When Zack Greinke signed with the Diamondbacks, the first impression was the right-hander, given his leadership and productivity, would be a force in the Arizona clubhouse. Just by his stature and accomplishments, Greinke’s presence alone would likely have a residual influence down through the pitching staff, and beyond. The desired result would be increased confidence and production from those who come into contact.
Not quite, says Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson. While some contend the effect of a Greinke, Clayon Kershaw, or Madison Bumgarner could have a lasting effect and help to motivate teammates, the burden remains on each player.
That was Johnson’s assessment in regard to a player’s residual effect on his teammates. Speaking to reporters after a ceremony at a suburban Phoenix high school Thursday morning to unveil his mural portrait, Johnson indicated players, when they reach the major leagues, should have a defining purpose for staying at the game’s highest level.
That includes the ability to self-generate energy and will, and transport those variables into production. Above all, Johnson pointed out, it is incumbent upon each player, pitcher or position player, to recognize how and why he ascended to the major league level.
“Once a player reaches the major leagues and he is not motivated, that’s a problem,” Johnson said. “This is not only for pitchers, but for the rest of the line-up. If you’re hitting number five behind the clean-up hitter, that would be motivation to drive in runs and set up guys lower in the line-up.”
While Johnson, now a Diamondbacks special assistant to president Derrick Hall, speaks of self-guided motivation, he was essentially the poster child for that approach. Angry and distant for most of his 22 years in the majors, Johnson was wind tight and left alone by his teammates. Even after games, his angry disposition filtered down to reporters, and his moody temperament was a given.
Since he left the game in 2009, Johnson has mellowed, and seems to enjoy his conversations with the media. A sense of humor is now dictated and, and his answers to questions have a tendency to joyfully ramble.
Still, this has not stopped Johnson from an attempt to mentor younger players. When he joined the organization as Hall’s assistant, Johnson said he wanted to travel to Diamondbacks’ minor league affiliates and speak, one-on-one, with young pitchers.
Left-hander Robby Ray was one beneficiary. Spending the first two months of the season at Triple-A Reno, Ray was permanently recalled from the Aces on June 4. On May 6, the left-hander was recalled from Reno, as the 26th man, to pitch in a doubleheader at Colorado, and he won the night-cap, 5-1 over the Rockies.
While in the minors, Ray recalled several visits from Johnson, who told him to relax, but heightened an energy level. “Make each pitch like it was the ninth inning of 1-0 game,” Ray said during this last season.
The results were gratifying. Though Ray finished with a 5-12 record for 23 starts, his ERA of 3.52 was the fourth best for a rookie pitcher in franchise history. As well, Ray finished among National League rookie pitchers in ERA (second), starts (fourth), innings pitched (fourth), and strikeouts (fourth).
Now, the experience of last season and the advent of Greinke should make Ray a better pitcher. Plus, the Grienke lingering effect could also filter down to starters Patrick Corbon, Rubby De La Rosa and Shelby Miller.
For now, Johnson discounts the effect one player can have over his teammates. Then again, and if player sees Greinke performing at a high level, that should be motivation enough for others to match his production, drive, purpose an intensity.
NEW UNIFORMS AND HATS
Major League Baseball, along with Authentic Collection partners Majestic and New Era, unveiled a new on-field look for Spring Training. This includes lighter-weight uniforms, several new cap designs, specially-marked balls and other on-field elements.
The jerseys are a part of Majestic’s new Flex Base uniform system, a design developed through insights from Major League players, innovative fabric technologies and extensive wear testing over the last two years. The new Flex Base uniforms feature a new, lighter weight twill technology and mesh panels on the sides of the jerseys. This will reduce the overall weight of jerseys by 10-20 percent, and enhance freedom of movement. These will debut in Spring Training and be worn throughout the championship season and the post-season.
The primary logos of each spring training league, Cactus for Arizona teams and Grapefruit for Florida-based teams, includes a highway-like road sign with state initials, and will locate on both caps and jerseys.
The Diamondbacks will have a totally new design, and will wear wear their new red alternate jersey with a black diamond gradient on the shoulders. The Diamondbacks will feature a new, alternative cap, which sports the snakehead logo.