Diamondbacks: Gibson molds team like him: gritty

2013-02-12T00:00:00Z Diamondbacks: Gibson molds team like him: grittyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SCOTTSDALE - Kirk Gibson is not one to take losing in stride, not as a highly self-motivated player and not as a manager who found success in his first season in charge.

So after his Arizona Diamondbacks dipped from NL West champions in 2011 to a .500 team in 2012, Gibson is at work building the kind of team he likes, one that, to use one of his favorite words, "grinds" to get its victories.

Nothing flashy, just hard work, hustle and success based on good team chemistry and aggressive, hard-nosed play.

With Gibson the one setting the tone.

"I'm just determined," he said after pitchers and catchers reported for spring training on Monday. "I can just say that 81-81 does not sound good to me at all, and then I took it very personally, and I take responsibility for it."

His players took it personally, too, he said.

"I'm sure they did," Gibson said. "It's not who we are. It's not who we aspire to be. But having said that, you could do everything right and it may still not happen."

To win a division with a San Francisco team that captured the World Series two of the past three seasons and a Los Angeles Dodgers organization with money to burn, the Diamondbacks made some significant personnel decisions in the offseason - most notably dealing star outfielder Justin Upton, along with third baseman Chris Johnson, to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Martin Prado, right-hander Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers.

The D-backs added outfielder Cody Ross and right-hander Brandon McCarthy from Oakland and bolstered the bullpen with several players, most notably Heath Bell, acquired from Florida.

The arrival of McCarthy, coming back from a horrific injury when he was hit in the head by a line drive, leaves Arizona apparently set for four of the spots in the rotation. The fifth spot is up for grabs with Delgado and left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin the leading candidates.

The other big question mark facing Gibson is at shortstop, where young Didi Gregorious - obtained from Cincinnati in a three-team deal that sent former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer to Cleveland - will try to make the club as the everyday shortstop. He'll compete with Willie Bloomquist, returning from a nagging back injury, and Cliff Pennington, who came along with Bell in the three-team trade that sent center fielder Chris Young to Oakland.

The revamped lineup, general manager Kevin Towers said, is designed to rely less on home runs for offense. Bloomquist, described by Gibson as "one of my favorites" because of his hustling play, sees the kind of lineup that Gibson likes.

"I think it certainly helps when you have everybody pulling in the same direction and on the same page," Bloomquist said. "With the guys they've brought in, they are certainly those mentality type of guys. They aren't afraid to get the uniform dirty. They play hard. They really want to win. With the acquisitions that we got, it certainly helps with the clubhouse atmosphere, it helps with the chemistry of this team and we'll see if it translates onto the field."

That, of course, is the big question. Gibson said that the team can make all kinds of improvements in personnel, attitude and approach and it doesn't guarantee great success on the field.

"You analyze numbers and you analyze reality," Gibson said. "In 2011, we overachieved. In 2012, we underachieved. We want to overachieve again. People make all kinds of predictions. How do you really know? There's a zillion ways to evaluate a team. You don't really know."

Upton, rightly or wrongly, was the face of the franchise. When things didn't go well, he got the blame. So who is the face now?

"I know who it is," Gibson said. "It's us. I just see it as us. Just look at the team the way it is. I think what stands out. ... It's not one person. I know that on the teams I won on, there were a lot of very good players. It can be anybody on any given day. ... We'll make sure we spread the responsibility around this year."

From the manager on down.

Up next

• What: Spring training opener

• Who: Rockies at Diamondbacks

• Where: Scottsdale

• When: 1:10 p.m. Feb. 23

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