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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo seeks ‘creative balance’ when writing lineup

Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock, left, hits a solo home run as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal watches during the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Though not a real game, manager Torey Lovullo produced a very real-looking lineup for the Arizona Diamondbacks exhibition game against Grand Canyon University on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.

Here’s how it looked, two days ahead of the start of Cactus League play and more than a month out from Opening Day:

CF A.J. Pollock
2B Brandon Drury
1B Paul Goldschmidt
3B Jake Lamb
LF Yasmany Tomas
RF Oswaldo Arcia
SS Chris Owings
DH Socrates Brito
C Jeff Mathis

“This lineup is not an indication of what’s going to be happening on April the 2nd. This was something that I threw together yesterday with a little bit of the staff help and I finalized it this morning,” said Lovullo, who wanted to make sure as many players saw action as possible to help knock off the rust.

“I constructed the lineup creatively to insert guys where it’s going to be an even playing field for all of the guys.”

Still, it was hard not to take notice of the possibility of what could be the starting lineup when the D-backs face the San Francisco Giants on April 2 to begin 2017.

Lovullo quickly dismissed that idea.

“There’s a ton of different lineups that I’ve been constructing in my head. I want to talk to the coaches, get some input,” he said. “We’ll have different looks all spring training long, and then eventually what we feel like is going to be most beneficial for each guy to produce, that’s where we’re going to go.”

So, does Lovullo, in his first season with the D-backs, believe in a set lineup?

“I believe in both sides of that,” he said, but not until after first calling that a loaded question. “There’s going to be a core group of guys that I want them to know where they’re going to be coming to play every single day. I believe in that. So, there’s going to be a creative balance. And how and when that starts to develop, I’m not sure.

“We want to score as many runs as possible, and I’m going to look at every single angle that we can as an organization and then ultimately write the lineup out. I know how important it is to a player that knows he’s hitting first and playing in a certain position every single day, but for those that are creative and are open to lineup flexible, I am going to try to do my best to make sure that we can maximize our potential.”

Again, whether Pollock bats leadoff or Goldschmidt locks in as the No. 3 hitter — “I would consider him for other places in the lineup,” Lovullo said — won’t be determined for some time.

Lovullo is also open to exploring the idea of hitting his pitchers eighth.

“I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been reading up on it. I’ve been looking at some of the data,” he said. “I don’t have a chase mentality. My mentality is more like, let’s just keep plowing forward and I know that if the pitcher hits eighth that some of the numbers show you got to do it all year. It might be more productive. I don’t know. I do know this: we have a very strong group of hitting pitchers, so that might change our equation.”

BASE HITS

— Lamb, Tomas and Arcia each had an RBI in a three-run first inning in the D-backs 9-1 victory over Grand Canyon University. Lamb, facing a left-handed starter, doubled down the right field line in his one and only at-bat.

“It’s fun getting out there, live competition; just being out on the field again,” he said. “You can practice all you want, but little things like guy on second, get him over; guy on third, less than two outs—granted it’s college competition—these are real situations that you can put yourself in, not that you want to put pressure on yourself, but these are game situations. It’s really nice to get real looks, live looks off live pitching.”

— Lovullo called GCU manager Andy Stankiewicz “a personal friend of mine”. The two have known one another since college, when Lovullo played at UCLA and Stankiewicz at Pepperdine in Southern California.

Earlier in the day, Stankiewicz was named manager of the 2017 18U National Team which will compete in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, in September. Team USA is the three-time defending World Cup champion.

— It won’t be required, but it is being strongly suggested to D-backs players that they slide feet-first rather than head-first. Pollock, remember, fractured his right elbow sliding head-first into home plate just prior to the start of the season a year ago.

“I’m not a huge fan of the headfirst slide, but I know that it’s an instinctual play. I know that guys just react a certain way, and I never want to take that type of creativity away from them and make them do something. I don’t want to put anybody in a box. I want to give them the room to be creative,” Lovullo said. “So, we are strongly encouraging everybody to slide feet-first. We have shown them the data that says you’re more prone to an injury when you do slide headfirst and ultimately it will catch up to you.”

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