CHICAGO - The Diamondbacks’ recent hitting woes have bothered Dwayne Murphy as much as anyone else. Manager Bob Brenly on Saturday gave his hitting coach something of an endorsement.
“When the pitching staff doesn't pitch, the pitching coach feels the heat,” Brenly said. “When the hitters don't hit, the hitting coach feels the heat. But the bottom line is the players have to swing the bats. They have to get good pitches and they've got to hit them hard. Even at that, that doesn't always guarantee you're going to get a hit.”
Brenly lauded Murphy for his work with players on drills — sometimes even during games — and in the video room.
“I know it's probably weighing heavy on his mind, but there's only so much he can do,“ Brenly said. “We've had some bad at-bats lately, but I think we've had a lot of good at-bats. We just didn't get results.”
Murphy agreed with Brenly's assessment that players are pressing. He pointed to Junior Spivey and Danny Bautista, theorizing they were trying too hard to make a good impression after stints on the disabled list.
“All you can do is just keep working, keep going at it,” said Murphy, who became hitting coach in 2001 after three seasons as first-base coach.
“Just try to do the same routine. There's really nothing else. These guys work hard in the (batting) cage. A lot of these guys are in the cage, working every day. Nothing's really changed. They do the same things they've always done to get ready. You've got make sure they continue to keep doing this stuff.”
Mark Grace, who spent 13 seasons calling Wrigley Field his home as a member of the Chicago Cubs, today gets what could be his final start at the Friendly Confines.
But Grace — who is hitting .202, which would seem to make it unlikely the team picks up his $2 million option for 2004 — refused to admit to any sentimentality.
“That (start) makes me happy as hell,” said Grace, 39. “Whether it's in Chicago, Cincinnati or Minnesota, I'm just happy to be in there.”
Brenly indicated the decision to play Grace today was somewhat for old time's sake.
“I don't want to make this an overly dramatic thing, but the reality is it could possibly be his last game in Wrigley,” Brenly said.
“I'm sure it's a Chicago(-related) thing,” Grace said, “and I'm happy about that. But I'm going to look at it as a winning thing. I want to go out there and do everything I can to help us win a much-needed game.”
Grace's output this season has dropped his career average from .305 entering the season to .303. But he would need to go 0-for-92 to fall below .300 for his career.
BARAJAS CATCHES ON
Chad Moeller is scheduled to start at catcher today, but Rod Barajas has started six of the past seven games — including Saturdays after catching all 14 innings Friday — and it seems he might continue to get most of the playing time.
“It looks like he's figured out some things out at the plate,” Brenly said. “Going to the opposite field a little bit more, letting the ball travel a little bit more. (We'll) give him an opportunity to find it and hopefully get hot for us.”
Brenly praised Barajas, who can lapse into stretches where he pulls the ball to an extreme, for going to right field more often recently.
“I feel comfortable where I'm at now,” Barajas said.
Barajas went a combined 3-for-9 Thursday and Friday but was 0-for-3 on Saturday and thus still has not hit safely in three straight games since May 5-9.
An invasion of bugs at Wrigley Field had fans, umpires and players waving hands, caps and towels all game.
“That's terrible out there,” Luis Gonzalez said. “I don't know what's going on. A lot of guys are going to have to change their cologne or after-shave or something tomorrow.”
Tendinitis in Carlos Baerga's left shoulder has flared up, limiting his ability to bat right-handed.
With his seven strikeouts Friday, Curt Schilling reached 2,464 for his career. Schilling passed Jim Kaat and tied Mark Langston for 27th all-time. Jack Morris is 26th with 2,478 career strikeouts.
Friday's game (not including the rain delay of more than three hours) lasted four hours, 36 minutes — the longest D-Backs game since June 5, 2002, a 13-inning defeat of Houston that took 4:45.