it's a lot different than in the [batting] cage," said Ojeda, who struck out looking on Tuesday and has just 31 at-bats spread over 27 games this season. "It helps the timing. Baseball is all about timing. The more at-bats you get on a consistent basis, the [more] you're going to be successful."
Abreu, meanwhile, said that even the smallest sample size -- a solitary opportunity off the pine, in this case -- is enough for him to watch his tendencies, both positive and negative, on video afterward.
Rusty Ryal, who completes Hinch's most-likely-to-pinch-hit triumvirate, disagrees almost completely.
"Pinch-hitting is one of those things -- for me, it's more of a fist-fight," said Ryal, who batted for pitcher Dan Haren on Tuesday but was retired on a flyout, with Arizona down, 3-2, in the seventh. "You're just in there to survive an AB and hope something positive comes out of it. ... As far as getting in a rhythm, there's no shot. If anyone says they get in a rhythm off [of] one at-bat ... they've got a special gift."
Rosales' rehab from injury gradual
PHOENIX -- Leo Rosales' boot was made for walking, but now he's strutting around the D-backs' clubhouse without it.
"I'm not going to be running or jogging for a while -- a week or so," said the right-handed reliever, who hopes the stress fracture in his right ankle is completely healed by early to mid-July so that he can return soon after the All-Star break.
Rosales compiled a 2-0 record and 8.10 ERA in nine Major League games this season before being placed on the 15-day disabled list after allowing seven earned runs in an April 28 relief appearance; he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 1 and has missed Arizona's past 50 games.
After his CT scans were reviewed on Tuesday, Rosales was cleared to walk without his protective boot. He said he has felt no pain since.
Rosales said he will continue to wear the boot while throwing the ball, a welcome upgrade from throwing while his right foot rested on a stool. Next week, he will start strengthening exercises until he can play catch on two cleats.
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.