During Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson’s pre-game session with the media on Friday, someone asked about his thoughts on the eve of the second half.
“Well, we’ll go 42-8, make up the 16 games we’re below .500 and get in the playoffs,” he smiled. “What, you guys don’t believe that?”
A few laughs of disbelief were heard around the interview room and Gibson said nothing else. Whether this was a tryout for a comedy club routine or a true belief in the future, Gibson was not one to give.
Yet, a consensus around the clubhouse on Friday, prior to the start of the season half, seemed realistic. Players appeared confined to their fate of being on the outside looking into the glass bubble which is the National League west Division race.
Coming into play Friday, the Diamondbacks were in last place in the NL West, sported the worst record (40-56, .417) in the National League and only the Texas Rangers (38-57, .400). While their current plight is unacceptable to the players, they are out to make the best of a dreadful situation.
“We all wish we had a better start,” said pitcher Josh Collmenter. “Over the last few weeks, we’re playing better baseball. So, we’ll see what happens.”
With essentially the demands of a pennant race in the rear view mirror, the psychology of the moment is altered. At this point, the Diamondbacks are not watching the scoreboard and daily events of the front-running Dodgers and Giants remain of little concern.
“We feel no pressure and players can just relax,” Collmenter added. “Right now, we’re starting to get some injured players back and who knows, maybe we can still make some noise.”
The “start” which Collmenter referenced kicked the Diamondbacks right in their collective teeth. Starting with two losses in their first two games against the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia, the D-backs proceeded to drop 22 of their first 30 games and by April 30, they were 9 ½ games out of first place in the division.
Since April 30, the closest the Diamondbacks rose to the division lead was 9 ½ games on May 7. After dropping a 9-3 decision to the White Sox the next day, they dropped into double digits in games behind and have not recovered.
“Certainly, we’re not where we want to be,” Paul Goldschmidt said prior to Friday’s game with the Cubs in Chase Field. “We have two and one-months left and this is a talented team. We hope to put some wins together and find a way to get back into the playoff picture.”
The road ahead for Goldschmidt and his teammates will be filled with landmines and pitfalls.
If the Diamondbacks entertain any expectation of moving into a competitive position, they need, as Gibson smiled late Friday afternoon, to put a streak together which rivaled the Dodgers’ 42-8 surge of a year ago.
On Friday, the Diamondbacks announced the signing of five international free agents, including their first from Taiwan.
In inking 20-year-old Wei-Chieh Huang, the 6-1, 170 pounder is a right-hander out of Taitung, Taiwan. Huang went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four starts during the 2012 Taiwan High School National tournament. In the preliminary round of the 2013 All-Taiwan Games, Huang’s fastball was clocked at 95 miles-per-hour.
Other signings include 16-year-old outfielder Juan Araujo from the Dominican Republic, 16-year-old infielder Mailon Arroyo from the Dominican Republic, 16-year-old outfielder Remy Cordero from the Dominican Republic, and 17-year-old outfielder Victor Rodriguez from Venezuela.