Arizona Republic wrote:Set lineup appealing to D-Backs
Brenly drops curtain on player-juggling act
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 9, 2004 12:00 AM
Diamondbacks probable lineup
1. Steve Finley CF
2. Roberto Alomar 2B
3. Luis Gonzalez LF
4. Richie Sexson 1B
5. Alex Cintron SS
6. Shea Hillenbrand 3B
7. Danny Bautista RF
8. Robby Hammock C
Contrary to public opinion, Bob Brenly didn't consult with that infamous novelty store item, the Magic 8 Ball, before filling out his daily lineup card last season. It only seemed that way.
Due to injuries, inconsistencies and an injection of youth, the Diamondbacks manager used 146 different starting lineups during the 162-game season. Amazingly, only one lineup was used more than twice.
But as the Diamondbacks prepare for the start of spring training in two weeks, Brenly can throw away the pencil with the rubbed-off eraser and virtually break out a ballpoint pen when it comes to jotting down his everyday lineup for the 2004 season.
Well, at least in theory.
"Things can change, but Bob definitely has a pretty set lineup he can go with now," Diamondbacks General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "Players like that. They like routine in their lives. I think for the most part, they'll find a lot of that this year."
When Brenly turns in his lineup card, it will look like this more times than not:
Steve Finley (center field), Roberto Alomar (second base), Luis Gonzalez (left field), Richie Sexson (first base), Alex Cintron (shortstop), Shea Hillenbrand (third base), Danny Bautista (right field) and Robby Hammock (catcher).
The bench, meanwhile, appears to be the strongest in any of Arizona's seven seasons and will afford Brenly the luxury of carrying 12 pitchers. Four of the five reserve spots belong to infielders Carlos Baerga and switch-hitter Matt Kata, lefty-hitting catcher Brent Mayne, and utility clutch hitter Greg Colbrunn, who returns for his second tour with the team.
"I'm excited," Brenly said. "We've got guys at every position we fully expect to be everyday players. In the past, we've had to flip-flop and use a lot of guys, but some of that was by design. We're a whole different ballclub, though, this year."
Five of the eight projected starting-position players weren't in last year's Opening Day lineup. The only three returning regulars from last April are Finley, Gonzalez and Bautista.
Finley turns 39 next month, and although you won't find too many players that age in an everyday leadoff role, "There aren't many 39-year-old guys like Steve Finley," Garagiola said. "He stills runs very, very well, he's a smart hitter, works the count and he's a legitimate power guy, too."
In addition to tying for the National League lead with 10 triples, becoming the oldest player to do so, Finley hit 22 home runs, collected 70 RBIs and stole 15 bases.
Alomar, who spurned better offers to sign with Arizona as a free agent, is closing in on 3,000 career hits and is motivated to increase his credentials as a future Hall of Famer. He remains a defensive vacuum at second and still handles the bat well enough to advance runners and put up decent numbers.
Gonzalez is coming off a sparkling season in which he led the majors with a .354 average against right-handed pitchers and ranked in the NL's top 10 in doubles (46), intentional walks (17), multihit games (54), total bases (308), on-base percentage (.402) and extra-base hits (76).
"The team didn't accomplish all it wanted to, but when you look at what Luis did, playing all the time, it was a wonderful year for him," Garagiola said. "Most guys, if they could just do it once in their career, that would have been a defining year."
Sexson, acquired from Milwaukee, finished the season with 45 homers and 124 RBIs and gives Brenly his first genuine cleanup hitter.
Said Brenly: "He's shown the ability to put up big numbers from start to finish, no matter who was surrounding him."
It will be up to Cintron, who hit .317 in 117 games, and Hillenbrand, who had 20 homers and 97 RBIs between Boston and Arizona, to complement the heart of the order.
"I like Alex at the No. 5 spot because he's a left-handed hitter who can break up the lineup. He's shown the ability to pick up big runs, and he's got a good eye for the strike zone," Brenly said.
"And Shea is there to clean up the mess. He had a damn good season, and he'll find ways to get guys home."
Bautista has had his share of ups and downs, but he's in the final year of his contract and appears intent on proving his worth.
Hammock improved his strength to gain much-needed durability entering his first full major-league season.