Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 2/26/12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kirk Gibson is not looking for a team of renaissance men. Renaissance Festival men, however, are just fine. Josh Collmenter and D-backs rookie pitchers Trevor Bauer, Charles Brewer, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs attended the Renaissance Festival in the far eastern Phoenix suburb of Apache Junction after their Saturday workout. The quintet wore period clothes, and the event was filmed for team viewing later this spring. That sort of exercise dovetails nicely with Gibsons basic philosophy of team building. "Culture eats strategy for lunch" is one of his favorite sayings. Gibson good-naturedly balked at the word hazing, although the rookies were "encouraged" to participate. "I just thought it was a gift to them. They are young and talented and talked about, and we thought we would give them a new experience, something they had never experienced before. We did it last year and they actually enjoyed it. People do different things. We do baseball. We grind hard here. That is something that allows us to be a little more light-hearted at times. That is good and healthy. Collmenter was among the rookie contingent last year at the Festival, which celebrates life in a replica medieval village. Turkey legs and honey mead are available at the concession areas. The trip had prankish closer J.J. Putzs fingerprints all over it, although Putz -- who did not attend -- publicly disavowed any knowledge. "I heard our fearless leader, Josh Collmenter, who I still believe is a vampire of some sort ... I feel he was probably born and raised in the Renaissance era and he just never aged, considering he provided all the outfits out of his own closet," Putz said. "He is the perfect guy to lead these guys on the quest they went on yesterday." Part of Bauers wardrobe included red knee-length leggings and an oversized hat. "I have no idea what I was," said Bauer, a willing participant. A BRAND-NEW YEAR Geoff Blum brought his usual six gloves to spring training this season, expecting this time to make good use of them. Blum came into camp at 215, about 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight in the last three or four seasons, to lessen the stress on his lower body. He missed the first half of 2011 following arthroscopic cartilage surgery in his right knee suffered last March. Its helped me. The constant pounding on a day-to-day basis, dropping a little weight can make it a little bit better to move around on, said Blum, in competition for a reserve spot. Blum spent a lot of time on the back fields doing extra defensive work last spring, which probably led to his knee injury. The D-backs have told Blum they want to limit his work this spring, as they want to do with Takashi Saito and J.J. Putz, although Gibson knows it is hard to rein in a veteran. They are older, they have injury limitations. They have pride and they have ego, and they want to do it all. The reality of it is, it is not smart to do that. Ive told him. Well keep telling him. He is not going to listen the first time, Gibson said. Thats how they are. They are competitors. We want them to be healthy and play to their capabilities. When you get limited because something is bothering you, you cant do that. Worse yet is when you are hurt and dont want to tell anybody. Were trying to avoid that. I understand it. I was the same way as a player. One of the veterans brought in to change the clubhouse culture last season, Blum fit that role, although he was naturally frustrated by an inability to do the same on the field. It was this kind of year: Blum doubled off the right-field fence in his first start July 16 after being activated from the disabled list, but eight days later was forced out for another six weeks with a fractured right finger. It was a little snake-bit, to overuse the term in Arizona, but hopefully I make up for it this year, Blum said. Blum is among a group of four infield reserves that appear to be battling for three roster spots, although all could make the team if Stephen Drew opens the season on the disabled list. D-BACKS NOTES The Washington Nationals have expressed interest in Gerardo Parra, according to a report out of Washington, D.C., that cites sources. No deal is being discussed at this stage, a source familiar with the D-backs said. If the D-backs make any moves this spring, it might be with an eye toward strengthening their catching depth below the major league level. ... Pitchers threw live batting practice to hitters for the first time Sunday and will continue for the next three days. "They all looked great, Gibson said. Bryan Shaw and Trevor Bauer threw without the benefit of a protective screen, a risk mitigated by the fact that the hitters spent some time tracking pitchers instead of always swinging away. "I hate pitching behind a screen. I feel sometimes when you throw, you are holding back so you wont hit it," said Shaw, who was 1-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his rookie season. ... Gibson does not plan an intrasquad game Friday, the day before the exhibition season begins with split-squad afternoon games against Colorado at Salt River Fields and San Francisco at Scottsdale Stadium. "Its something we can do without. I didnt really like them as a player," Gibson said. ... The D-backs opened early camp for minor league players on Sunday, and the youngsters appear to eager to get going. Thirty-five were invited, and 51 arrived. ... Class A South Bend manager Mark Haley is expected to arrive March 6. Haley had surgery to repair a ruptured bowel Dec. 29 and was in intensive care for several days in South Bend before returning home to recuperate. Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter
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