Livan Hernandez and Craig Counsell drank — and were drenched by — the bubbly after Florida’s 1997 World Series victory. They remained teammates as Florida underwent its first dismantling that winter.
Hernandez is the lone ranger in Arizona this time around.
With Luis Gonzalez and Counsell entering free agency, Hernandez will be one of the few veterans returning on a team that expects to make full use of players with less than half a season’s experience at shortstop, center field, right field and catcher in 2007.
Not to worry, Hernandez said.
“These guys are ready to play,” Hernandez said of the young Diamondbacks before leaving the Valley for his Miami home.
“This team is going to be good. Everybody can swing the bat. They have a lot of potential. These young guys know how to play.”
While there is still a chance that one of the young guns could be dealt if the D-Backs can land a top starter, odds are that Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin and Chris Young will enter spring training as starters and Miguel Montero could form part of a platoon at catcher. With shortstop Drew in the lead, the youngest D-Backs seemed to assimilate well in their rookie season.
- Drew hit .316 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 59 games while showing above-average range and a strong arm. His OPS — on-base percentage plus slugging percentage — was .854.
- Quentin hit. 253 with nine homers and 2 RBIs and had an .872 OPS, the highest on the team, in 57 games.
- Young hit .243 in 30 games and made a highlight-reel, over-the-shoulder catch of Randy Winn’s line drive to left-center in his second major league game.
- Montero made only four starts but had a three-hit game and had four RBIs while earning manager Bob Melvin’s praise for his defensive skills and attitude.
While Young hit leadoff a few times in 2006 and may be the D-Backs’ fastest runner, general manager Josh Byrnes said he does not foresee Young in that role next season, adding, “I don’t really think that’s his skill set.”
Outgoing coach Carlos Tosca compared Young to Ellis Burks, who had 352 home runs and 181 stolen bases in an 18-year major league career.
Quentin projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter with “some life in that bat,” Byrnes said, and Drew is a candidate to hit leadoff, although clear roles have not been defined.
“We’ll let the process evolve,” Byrnes said.
All the rookies said their major league time was beneficial.
“It gets you more confident. . . . Like everybody says, you don’t know until you get up here at this level how you are going to perform,” Drew said.
“It’s been fun this year.”
Drew made 52 starts at shortstop after being promoted from the minors following Counsell’s broken rib, suffered when he was struck by a pitch by Jose Mesa.
“The experience is extremely valuable,” Quentin said. “Being able to get a taste of how the pitching is here. The routine up here. Learning the ballparks. All those are big things. I don’t know if people would look at those things, but for us young guys it is very important.
“Definitely when you have some success it gives you some confidence and this game is a lot about having confidence when you go out there and play. It’s been great.”
Professional scout Bill Singer, a former major league right-hander, left the organization to join ex-D-Back scouting director Mike Rizzo’s staff in Washington.