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D’backs show ragged side in spring training

There were runners on second and third when Justin Upton fielded a single in right field on Saturday afternoon. Attempting to cut down the runner at home, he unleashed a throw.

Unfortunately for second baseman Felipe Lopez, the throw was off-target and drilled him in the wrist.

Lopez was fine – he started and doubled twice in Sunday’s game – but the play deserves mention, not to single out Upton, but as the latest example of what has become an ugly and common sight this spring: Sloppy play by the Diamondbacks.

Right now – and yes, it is spring training, and yes, there are two weeks left before the games count – but, right now, the Diamondbacks look bad. There is little disputing this.

“You never strap on spikes . . . to go out there and lose, especially the way we’re losing,” left fielder Conor Jackson said. “We’re just playing sloppy. We’re making errors and it’s definitely something that’s already been addressed. We know we have to pick it up.”

Jackson was referring to a team meeting manager Bob Melvin called before Saturday’s game, in which Melvin stressed that the time had come to play more cleanly. Melvin said players have been focusing on aspects the coaching staff has been stressing in morning workouts, namely improving their baserunning.

They entered Monday, an off day, at 7-14, the second-worst record in the Cactus League. Of course, extrapolating too much from spring-training results can be a fool’s errand. Still, their play this spring is not encouraging. Entering Sunday, they had been outscored 158-121, ranked eighth among National League teams this spring training with a .280 average and last with a 6.95 ERA. Their 27 errors were fourth worst.

When looking at the first five innings of games – the time when, generally speaking, starting players are facing starting players, top starters and relievers are pitching, and the game is not yet filled with minor-leaguers – Arizona’s record was just 6-12-3. In the first five innings, the Diamondbacks were being outscored 80-65.

Helton shows power

Todd Helton hit a towering home run and played seven innings in the field for a second straight game, further proof that his surgically repaired back is feeling just fine.

The Colorado first baseman finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, leading the Rockies to a 7-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.

It was Helton’s team-leading fourth homer of the spring. Ryan Spilborghs and journeyman catcher Sal Fasano also homered for Colorado. Helton struggled with a disk problem in his lower back last season, which eventually landed him on the disabled list and then on the operating table.

With his back mending, his power has steadily returned.

“He’s taking good swipes,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s barreling balls up. He’s doing well, very well.”

The Associated Press

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