SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Diamondbacks were almost universally consigned to the depths of the NL West at this time last year, but the script has flipped. They are held in much higher esteem after winning a division title and upgrading their roster this offseason.
Still, there is something to prove.
Last year, we were going to prove you guys wrong, said Geoff Blum, criticizing the general world view.
This year, you guys are picking us, and were going to prove you right. Were always listening.
It was a good season to be a D-back, and the easy camaraderie built in NL Manager of the Year Kirk Gibsons first full season in 2011 was evident in the clubhouse after their first full-squad workout at Salt River Fields on Saturday, when the position players joined the pitchers in camp in preparation for the first spring training games next weekend.
As in every year, goals are high. This time, a division title in seen as a weigh station.
Our expectations last year were to go to the World Series. We fell a little short, but our expectations dont change," said Ryan Roberts, whose transformation from role player to contributing regular was the D-backs season in microcosm.
"The target on our back might be a little bigger, but thats expected. Thats for everybody else to worry about. We are just worried about what we can do and move forward. The grind and the mentality is what made this team go so far last year, and polishing that and moving forward is all we are trying to control."
While the D-backs cannot guarantee the same results, they pledge that the process will remain the same as the one they used to take Milwaukee to the final game of the NLDS before losing in extra innings.
I dont think anyone in this clubhouse is complacent. Playing in the first (playoff) round doesnt mean much until you can get to the big game, said Justin Upton, who was fourth in the NL MVP race after a breakout season.
The D-backs success came from a 27-out mentality and an attention to detail by a group that -- from Gibson on down -- put the team first. That is how they plan to attack this season in a division that appears to have gotten stronger, at least in San Francisco.
We have to forget the past. It is already over, catcher Miguel Montero said. "You have to move forward. That was a key for us last season. Even when we were down by five or six runs, we would just forget about it and go about our business."
Added shortstop John McDonald, one of the first of the D-backs' free agents signed in the offseason: Everybody here wants to play. But everybody wants to win more."
Like McDonald, free agents Aaron Hill, Willie Bloomquist and Henry Blanco were targeted and signed quickly last winter, enabling the D-backs to return virtually their entire cast.
You obviously want to keep the core group of guys around, but to keep the whole team around minus a few people speaks volumes for our front office, Roberts said. "It doesnt happen in this game very often, and to add the people that we did can only make us better and make us stronger. They have trust in everybody."
PresidentCEO Derrick Hall, general manager Kevin Towers and Gibson spoke to the full squad before the work, and Miguel Montero said the message from Gibson was direct and decisive.
Play hard and do things the right way. Play with passion, Montero said.
The D-backs' MLB-best 48 come-from-behind victories were a testament to that, and when the D-backs had a lead, they kept it. With closer J.J. Putz leading the way, they were an NL-best 84-0 when leading after eight innings.
Well try to build off of what we did last year, Gibson said. We have to do it the same way we did last year, as far as the way we approach things. How dedicated they were. How much they bought in. How much they became one. Thats not easy to do. On paper, we should be better.
The D-backs added Trevor Cahill to the starting rotation, Takashi Saito and Craig Breslow to the bullpen and left fielder Jason Kubel to the lineup. They finished the offseason by re-signing veteran Joe Saunders, and there appear to be few jobs available this spring.
We like what we have. Well have to try to stay healthy and continue to develop our depth, Gibson said.
It seems like everybody is more advanced this year coming into camp. We have to put a lot of work in. We were very dedicated last year. We played with a lot of resiliency. You dont know how it is going to happen this year. Its not going to be easy. Its going to be very tough.
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