D-backs debut felt like Little League for Steven Souza Jr.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At 1:08 p.m., Steven Souza Jr. took his spot in right field just ahead of first pitch.
Twenty-eight minutes later, he walked up to home plate, stepped foot in the batter’s box and heard his name introduced for the first time as an Arizona Diamondback.
Souza Jr. had finally made his D-backs debut.
“I honestly felt like I was back in Little League, that’s the best way to put it. It felt great,” he said Wednesday, after playing five innings against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields. “I’m really excited to be apart of this group and really excited to be on the field with these guys.”
It was a quiet five innings for Souza Jr. in a game Colorado won, 9-3.
In the field, he didn’t see any action until the fifth. And that was limited to fielding three base hits. In that frame, Souza was charged with a throwing error after a Raimel Tapia RBI-double, allowing Tapia to reach third base.
No fly balls were hit in his direction.
At the plate, Souza Jr. went 0-for-1 with a walk.
Leading off the second inning and facing Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson, Souza Jr. took the first pitch for a strike. He eventually worked the count full and drew a walk, when Anderson’s 87-mph fastball missed outside.
Three innings later, Souza Jr. swung at the first pitch, lifting a fly ball to the warning track in right field, where it was caught by Tapia.
“The first AB I wanted to see as many pitches as I could being that I haven’t seen a bunch of pitches in awhile,” he said. “But, I wanted to make sure I kind of gauged where I was at with my swing and so I was going to get as many swings as I could off in that second at-bat.”
The D-backs made Souza Jr. wait until the sixth day of Cactus League play before putting him in the lineup, and that was by design.
The trade from Tampa Bay to Arizona happened just as Souza Jr. had reported to the Rays, so the D-backs wanted to give him some time to get acclimated to his new surroundings.
“Thankful that I waited. I think it was the right time. Perfect timing,” he said, before explaining a Monday text to manager Torey Lovullo lobbying to play sooner, “It’s my personality to want to just go out there. It’s great that I can trust guys, like Torey, and the training staff to have best interests, and it’s great for me to reign me back and really take a couple of extra days to get my feet back underneath me and get out there.”
The wait made Wednesday all the more special for Souza Jr.
“I wanted to be out there with these guys. I watched these guys work so hard and so I wanted to be out there with them. I was pacing in the dugout for a couple of days,” he said. “Now that it’s over, I can get back to work and really hone on what I need to do.”
Souza Jr. batted fifth between a pair of left-handed hitters, third baseman Jake Lamb and second baseman Daniel Descalso.
Overall, Wednesday’s lineup — at least as far as position players — very easily could have passed for Opening Day with left fielder David Peralta and center fielder A.J. Pollock hitting 1-2 and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the three hole.
Lovullo, however, quickly shot that down.
“It may look like most of them are playing today, but I don’t want that to be a concern of the guys that aren’t playing today because we’re still evaluating a lot of things,” he said.
Much of that evaluation centers on the middle infield, specifically the area between second and third base.
Ahmed was the starting shortstop Wednesday. Ketel Marte and Chris Owings are also competing for that spot.
“We love all three guys that are there,” Lovullo said. “They all have great qualities, they’re all natural leaders and they perform well. So, we’re eyes wide open right now, and we like the idea of they’re being a rotation so you might see a number of guys playing there throughout the course of ’18.”