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April performance may set season tone

D-backs play 19 of first 22 games at home to start 2009 season

By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Chris Young welcomes avoiding the cold weather early in the 2009 season.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A good record in April can be important for a team.

For the D-backs in 2009, it may be a necessity.

Because the club wanted to open at home, the D-backs' original three-game series with the Rockies on April 6-8 was moved from Denver to Phoenix. That means Arizona will play its first nine games and 19 of its first 22 games at Chase Field.

"That's great," outfielder Chris Young said of all the home games in April. "I like it. We stay away from the cold-weather cities early in the year, which we've had to do the last few years."

The D-backs opened the season in Denver in 2006 and '07, and last year they opened in Cincinnati. The last home opener was in 2005, manager Bob Melvin's first year, when they played the Cubs.

The catch is that with 18 games at home in April, that leaves just 63 home games spread out over the next four-plus months.

In only one other month, July, do the D-backs play more at home than on the road. That month, they have 14 games at Chase Field and 12 on the road.

"The basic formula for success is being over .500 at home and playing .500 ball on the road," pitcher Dan Haren said.

That means if the D-backs find themselves in a hole thanks to a poor April, they will have to dig their way out in mostly less familiar parks.

"It's tough to win a game on the road," Haren said. "Not that it's easy to win at home, but it's very tough to win on the road. We just can't afford to come out of the gates too slow."

So while everyone on the team seems to agree that a good start is important, they draw the line on whether that means there is pressure to do so.

"I can't really say there's more pressure to get off to a good start," Haren said. "But you only have 81 home games, and you obviously have to win more games than you lose at home. Obviously, getting off to a good start is going to be very important to us, because a few of those months, August and May, we're on the road much more than we are at home, so those are going to be tough months."

The D-backs play 17 road games in May, compared with 13 at home, and in August the difference is 19-9.

Under Melvin, the D-backs have typically gotten off to good starts. In his four years at the helm, the D-backs have a 62-42 record in April, which includes a 20-8 mark last year.

Melvin knows the schedule and the math as well as anyone, but he is loathe to talk about it, because he does not want his team to focus on it.

"It's not ideal, but I think what we focus on are games and series anyway," Melvin said, referring to the one-game, one-series-at-a-time mantra he repeats often during the year. "The fact that we're there, I don't think we're going to get too caught up in it. If we do, it means we're thinking out of the box too much and getting ahead of ourselves."

Of course, a good start doesn't guarantee a successful season, as the D-backs found out the hard way last year. Their 20-8 start did not translate into a division title, as they played 10 games under .500 the rest of the year.

It's a lesson that was not lost on D-backs GM Josh Byrnes.

"It's a long season," Byrnes said. "You have to play the whole six months if you're going to be one of the teams that plays in October. It can't be about one month or what you do at home. You have to be able to win your games over the course of six months."

April performance may set season tone | dbacks.com: News


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