PHOENIX – Ryan Wheeler’s first meeting with manager Kirk Gibson on Friday came in a Chase Field elevator.
“Hey, Wheels, what’s up?” Gibson said when the two met.
“Hey, Gibby,” Wheeler said.
“You ready to play tonight?”
“All right, you’re in there.”
And that was that, Wheeler starting and hitting eighth against Houston on Friday.
The Diamondbacks do not plan to overwhelm new third baseman Wheeler in his first trip to the major leagues, but Gibson did say he foresawplenty of playing time and planned Wheeler in a rotation on the left side of the infield with Ryan Roberts, Willie Bloomquist and Stephen Drew.
Wheeler was leading the minor leagues with 90 RBIs at Class AAA Reno while hitting .351 with 27 doubles and 15 home runs when he was purchased from the Aces in time for the start of a 10-game homestand Friday. Geoff Blum was released to make room.
“We’re going to introduce him into the big leagues. He’s moved through the minor leagues … we see him as a young version of ‘Blummer’ right now. He probably has a little more sock in his bat, uses more of the field. We’ll work him in and we’ll see how his development goes,” Gibson said.
“We’ll try to put him in situations that he can be successful at. I’ll continue to play everybody. We’ll play him tonight and see how he feels. It’s his debut. There is more that goes to it than him just coming in. I can tell him play the game just like you did last night. It just doesn’t work that way. Trevor Bauer found out about that. I found out about that. Everybody does.”
A Pacific Coast League All-Star this season, Wheeler has started at least 10 games at first base, third base and left field, but third has been his primary position since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft out of Loyola Marymount. A left-handed batter, Wheeler hit .366 with 13 homers against right-handers this season.
“I don’t know what exactly is in store for me up here. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m just happy to be here,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler is the seventh player to play at third base this year, where the D-backs have struggled to find production this season as Roberts has been unable to replicate his 2011 career year. D-backs third basemen had 10 homers and 44 RBIs, in the middle of the NL pack, but rank 15th in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
Wheeler, a left-handed batter, hit .366 with 13 homers against right-handers this season.
The D-backs recalled Bell from Reno on May 21 as a candidate to become a regular at third, but Bell hit .173 with one homer and four RBIs in 21 games and was returned to the Aces on June 28.
Blum hit .143 in 17 games with the D-backs, missing most the season with an oblique muscle injury. He was activated just before the All-Star break. Injuries plagued Blum’s time here. He suffered a knee surgery that required surgery in spring training of 2011, and a week after returning suffered a after broken pinkie that sidelined him for another five weeks.
In another move, the D-backs claimed right-hander Brad Bergesen off waivers from Baltimore. He could join the D-backs or start in the minor leagues, Gibson said.
Bergesen, 26, was 17-24 with a 4.68 ERA in 83 appearances, 59 starts, for Baltimore from 2009-11. He has spent this season at Class AAA Norfolk, where he 4-3 with a 4.03 ERA in 22 appearances, 10 starts. He could be an option to be a long reliever with the D-backs, who promoted long man Josh Collmenter into the starting rotation with Trevor Bauer’s demotion last week.
“I’m really excited. It’s kind of that nervous and excited feeling. It’s my first time in a new organization, it’s a fresh start and I’m looking forward to it,” Bergesen told the Sun of Baltimore. “It’s a bittersweet thing. Sad to leave, but as a player you always want what’s best for your future. It sounds like I’ll get a fresh start in Arizona and I am really looking forward to it.”
Begersen and David Hernandez played together in the minors and majors with Begersen.
“He’s got good stuff. I always thought his stuff would play well in the National League. He induces contact, and I feel in the National League it is more about contact and putting the ball in play. I think a change of scenery is always good for someone who is blocked behind guys,” Hernandez said.