SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – More than three months have passed since Torey Lovullo was named the eighth manager in Arizona Diamondbacks history.
But only now, on day 102, can he really begin to put his managerial stamp on the franchise.
Pitchers and catchers reported on Monday, though to be fair, many players have been spotted working out at Salt River Fields for weeks, position players included.
This is Lovullo’s first full-time big league managerial job.
“It’s like starting your own business. There’s a lot of things that you’re trying to put together, a lot of visions that I’ve had,” he told the assembled media during a wide-ranging 24-minute press conference. “And those visions are common with (general manager) Mike Hazen, and I can see that I’m aligned with ownership and (team president) Derrick (Hall) as well. Those visions are coming together quickly.
“There’s an overall excitement that we want to start a new business and see how it runs,” Lovullo added. “The track record speaks for itself. Mike Hazen has come from a winning organization. I was part of that winning organization for a short period of time. We feel like we understand what it takes to put something in motion and make it be successful.”
Lovullo’s business plan, one that he’s had 30-plus years to craft as a player and coach on both the minor and major league levels, including the past four years with the Boston Red Sox, is centered on the fundamentals.
Lovullo also believes in maximizing players’ time.
“What I want to do is I want to practice the plays that are going to come up during the year. We’re not going to waste time standing around. We’re not going to spend a lot of time doing useless things. We want to get out there and operate quickly, precisely. Stick to the time that is shown on the schedule,” he said, referring the workouts in spring training.
“We want to be a fundamentally sound baseball team, and I think those types of teams win moments and when you can win a moment it helps you win an inning and if you can win one inning you might win a game. The NL West is a very, very rugged division and one game might make a difference.”
The first workout for pitchers and catchers is Tuesday. Position players report Thursday with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Friday.
Games then begin next week. There’s an exhibition contest against Grand Canyon University on Feb. 22. Cactus League play starts Feb. 25.
“I had trouble sleeping last night,” pitcher Archie Bradley said. “I know we had no schedule or no agenda today. It’s just guys kind of coming in and getting ready for tomorrow, but it’s exciting, man. Spring ’17: new year, new team, new everything. We’re excited.”
A 69-win season a year ago, the D-backs’ fifth straight non-winning campaign, ushered out the previous front office and managerial regime.
The D-backs last made the playoffs in 2011.
“No one’s really talked about it here. They’re all looking forward and ready to go,” pitcher Patrick Corbin said. “We’re still excited about the group of guys we have here. We think we’re a very talented team. I mean, if guys are doing what they’re capable of doing, I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Roster-wise, not much has changed. The core remains intact with former all-stars Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock plus young talent Brandon Drury and Jake Lamb. Right-hander Zack Greinke will once again anchor the starting rotation, which welcomes the addition of right-hander Taijuan Walker.
The biggest question marks this spring are catcher and the bullpen. Specifically, how do the D-backs eat up innings ahead of presumed closer Fernando Rodney?
“There’s a lot of really good dudes in this clubhouse, a lot of talent,” pitcher Robbie Ray said. “It’s just about coming together and being a family, putting it together and everybody working together for the main goal (which) is win a World Series.”
Short of that, here’s how Lovullo will measure whether 2017 is a success or not: “One that we go out and compete every night to the best of our ability, not look beyond the moment and see where that leads us at the end of the year.
“I want these guys to be able to tell a really good story at the end of this year,” he said. “I’m eager to watch these guys perform every single day. And to be competitive means to go out there and focus, be mentally tough and earn everything they get on the field, that’s my expectation.”
— Aside from Rodney, every pitcher and catcher reported on time and is ready to work, including Walker who underwent right ankle surgery in the offseason. However, he is not expected to miss any time and has already thrown a bullpen, according to Lovullo.
Rodney is finalizing his visa paperwork. He’s expected to arrive in camp later in the week.
— Greinke won’t be among the pitchers who throw off a mound on Tuesday, and that’s by design.
“Zack is ready to go. He has a program that he’s been following,” Lovullo said. “He finished the year a little bit banged up last year. We have the extra week-and-a-half. In the past I’ve seen organizations do the exact same thing, most notably the Boston Red Sox slow-played a number of guys with the extra time. We don’t need to get ready for day one of spring training. We need to get ready for day one of this championship season.”
— Spring training is longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic, which will take place from March 6-22. Goldschmidt and Rodney are among seven D-backs, including three in the team’s farm system, who will participate in the three-round format.
“Maybe I’m a little bit more patriotic than most, but I feel like to go out and represent your country is a tremendous honor, and we don’t want them to ever feel like we’re forcing them away from that,” Lovullo said.
— The D-backs middle infield is expected to be a big storyline leading up to Opening Day. Lovullo wouldn’t tip his hand either way, but he did shed some light on the three starting outfield positions.
“The way we’re looking at it,” he said, “we’re looking at the three outfielders with (Yasmany) Tomas in left, A.J. in center and then David (Peralta) in right field. That’s our starting point at this moment.”
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