At the same time the Diamondbacks were en route to their first division title, J.D. Durbin was playing at Scottsdale Coronado High, showcasing nasty pitching stuff for major-league scouts.
Even then, the right-hander often fantasized about playing for Arizona. Those dreams have come true after the D-Backs provided a fresh start to his career.
“It’s good to be back home,” said Durbin, a righthander who last week was claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. “This is a big change for me, but knowing the area should make the transition easier.”
The 25-year-old Gilbert resident, who is on Arizona’s opening-day roster, allowed a run and three hits in an inning of work in Saturday’s spring finale against San Diego.
Durbin’s health will play a big role in determining if the hometown boy makes good with the D-Backs. Arm problems, including a nerve condition that shut him down for the final three months of last year at Triple-A Rochester, contributed to the Twins’ decision to part ways him.
“Those three months off might have helped me after seven years of throwing a lot,” said Durbin, a second-round draft choice of Minnesota in 2000. “I feel good from head to toe.
“(The injury) is in the back of my mind, but it should go away after being on the mound and letting it go a lot.”
The D-Backs will likely jettison a pitcher when Micah Owings is activated to start at Washington on Friday, but manager Bob Melvin said he does not feel that Durbin — who is out of minor-league options — will “audition” during the season-opening series at Colorado.
“If we didn’t think he could pitch at this level, we wouldn’t have claimed him and put him on the roster,” Melvin said. “He’s out of options, so he has that in his favor. How he pitches will dictate how we handle him. He’ll pitch in a long role, and we’ll see how we go from there.”
Durbin, whose major-league experience consists of four games for the Twins in 2004, was 4-3 with a 2.33 ERA in 16 contests at Rochester in 2006. When healthy, his nasty stuff is still evident, including a sharp-breaking slurve — a cross between a slider and curve — and a fastball that reaches the high 90s.
And once again, Durbin is showcasing those skills in Arizona, feeling that it is not to late to realize the potential that made him a top prospect.
“When I was told that I was picked up by the Diamondbacks, that was pretty exciting,” Durbin said. “I’ll miss the relationships I had with the Twins, but as they say, it’s a business, and hopefully, I can make it work here.”