SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Ten years Torey Lovullo waited for this moment: to stand in front of a group of big-league ball players and address them as a Major League Baseball manager.
That opportunity finally presented itself on Friday, ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first full-squad workout at Salt River Fields.
In his message, Lovullo talked about family.
“Being a group of guys that stays together in the good times and the bad,” he said. “I think a lot of championship teams can find a way to work through all those tests that are thrown at you during the course of a season.”
Managing general partner Ken Kendrick and president/CEO Derrick Hall were among other team personnel to speak.
For Lovullo, the moment was special.
“As a first-year manager, the things that you think about over the course of your career if you ever get put that position, you think about it a lot,” he said. “So, it was the first time I ever addressed the team that I’m managing at the Major League level and I certainly had a little bit of anxiety about the message and how I wanted to deliver it. I thought about that for ten years, to be honest with you. Ten years worth of notes and thoughts. I had to condense it down into two paragraphs. It was hard for me, but I said what I wanted to say and how I felt like they would hear the message.
“Nice to get it out of the way.”
And then it was time to get to work.
Lovullo called the first day “seamless,” crediting quality control/catching coach Robby Hammock for putting the schedule together.
“We are putting together some new concepts and some new thoughts about different plays with these guys,” Lovullo said. “We ran through a bunt play today that took a little bit of time for us to get grounded with and understand how we’re going to do things a certain way.”
Starter Zack Greinke threw his second bullpen — “he threw 25-30 pitches, working on fastball command…mixed in a couple of breaking balls, not many,” Lovullo said — while presumed closer Fernando Rodney took to the mound for the first time.
Rodney was a late arrival to camp. He reported Thursday after clearing up a citizenship issue.
All in all, it was a fast week with very little downtime, according to Lovullo.
“I might sit back, watch a little TV and turn off the brain tonight,” he said, smiling. “I’m excited that the first several days have been put behind me, and we’re going to make this now about getting ourselves for the start of the season.”
— Coming off a 69-win season, the expectations are not nearly as high heading into 2017 as they were a year ago when the D-backs won the offseason so to speak with the additions of Greinke, right-hander Shelby Miller and second baseman Jean Segura.
There is still, though, a solid talent base, which has Kendrick optimistic.
“We do have some history here of rebounding from bad seasons, and you’d like to think the core is there and with some changes that we’ve made that there is real potential for a turnaround. You got to go out and play the games, though,” he said.
“I’ve always said this: you’re defined by your competition in any sport as well as yourselves, and the competition in our division is pretty stiff. I’m hopeful. Sometimes not having expectations can be helpful to performance and I hope that will be the case.”
— According to Hall, the D-backs are operating with a payroll “right around 102” million.
“And obviously, Ken has always been open, willing to listen to other needs and generous enough to stretch if need be,” he said. “So we’re not where we’ll necessarily finish, but we’re at a place where we do have flexibility to add if needed. Hopefully, we’re in that position.”
— Hall also discussed season ticket sales, specifically new sales.
“We’re up this year over the last few seasons, which is encouraging for us,” he said. “I think it’s a credit to, obviously, our entire business operations staff because they have created an excellent environment and game presentation. In addition, I think fans are looking at it as an opportunity. It’s a reset, restart. They felt really good about this team before. We basically got the same pieces plus we’ve added to it.”
Hall put the number of season tickets sold between 10,000-12,000.
— When Ron Gardenhire takes a leave of absence to undergo prostate cancer surgery in April, it will be former major league manager Jerry Narron who steps in as interim bench coach, Lovullo announced.
Narron currently manages the D-backs Triple-A team, the Reno Aces.
“Jerry had the experience that played out for me and I’m going to need that. I’m going to need somebody by my side that’s walked the walk, let me catch up a little bit,” Lovullo said. “Jerry is going to be a great addition to this staff.”
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