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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

D-Backs camp report: If team is anything like Gibson, watch out

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- So you think you know Kirk Gibson.

You think you know him in a way you would never think you know Mike Quade or Terry Collins or even Joe Girardi or Terry Francona.

You think you know him, just like his players thought they knew him, just like his bosses thought they knew him, just like the others who now work with him or for him thought they knew him.

Everyone thinks they know Kirk Gibson, because everyone saw that home run.

"They keep playing that Dodger home run," Kirk Gibson is saying. "That's not me."

No, that's not right. That is him.

He is the fiercely competitive guy who can always visualize success, the guy who could overcome what he overcame to homer off Dennis Eckersley and change a World Series.

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But he's also the guy so fiercely devoted to his job as Diamondbacks manager that he gets to the spring training complex every morning at 5 and doesn't leave until 8. He's the guy who spent most of the winter in his office preparing for his first full season on the job, the guy who quotes Sparky Anderson and John Wooden every day, the guy who Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers sees as a combination of Bruce Bochy and Bud Black, the guy who Diamondbacks pitcher Joe Saunders sees as being a little bit like Mike Scioscia.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's going to be good," Towers said. "He cares too much not to be."

He's as passionate as ever, but there's more to him than passion. He's as hard-nosed as ever, but there's more to him than that.

"He's a highly intelligent human being," said Mark Weidemaier, who is helping Gibson coordinate Arizona's spring training camp. "Highly, highly intelligent. Bright. Cerebral."

That is Kirk Gibson, too.

I wasn't sure how it would work when the Diamondbacks named Gibson their interim manager last July. I've known Gibson for more than two decades, known him as a player, broadcaster, radio host, environmentalist and coach, but that day I wrote only that it would be "fascinating" to watch him work as a manager.

It's still fascinating, but I'm convinced now it's going to be more than that. I'm convinced now that Towers is right, that Gibson is going to be good.

I'm convinced that new Diamondbacks pitcher Zach Duke is right when he says: "I can tell Gibby's going to be a great manager."

Does that mean the Diamondbacks shock everyone and go from 97 losses last year to winning the NL West this year? I'm not saying that, but I know for a fact that Gibson believes it can happen. And I know for a fact that he'll convince this still-a-work-in-progress team that it can happen.

Fantasy Writer

Breakout ... Daniel Hudson: Hudson pitched out of his mind after coming over to the Diamondbacks in the Edwin Jackson trade last season, showing none of the weaknesses you'd expect for a player his age. Were his 7-1 record and 1.69 ERA in 11 starts too good to be true? Of course, but numbers like that don't happen by accident either. Hudson's immediate dominance should earn him the same attention Tommy Hanson got last year, but it hasn't. He's lasting into the middle and late rounds when he's just a track record away from being a Fantasy ace.

Bust ... Chris Young: People remember his batting average hovering around the .270 mark in August and assume he's that kind of hitter, but he hit only .185 over his final 23 games, regressing to the mean after months of playing over his head. No doubt, his near 30-30 season was closer to the scouts' expectations than any of his previous seasons, but he didn't improve his strikeout rate enough to suggest he was any better than the player who entered the season with a career .235 batting average. If his batting average drops back to the .240-.250 range, his homers and steals figure to drop back to the 20-20 range, making him a middle-of-the-road Fantasy option again.

Sleeper ... J.J. Putz: Perhaps Putz is too far removed from the Fantasy spotlight for his return to the closer role to generate much hype on Draft Day, but after the top five or six relievers go off the board, he has as much potential as anyone at the position. Back in 2006 and 2007, he was one of the top closers in baseball, compiling a 1.86 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. But then he got the Rafael Soriano treatment, becoming a setup man for a team with more money than it knew how to use. If you want this year's Billy Wagner -- a forgotten closer who can deliver high-end numbers with a late-round pick -- Putz is your guy.

-- Scott White
D-Backs outlook | Depth Chart | 2011 Draft Prep

"If you say you [can't], then you've got no shot," Gibson said.

But Gibson is about more than belief, more than just positive thinking. He believes in a way to play the game, a way that he and bench coach Alan Trammell learned in their years playing for Anderson, a way that Gibson has developed a little bit on his own.

He has already told Diamondbacks pitchers that he expects them to field their position and to be able to handle a bat. He has told them they need to be able to slash-bunt, that if opposing infielders are "camping in there," they need to be hitting the dirt when they see the pitcher swinging away.

"It's not fair to say a guy can or can't handle the bat," Gibson said. "How do you know? They haven't worked on it -- not like we're going to work on it."

His spring workouts aren't super-long. The Diamondbacks weren't doing things this week that other teams aren't doing.

But there is a different feel in this camp.

"A completely different vibe," Towers said.

Gibson knows he won't get 25 players who play the game the way he did, but he also realizes that he wants a core that reflects his personality. Already, you can see it starting to happen.

You see something else, too. You see a team that is as fan-friendly as any in baseball, a team that has an autograph session written into its daily schedule.

And, you might be surprised to know, that's Kirk Gibson, too. He's the one who demands it, and he's the one who demands that his players take a few minutes after batting practice to sign autographs during the season, too.

"It's almost comical that it's me," he admitted, thinking back to those days when he wasn't the most fan friendly of players.

But it is him. It's all those Sparky Anderson lessons from years ago, finally getting through.

"I get it now," Gibson said. "He was right."

He gets it now. He's 53 years old, and while he's still the guy who hit that home run, he's also a guy fully prepared to be a major-league manager.

I don't know if he's Sparky or Bochy or Bud Black. Or maybe Scioscia, his former Dodgers teammate.

"He's a role model for me," Gibson said. "Look at what he did for the Angels. He changed the organization."

Now it's the Diamondbacks who are changing, and maybe you recognize the guy doing the changing.

You might know him.

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