New D-backs manager Lovullo: Want to have a smart, tough, fearless baseball team
Almost from the moment Mike Hazen was named the vice president and general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Torey Lovullo’s name surfaced as a likely candidate to be the team’s next manager.
It made sense, given their Boston Red Sox ties, and after a couple of weeks on the job, Hazen did, in fact, tab Lovullo to lead the team.
A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday afternoon, Lovullo said he felt good about his chances but did not know he got the job until Hazen gave him the official word last Friday.
“Before that I had felt very good about my sit downs with Ken (Kendrick) and Derrick (Hall) and then Mike (Hazen) in the baseball ops group,” Lovullo said. “I felt real good and comfortable getting my points across. Everything seemed to align, you just don’t know, when you’re working through all of that in the interview process. But, obviously things went well enough where that alignment brought us to this point.
“It was a pretty special feeling as soon as you get that word and you get that phone call saying you are the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
Lovullo said he has been swept up in a wave of emotion since landing the job, though he understands it is now time to get to work.
“We have a lot of work to do — we’ve got a lot of things that we kind of need to coordinate here, and we’re doing that as we speak,” he added. “And we want to make sure that we move in a positive direction each and every day.”
Lovullo did not get the job because he knows Hazen, of course. The 51-year-old has experience as a coach under John Farrell with the Toronto Blue Jays and Red Sox, with the last four seasons coming as the bench coach. He filled in as manager on an interim basis during the 2015 season, guiding the team to a 28-21 record in the process.
Lovullo also has experience as a manager in the minor leagues, with all of that coming after an eight-year playing career in which he hit .224 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI for seven different teams.
That said, familiarity with Hazen did not hurt his chances nor his desire to get the job.
“It definitely gave us a little bit of a jumpstart as we moved forward with this general manager/manager relationship,” Lovullo said. “Mike and I, having worked together, we can have candid, quick conversations without taking things personally, without holding grudges. We’ve already had several of those; the interactions are crisp and to the point.”
Lovullo added there are times where the two will agree as well as some where they do not, but no matter what will have a united message and feeling between them.
“That’s kind of what we have built-in, but we’re ready together to keep surging and pushing forward to make this thing as good as it can possibly be for the entire organization,” he said.
Lovullo and Hazen have their work cutout for them, with a team that won 69 games last season and was closer to having the worst record in baseball than a Wild Card berth. When it comes to turning things around, Lovullo said both he and Hazen have their roles, and are in total understandment of the chain of command.
“Mike has a tough job,” he said. “He’s going to build the best team that’s possible, and those are going to have long, long, drawn out conversations, but the input that we can give makes it very, very valuable as a staff as we try to keep this thing going forward.”
According to MLB’s Steve Gilbert, Lovullo was given a three-year contract while Hazen is working under a five-year deal. In terms of filling out his coaching staff, Lovullo said there have been “limited mandates” placed on him when it comes to who to hire or maybe keep from the previous staff, but for the most part right now he is still in the information gathering phase.
Whatever coaching staff he assembles, and whatever kind of roster Hazen puts together, Lovullo said there is no single style he plans on managing with.
“I have huge expectations of the players, I believe in the players; I know the game is very difficult and on a nightly basis great players can do great things at great times,” he said. “I’m going to hold them to the standard that they go out there and perform at the highest level, offering 100 percent of what they have on that given night.”
Lovullo continued by saying he believes in communication, in building trust and faith in one another. Talking is important, but so too is listening.
“What these players are going to quickly find out with me is what they have on their mind and what they say matters, and I just want to make sure that they know that,” he said. “We’re going to try to create a very good culture where we have a smart, tough, fearless baseball team, and we’ll have to earn that. It’s great talk; you’ve got a situation where you can sit here and say that’s what we want to do and that’s what we want to get to.
“But how are you going to do that? We’re going to outline some thoughts here to the players when it’s the right time in spring trainng, and hopefully the product comes out there and performs to the standards that I will hold, the fans will hold and the front office will hold.”