Notes: No. 8 not an easy choice

Notes: No. 8 not an easy choice

PEORIA, Ariz. -- At first glance it wouldn't seem like finding a No. 8 hitter would be a big deal. After all, in the National League it's the final position player spot in the lineup.

There's a lot more that goes into it, though, and it could present D-backs manager Bob Melvin with a tough choice this year.

Whoever hits there has to be aware that with runners on base pitchers likely will try to work very carefully to the hitter, not giving him much to hit and throwing a lot of breaking balls.

On the flip side, when the bases are empty and the pitcher is on deck with two outs, chances are the pitcher is going to go right after the No. 8 hitter so that the pitcher will lead off the next inning.

For the past two years, Chris Snyder has hit there, but in the second half of last year as Snyder's production rose so did his spot in the order. This year, he could very well hit in the middle of the order.

"You don't really have any eight hitters or guys that deserve to hit eight so to speak," Melvin said of his lineup. "Snyder's done a great job in the past handling the eight hole and understanding what it takes to hit down there and how you're going to get pitched from at-bat to at-bat."

Justin Upton hit in that spot Friday, but that might be a tough place to put a young player, especially one that can be as productive as Upton because of the amount of times he may be pitched around or not given a good pitch to hit.

Stephen Drew could also be a possibility, but as the lone left-handed only hitter -- Orlando Hudson is a switch-hitter -- in the starting lineup, Melvin will have to decide where to place him given that, late in games, opposing managers will bring in their lefty specialists to face him.

Good to go: Micah Owings is scheduled to start Saturday after being scratched from his last start with what the club termed general arm soreness.

Owings threw a bullpen Wednesday and played long toss Thursday in addition to receiving treatment from trainers Ken Crenshaw and Dave Edwards and pronounced himself ready to go for Saturday.

"I feel good," he said. "Any time there's discomfort it's something you want to get taken care of right away. In the spring, you're going to have a little bit of that and the training staff, Ken and Dave, did a great job of helping me continue the process of staying on top of it."

Familiar face: Scott Hairston, who began his career in the D-backs system, has settled into San Diego nicely after being dealt there last year in exchange for right-hander Leo Rosales.

In 87 at-bats for the Padres after the trade, Hairston hit .287 with eight homers and impressed enough to where he will be San Diego's likely Opening Day left fielder.

"As of now, I'm set to get some consistent playing time, which you need as a player," Hairston said. "Obviously, in Arizona it was hard to get the at-bats. Now I feel like I'm with an organization that's going to give me a chance. I'm very excited that for the first time in my career I feel like I'm going to get the opportunity that I deserve."

In his first two at-bats Friday, Hairston homered and doubled to left off Arizona starter Doug Davis.

"I'm not going to throw a first pitch curveball or a cutter in Spring Training," Davis said. "Everybody knows that Scottie can hit a fastball and he's a good mistake pitch hitter and you know I threw two of them today and he capitalized on both of them."

Spring Training
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Side work: Randy Johnson will throw a bullpen session on Saturday and, if all goes well, could see his first Cactus League action next week, possibly as soon as Tuesday.

Game notes: In his second outing of the spring, setup man Tony Pena tossed a scoreless inning with one strikeout.

"Hung a couple of sliders, but his stuff gets him through it," Melvin said.

Right-hander Dustin Nippert allowed two hits and walked two in 1 2/3 innings and now has an 11.57 ERA this spring.

Melvin, though, said it's unfair to judge Nippert by the numbers alone as the club has told him to continue to work on his slider and changeup during games.

Up next: The D-backs will stay in the Phoenix area Saturday to take on the Cubs at HoHoKam Park. Owings will start for the D-backs after missing his last start and Chad Qualls and Brandon Lyon are among those expected to get their work in on the mound as well.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.