D-backs’ Lovullo stays steady, says Brandon Drury has turned a corner
PHOENIX — Torey Lovullo admits September baseball is a different animal, but he’s not going to treat it differently. Well, not in managing the Diamondbacks.
“September is a special month when you’re in the pennant race. When you understand that you’ve deserved those special moments, you really learn to appreciate them and embrace them,” Lovullo said.
He’ll say that out loud in his press conferences, but does he relay that message in the locker room?
“I know they’ll probably read what I just said right now. I know that a lot of guys pay attention to what I say during these press conferences,” Lovullo said. “But for me to treat them differently or start to act differently isn’t something I’m interested in. They guide each other through these tough circumstances and exciting times.”
About the only change in tune came during the D-backs’ recent road trip, when Lovullo admitted he had to remind his players how good they were. That’s why they still find themselves in control in their own destiny atop the NL Wild Card standings.
Otherwise, Lovullo never strayed from his optimistic self during a 7-12 stretch to begin August, save for his blow-up in a 12-5 loss to the Twins. Since, the D-backs have won four of five games against the Mets and through one game of their current series against the San Francisco Giants.
The rougher post-All-Star break results could be viewed as a chance for a Diamondbacks team that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2011 to learn what life with expectations is like.
Take, for example, 25-year-old Brandon Drury, who won the starting second baseman job out of camp. A slump in July led to his demotion to a platoon player, but Lovullo said Saturday before the D-backs’ second game against the Giants at Chase Field that Drury has turned a corner. Lovullo had demoted Drury in mid-July by platooning him at second base with veteran Daniel Descalso.
“I think there was a little bit of a lapse there a little bit before the All-Star break and right after the All-Star break,” Lovullo said of Drury. “I know those moments happen. I just felt like there were guys who could step in and gave him a little bit of a breather; (he) got back to a neutral corner and got back on his feet again.”
That, and injuries to players like Nick Ahmed and Yasmany Tomas, shortened Arizona’s options on the bench.
Lovullo would much prefer Drury re-claim his spot as everyday starter at second to give Arizona more depth.
“When Daniel Descalso and Adam Rosales are not in the game (and coming in as pinch-hitters), I have two snipers sitting there waiting to do their jobs. It makes our team a little bit better when you can expand roles in those areas,” Lovullo said.
— Ahmed, who earlier this month was confident he could be prepped to return by the time he’s eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Monday, is playing a rehab game in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Lovullo wouldn’t pin down a return date but sounded optimistic it is coming soon.
“I know that he’s going to be playing tonight in Las Vegas and we’re just going to get information as to how he’s feeling,” Lovullo said. “We’re going to make sure he’s ready physically and emotionally before we decide what day that is and how it happens. We’ll play that by ear.”
With Ahmed and Chris Owings (eligible to return from the DL in late September) sidelined, Arizona has seen offensive progress from shortstop Ketel Marte, who hit .273 in August.
— Reliever Randall Delgado threw a 25-pitch bullpen Saturday and Lovullo said “everything felt great.” Delgado will throw a bullpen Tuesday that will include breaking balls and changeups.