Free agent-to-be A.J. Pollock staying in the moment with Diamondbacks
Three home runs Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers launched A.J. Pollock into becoming the National League’s co-leader with nine on the season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder ranks among the top-10 in MLB in homers, slugging percentage and OPS.
And as a barrage of injuries hit his D-backs, who still lead the NL with a 20-8 record, it’s Pollock who has been their best offensive force, better than first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and a piece to the team that has pushed J.D. Martinez’s free agency departure to the back of fans’ minds.
Maybe because he’s avoiding the thought of his impending free agency this summer, Pollock is the first to say that living in the moment is the best thing for a team that has quite the opportunity this season thanks to the fast start and some floundering by those NL West-favorite Dodgers.
“It’s one of those things where I’m having so much fun with this team,” Pollock told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I haven’t been a part of too many winning teams. When you get to be a part of one, you want to soak it in, you really want to make sure you’re enjoying every day.
“I’m human. Kind of not knowing where you’re going to be next year, there’s moments you think about it but I’m really enjoying where I’m at right now. That’s going to be my focus is going to be the rest of the year, trying to help this team win.”
Arizona could be in a tight spot in terms of signing the outfielder to what could be the final lucrative, long-term deal of his career.
The D-backs, who are in the middle-rung of MLB payrolls, would need to make maneuvers with Paul Goldschmidt’s always-looming contract extension needed and Zack Greinke’s behemoth contract already on the books.
Pollock, despite being 30 years old, could command quite a bit of attention as a free agent as he has returned to the form that made him a 2015 All-Star. He’s slashing .291/.351/.670 with 24 RBIs through just 27 games, putting him on pace to easily eclipse his career-high of 79 this year.
He’s in a groove, likely thanks to his health. The center fielder feels healthier than he did in the last two seasons — a serious elbow injury derailed his 2016 campaign before it began, and groin issues pumped the breaks on a fast start to 2017.
But Pollock isn’t alone in contributing, a reason why Arizona has found success to — so far — keep its momentum despite losing Steven Souza and Jake Lamb to injuries early this year. The D-backs hope they can keep winning with Robbie Ray hitting the disabled list Monday and David Peralta, who suffered a hand contusion Monday night, potentially missing time.
“I think we’ve had a lot of guys contribute,” Pollock said. “There’s a different hero every night. I think when we have guys at the plate in a big situation, there’s not one guy on the team that we don’t feel like is going to come through for us. That’s the feeling in the clubhouse.
“That’s not luck. It’s hanging around and being close. That’s a lot to do with good defense, good pitching, just scratching a run here or there — I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
It’s easy for Pollock to appreciate it. Since his MLB debut for the Diamondbacks in 2012, the team’s only playoff appearance came last season.
But at home with his wife, Kate, where discussions about the future can’t be avoided, Pollock knows that creating expectations out of anything beyond this year is unwise.
“I guess in a kind of way, the unknown is a little exciting,” he admitted. “Hopefully there’s a chance to come back here. We love it here, it’s home for the last six, seven years. (My wife) rolls with stuff. Lot of those baseball families and the baseball wives, they learn how to roll with things because a lot of times in baseball stuff doesn’t go exactly the way you planned. We’ll see what happens.”