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Filling A Void

PHOENIX–The Diamondbacks expected their farm system to be fully functional by this season, with young talent primed and ready. It appears they will find out. With pitchers dropping at the major league level, several young arms played prominent roles early on.

Brandon Webb, Andrew Good, Oscar Villarreal and John Patterson all made April starts for Arizona when injury and illness plagued the rotation.

Webb, who threw seven shutout innings against the Mets at Shea Stadium, replaced Randy Johnson in the rotation after Johnson had surgery on his right knee.

Good made two starts while Curt Schilling was on the disabled list after an emergency appendectomy, allowing seven earned runs and 11 hits in 12 innings.

Webb, 23, is ready, if his first two starts are any indication. The 2000 eighth-round pick from Kentucky struck out 10 in seven shutout innings while winning his first major league start in the opening game of a doubleheader against the Mets.

After the game, first baseman Mark Grace put his arm around Webb and told him he enjoyed watching it. "What impressed me more than his results was his poise," Grace said. "He was on the biggest stage in baseball for his very first start." Then Johnson, who started the nightcap, came over and told Webb: "That’s a tough act to follow."

"It just gave me huge boost, veterans like that," Webb said.

Webb, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound righthander, features a hard, sinking fastball and has shown an ability to mix in his curve, slider and changeup.

"He has an unbelievable sinking fastball," said Robbie Hammock, who caught Webb. "In all my years through the minor leagues, with guys I’ve caught, it’s the best pitch I’ve seen."

"Getting rid of all the guys they did in the offseason, you knew that this team was really banking on some young guys to step in," Grace said. "And they have."

Snake Bites

• Tucson infielder Alex Cintron hit safely in 20 of his first 22 games with the Sidewinders and was leading the Pacific Coast League with a .422 average. Cintron had 38 hits, two short of teammate Chad Tracy’s league-leading total.

• Double-A El Paso outfielder Victor Hall hit safely in 18 of his first 20 games for a .368 average (32-for-87).

• Previous organization report: Luis Terrero

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