ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The hay is finally in the barn, and a Diamondbacks team that has been remarkably focused on the work necessary to build a strong foundation this spring found themselves champing at the bit for Opening Day.

"We're ready to go," said manager Bob Melvin, before Saturday's final exhibition game with the Rangers. "Obviously, we had some tough decisions to make here at the end. ... It came down to the wire for us. For me, especially getting to know a team that hasn't played a lot together, I didn't feel like Spring Training was seven or eight days too long like you usually do at the end. I'm kind of glad we had the time that we did."

After a month of exhibition games, Melvin was pleased by the organizational depth he saw from position players and the versatility of his offense, but expressed concern about the need for more of that same depth from the organization's pitchers.

"Our walks have been way too much this spring," Melvin observed. "Our ERA as a pitching staff hasn't been very good, either. But I'll feel good about the 11 guys we have here [on the 25-man roster]. You get deeper than that, like you do in Spring Training, and now you're running some guys out there that are going to give up some runs. That's one of the reasons I feel like we gave up a lot of runs.

"Offensively, we're first in [batting] average, first in runs, first in RBIs [among National League teams]. That, too, is the depth of the position players in our organization. It's not just your big league guys that are out there all the time. We're getting some production from other than the guys that are here on the 25-man roster."

Melvin also praised the leadership from the veterans on the team, noting good chemistry in the clubhouse, saying, "I didn't have to break up any fights."

The biggest distraction has not been a D-Backs issue, but a baseball-wide issue, and Melvin feels confident that once the games begin on Sunday night, the attention will go back on the field.

"We spent a big portion of Spring Training answering questions about steroids and all the things that have been going on -- first the steroid issue, and then the whole Congressional thing," Melvin said. "It lingered on for a while. I know it's a little frustrating for the players, but it's out there and it tainted baseball some, so we need to get back on the playing field.

"Every time there's been a little bit of a problem in the game of baseball, it's always come back strong," Melvin summed up. "My feeling is, it will again."


Spring surprise: Brandon Lyon's performance this spring has been one of the great surprises of camp. Lyon came to Arizona as part of the trade that sent Curt Schilling to the Red Sox, but missed most of 2004 after undergoing ulnar nerve transposition surgery in March.

Lyons posted a 0.69 ERA in 11 spring appearances, earning two saves while striking out 12 and walking no one in 13 innings pitched.

"He was kind of an unknown," said Melvin. "You talk to scouts when he was healthy and they'll say some great things about him, but we really didn't know much, and I didn't expect all that much. I was hoping, but I didn't expect what I've seen right now and what I've seen all spring from this guy. He's a quality pitcher. You can see why he was the guy in the Schilling deal that they couldn't do without."

Line 'em up: With the exception of the use of a designated hitter on Saturday, since Texas was the "home" team in Albuquerque, the Diamondbacks lineup was the everyday lineup Melvin will start the season with on Opening Day.

The lineup featured Craig Counsell leading off and playing second, followed by Royce Clayton at short, Luis Gonzalez in left, Troy Glaus hitting cleanup and playing third, Shawn Green in right, Jose Cruz Jr. in center, Chad Tracy at first, and Koyie Hill behind the plate.

Opening Day reprieve: Brad Halsey's two-game suspension has been "suspended" for a day, allowing him to be with the club to partake in the Opening Day festivities. He will then miss the D-Backs' second and third games, leaving the team shorthanded -- in theory, at least -- as he serves out his suspension. With an off-day Thursday, though, the southpaw's spot as the fifth starter doesn't come up until April 11 against Colorado, when he'll slip into the rotation between right-handers Russ Ortiz and Brandon Webb.

Halsey earned the suspension for throwing at a hitter while pitching for the Yankees last September.

The catcher came back: Catcher Chris Snyder continues to heal quickly as he recovers from a dislocated left thumb. Snyder took live swings in the batting cage Friday and was slated to catch bullpen sessions Saturday.

"Each day he's progressed very well," Melvin said. "My feeling is, we're going to be in good shape come Monday."

Melvin's last move: The final roster spot on the Diamondbacks roster was decided Saturday when right-handed pitcher Oscar Villareal was optioned to Triple-A Tucson for what is expected to be a relatively short tune-up. He was 0-1 with a 12.79 ERA in seven spring games, including two starts.

"This one's on me," Melvin said. "I feel like I didn't give him enough chance to get ready. I took him out of the rotation maybe a little bit too late, and he's had some inconsistent outings. One day, he'll have a good outing, and he'll throw the ball where he wants to; other days, he'll rotate out of there a bit early, and the ball comes up or stays in to a righty, or away from a lefty. We just need to get some consistency out of him."

Villareal is one of the more experienced pitchers in a young Arizona bullpen. He has pitched in 103 games for the D-Backs over the past two seasons, including 86 appearances in 2003, when he was 10-7 with a 2.57 ERA, with all but one of his games pitched in relief.

"This is a guy we're going to need," said Melvin. "It's not as much a demotion as it is getting him right, because we're going to need him. He'll throw a few more outings -- several more, whatever it takes to get him ready."

The Diamondbacks also put Jose Valverde on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 25, meaning he is eligible to come off the DL six days into the season.

Coming up: The D-Backs will have a short workout Sunday morning at Bank One Ballpark and go over the scouting reports for their Opening Day matchup with the Cubs. Javier Vazquez gets the start for the Diamondbacks.

"At times, he's been unbelievable," said Melvin, who attributed Vazquez's spring ERA of 6.66 to the fact that "a lot of times you're not throwing your repertoire out there that you normally would. You're working on things. I'm confident that he's in a good place to start on Monday."