Arizona hurlers lead NL in several offensive categories
By Jake Rill
PHOENIX -- Robbie Ray calls it a game. Patrick Corbin calls it a competition. Whatever is going on at batting practice for D-backs pitchers, it seems to be working.
D-backs starters take batting practice every day, just like other players. They take cuts in the indoor batting cage and pregame on the diamond at Chase Field. And it's not just working on dropping down a bunt.
Constantly competing to see who can get the most hits, Arizona's starters are pitching in on offense. Entering Tuesday night's 7-4 loss to the Dodgers, the D-backs pitchers led the National League in batting average (.229), on-base percentage (.233), slugging percentage (.305), runs scored (11), hits (30), and total bases (40).
"Guys are up there swinging," said Corbin, who is batting .344 (11-for-32) with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. "It's huge when you think a pitcher's an easy out and they get up there and they keep an inning going."
During Spring Training, the D-backs had Tack Wilson, a coach at Triple-A Reno, work exclusively with pitchers on their hitting.
Another difference in the offensive production from the pitchers comes from Zack Greinke. The veteran right-hander has played in the National League the past four seasons and has proven he can handle a bat.
Greinke is batting .290 with a double and two RBIs. He has a career .227 average. But since the start of 2013 when he signed with the Dodgers, he is batting .255 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
"It seems like pitchers pitch him like a real hitter," Corbin said. "It's probably something that's going to happen to us and we're going to have to make adjustments to try to improve."
Hitting coach Dave Magadan has seen pitchers who don't care as much about hitting during his 14 seasons as a coach, previously with the Padres, Red Sox and Rangers. That's not the case with the D-backs.
"They've got a pretty good base to work with, we've got guys that are pretty good athletes and care about their hitting," Magadan said. "And that's half the battle -- caring. When they go up there, they care about getting the job done."
Ray has collected two hits in each of his past two starts, including his first career homer June 6 against Tampa Bay. Archie Bradley drove in a run twice in a span of three starts -- May 29 against the Padres and June 8 against the Rays.
Magadan said he believes some of that success comes from the pitchers' pregame approach.
"There's a tendency for pitchers when they're taking batting practice to try to hit balls out of the park, see how far they can hit them," Magadan said. "We keep them from doing that. We hit a lot in the cage so they don't have to worry about how far the ball's going, they just worry about hitting line drives, staying on top of the ball. And they buy into it."
Jake Rill is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.