D-backs notes: Pitchers, catchers take a hike

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks found a novel way to break the hum-drum of spring training by hiking Camelback Mountain on Friday morning.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson and his pitchers and catchers climbed the 1.2-mile Echo Canyon trail as part of a team-building exercise. The hike was not mandatory, but there were no absentees.

"Nobody got hurt and everybody made it to the top. It’s a win," reliever Brad Ziegler said.

All the D-backs got off the hill safely, but their hike was delayed for about 20 minutes on the ascent when the Phoenix Fire Department airlifted a male hiker to safety after he collapsed.

"You hope the best for the guy," reliever Josh Collmenter said. "It was impressive to see the firefighters. They came in and dropped off the harness. They strapped him in, and they must have radioed back when it happened to come and pick him up."

The group walked up the hill at their own pace before more than a few, including Collmenter, ran at least part of the way down.

"It’s a fun. It’s different. The last thing that everybody wants to do is the running (conditioning in camp). When you can do something like that, it breaks up the monotony," Collmenter said.

The Diamondbacks are making a concerted effort to make sure their pitchers do not overextend early in this spring training camp, which because of their season-opening trip to Australia opened about a week before usual. Part of the adjustment involves throwing less frequently than in previous years, another factor that played into the hike.

"We didn’t want them to throw today, so we took them out of here," Gibson said. "Something different. Take them off site and out of the weight room. Just fun being with the guys, getting out with people. It was challenging. Going up there you have to concentrate. It’s rocky. It’s steep. It was a good workout, and it was good to do it together. Everybody did it. Nobody got hurt. Pretty good conditioning. I know my legs feel it."

The exercise was not about competition but camaraderie.

"It’s a team-building thing," Ziegler said. "We are not trying to separate anybody. The only competition was to make sure you weren’t the only guy to get hurt. The mountain is strenuous enough that you don’t have to put any kind of extra emphasis on it to get a good workout.

"Hopefully everybody realizes that we are all in this together. If you decide you are not going to put in the work, then you are the only one (not) doing it. Everyone else will leave you behind. No one wants to be that guy, so everyone puts in that work."

The pitchers, catchers and associated coaches took a group photo at the summit.

Inasmuch as Rangers left-hander Derek Holland suffered a knee injury when running with his dog this offseason and former D-backs pitcher Brian Anderson suffered arm stiffness when he held his arm at an awkward ankle during a cab ride in Los Angeles years ago, the added injury risk was considered minimal.

"We’re athletes. I didn’t think it would happen," Gibson said. "I know other teams have done it in the past. We’re not the first ones to do it."

Major League Baseball officials are to meet with the Diamondbacks — and presumably the Dodgers — before spring training games start Feb. 26 to define the roster rules for the two-game series in Australia, Gibson said. The D-backs also play an exhibition game on the trip, and Gibson wants to have a clear idea of the eligibility guidelines. 

Earlier this spring, Gibson said it was his understanding that he could take 30 players but could choose his 25-man active roster for each game from a smaller pool of 28. The Athletics took their entire starting rotation to Japan for a two-game series against the Mariners in 2012 even though they needed only two starters.

There is a league rule that applies: "If MLB regular season games are scheduled prior to MLB Opening Day (for example, if MLB games are played in Japan, Mexico, Australia, etc), the MLB Commissioner will determine the Active List maximum roster limit for those games.”

"Once we understand that and once we have a better understanding who might start these games and where our rotation might be for the Giants, it makes it easier to figure the roster out," Gibson said.

Gibson has not named his starters for the two-game series March 22-23. The D-backs open their home season with a three-game series against San Francisco from March 31-April 2 at Chase Field.

Outfielder Cody Ross is on schedule to begin full weight-bearing running by the end of next week, Gibson said, with a target return date more likely after the Australia trip.

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