TUCSON - Craig Counsell’s first Cactus League action for the Diamondbacks likely will not come before Wednesday.
"It’ll probably be later in the week," manager Bob Brenly said before Saturday’s 7-4 defeat of the Chicago White Sox at Tucson Electric Park.
Counsell, pencilled in as the team’s starting third baseman, had surgery in September to fuse two vertebrae in his neck and remove a disk that was pinching a nerve and causing weakness in his right arm. The nerve is still healing, and Counsell is recovering arm strength.
Since playing three innings of an intrasquad game last Wednesday, Counsell has been taking batting practice and working on his throwing. The cooler weather also plays a part in the decision to hold Counsell out.
Brenly said he still expects Counsell to be ready by Opening Day.
"When he is finally ready to go out there and play in a ballgame," Brenly said, "I think he’ll have plenty of time to get the at-bats and the playing time he needs to get ready for the season."
Brenly also said non-roster reliever Ricky Bottalico still has a shot at a roster spot, even though he has not thrown off a mound in two weeks because of a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery. Bottalico is at least a week away from his next bullpen session.
"I still think there’s plenty of time in spring training for him to get his strength back and get an opportunity to go out there show what he can do," Brenly said. "If it turns out that isn’t the case . . . I would hope he would agree to come down here to (Class AAA) Tucson and continue pitching (instead of becoming a free agent)."
Eddie Oropesa had a good excuse for returning to camp a few days later than expected. He was expecting his week to be special, because of his swearing-in as a U.S. citizen, but then it became "unbelievable."
After his naturalization Tuesday, Oropesa (a nonroster left-hander) found out his younger sister, Marisela, was being allowed to leave Cuba. Oropesa’s wife, children, parents and older sister were already in Miami, Fla., but Marisela was the last family member to get out of Cuba.
Oropesa, who defected in 1993, returned to Tucson late Friday.
After allowing one unearned run on one hit over two innings, Elmer Dessens said he was glad to get his first D-Backs outing over with.
"I was waiting for this," he said. "Now I can relax and get ready for the season."
Dessens, who threw 29 pitches (17 strikes), said he used his sinker and slider and will add his curve and changeup later.
The Diamondbacks got a scare when outfielder David Dellucci had to leave Saturday’s game in the second inning after fouling a ball off his left leg. Dellucci hobbled back to the dugout but has only a bruise above his knee and is day-today.
Non-roster right-hander Paul Abbott may throw off a mound this week for the first time since his shoulder surgery last summer. Abbott is expected to pitch by May, probably in Class AA.
Non-roster invitee Luis Garcia has yet to play a Cactus League game because of a sore left knee.
Seven rookies have signed 2003 contracts, including projected starting first baseman Lyle Overbay. Others are infielders Matt Kata and Tim Olson, outfielders Doug DeVore and Luis Terrero, catcher Brad Cresse and left-hander Stephen Randolph.
Unsigned players not yet eligible for arbitration (15 remain) can have their contracts renewed — at a salary unilaterally determined by the team — through March 10. "I think we’ll end up renewing some guys," general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said.
Besides Junior Spivey, the players with less than three years’ service time will all wind up with the minimum $300,000 salary.
Brenly said it is "not out of the question" that Matt Williams might start at first base at some point in the regular season. The only other right-handed hitters who have played the position are infielder Carlos Baerga and catcher Rod Barajas.
Brenly also said Baerga can play shortstop in an emergency. He has played there in 50 major league games, twice in 1991 and 48 times the year before.
Arizona has won seven straight games at TEP and 12 of the past 13.
AT A GLANCE
D-Backs 7, White Sox 4
Notable pitching: Elmer Dessens allowed one run (unearned) on one hit and struck out one in two innings. Throwing eight knuckleballs of his 12 pitches, Greg Swindell worked a 1-2-3 inning.
Notable hitting: Tony Womack went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored; Carlos Baerga was 2-for-4 and is 5-for-9 this spring; Luis Terrero was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple.
White Sox at D-Backs; Rockies at D-Backs
What: Two split-squad games at Tucson Electric Park, at 1:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m.
Radio: KTAR 620-AM (day game).
Pitchers (day game): White Sox — Bartolo Colon, Mark Buehrle, Matt Ginter, Damaso Marte, Billy Koch; D-Backs — Byung-Hyun Kim, Armando Reynoso, Brandon Webb, Mike Jackson, Mike Koplove, Matt Mantei.
Pitchers (night game): Rockies — Aaron Cook, Tsao Chun-Hui, Cory Vance, Ryan Cameron, Colin Young; D-Backs — Miguel Batista, Mike Gosling, Oscar Villarreal, Manny Aybar.
Records: D-Backs 3-0; White Sox 0-2; Rockies 1-1.
Tickets: (520) 434-1111.