TUCSON, Ariz. -- New Arizona manager Bob Melvin got one big
decision out of the way on Monday, selecting Javier Vazquez as the
opening day starter more than a month before the season begins.
Vazquez got the nod over fellow right-hander Russ Ortiz, who got
the first opening day start of his career last season with the
"It could have been either of them," Melvin said. "It could
have been (Shawn) Estes. We have four guys we're going to feel very
good about the day we run them out there. Vazquez had a little bit
more experience pitching opening day."
The announcement came on the day Arizona position players
reported for spring training. Melvin told reporters he made the
decision "to get it over with so you guys would quit asking me
Vazquez initially was a reluctant participant in the trade that
sent Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees. The right-hander wanted
to stay with the Yankees to prove his worth after a bad second half
of last season, and if he was traded, he wanted to stay in the
Conversations with Diamondbacks ownership, management and
players left Vazquez saying he was happy to be with Arizona, and
anxious to show that last season's troubles were an aberration.
Vazquez had three opening-day starts with Montreal.
"It is an honor, believe me, especially when you have such
quality guys in our rotation," Vazquez said. "It's an honor and
hopefully I don't disappoint."
Ortiz signed a four-year, $33 million contract with the
Diamondbacks, one of the early elements of the massive personnel
overhauls the Diamondbacks made in the offseason. He insisted he
has no disappointment over not being picked as the No. 1 starter.
"Why should there be?" Ortiz said. "I'm pitching in the big
leagues. I'm making a great living, having fun, on a good team.
That's an ego thing. It's not about me, it's about the team. I
think, for me, once it starts to become about me I'm going to
Ortiz will follow Vazquez in the rotation, with right-hander
Brandon Webb third and the left-handed Estes fourth. However, if a
left-hander wins the No. 5 starting job, Estes will be third and
Webb fourth, Melvin said.
Vazquez, entering his eighth season, has a 78-78 career record,
but the first six were with the lowly Expos. He was 14-10 with a
4.91 ERA and made the All-Star Game in 2004 with the Yankees. But
in his last 10 starts, he was 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA and had an awful
postseason. The National League's only 20-game winner in 2003,
Ortiz was 15-9 with a 4.19 ERA with the Braves last year. He has a
103-60 career record with a 4.30 ERA.
"Whether it's me or Javy at the top of the rotation," Ortiz
said, "both of us are going to have to lead by example, and I
think both of us will be able to give this team a lot of innings."
Vazquez would be only the third opening day starter in the
Diamondbacks' eight-year history. Johnson headed the rotation the
last six seasons. Andy Benes was the starter in Arizona's first
game ever -- in 1998.
Arizona opens its season on April 4 at home against the Chicago