Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Daniel Descalso thrives when the game is on the line
Whether for the Arizona Diamondbacks or any other team, some players are made for key situations; it is part of their mold. Sure, a stat can quantify “clutch,” but the players that get the job when the game is on the line are mentally tough and want the bat or ball in that situation.
Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Daniel Descalso is one of those players, and the numbers back it up. The 30-year-old native of Redwood, California, has 130 career RBI in 384 at-bats with RISP. Despite having a career .255 batting average with RISP, he is a career .365 hitter with a runner on third and less than two outs, a critical situation for any team.
As a member of the Colorado Rockies last season, Descalso hit .368 (21-for-57) with runners at second or third or both. In 2011, he reached his first World Series and hit .667 in five games, helping the St. Louis Cardinals dethrone the Texas Rangers in seven games.
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When the Diamondbacks designated infielder Phil Gosselin for assignment on Feb. 7, Arizona needed to replace him with a reliable bat off the bench. Gosselin’s production was hard to replace; he set a club record with 20 pinch-hits and 83 pinch-hit appearances.
On the same day Gosselin departed, Descalso signed as a free agent through 2017, with a club option for 2018. The signing helped fill two of general manager Mike Hazen’s offseason needs: left-handed hitters, and depth off the bench.
On Opening Day against the San Francisco Giants, the Diamondbacks erased three deficits, picking up a 6-5 victory. Chris Owings drove in the game winner, but the player that scored the penultimate run made it all possible.
Down to their final out against Giants closer Mark Melancon, catcher Jeff Mathis doubled. With the tying run in scoring position, Descalso stepped in the batter’s box.
First Impressions Count
With Jeremy Hazelbaker pinch-running for Mathis at second, Descalso lined a 94 mph fastball into centerfield, tying the game, 5-5.
Owings drove Descalso in, but Descalso’s hit set the stage for a dramatic conclusion.
After signing Descalso, Hazen talked with the Arizona Republic about what he would bring to the team.
"“He has the ability to play every day if needed, covers multiple positions and balances out the roster for us,” Hazen said. “We’re still going to be dominant right-handed, but given the other things we’ve done, along with some of the other guys on the team, it just gives (manager) Torey (Lovullo) more options, whether it’s giving guys days off or employing platoons in various spots.”"
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In addition to his clutch reputation and baseball acumen, Descalso should provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse, something that lacked at times last year.