Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb adjusting to playing first base
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jake Lamb’s mom gave him a word of advice for his switch from third base to first base.
“I’m usually the quiet guy over at third, you don’t have to talk to anybody,” he said. “But I’ve got to give my mom a shoutout. She was the first one to say, you’ve got to work on your conversation skills.”
Lamb will have a new office when he plays first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Part of that territory will mean having to chat with runners that reach base safely. But the physical aspects of playing a new position — even if it’s just across the diamond — will take some getting used to, also.
“Today, the bunt plays. I’ve done a lot of work over there, I haven’t done the bunt plays. The first ground ball I took, I retreated back to first. They said, ‘Hey, second baseman’s there, you can keep going.’ There’s going to be little things like that,” Lamb said on Monday, the first official workout for the entire D-backs squad in spring training.
Lamb said for the past month or so, he’s been working on those “little things.” He’ll be tasked with replacing the first baseman who did the little things well enough to win three Gold Glove Awards with the D-backs: Paul Goldschmidt.
The All-Star’s departure was the story of the offseason for the D-backs, making an impact on more than just the fanbase. The players feel it, too, and Lamb’s move to first base is part of that.
But Goldschmidt made sure to ease the transition for his now-former teammate.
“I met with [Goldschmidt] three or four times and just talked about first base, talked about just baseball in general, what happened last year, what things I can do this year to help the team without him being here,” Lamb said. “That’s just who he is. … He’s an awesome dude.”
Goldschmidt also gave Lamb a first baseman’s glove.
“[First base coach] Dave [McKay] was the guy I worked out with the first couple times at first,” Lamb said. “He actually gave me his old glove, because I didn’t have a first base glove. He gave me his old glove that I think is 20-something years old. First couple days, I was taking ground balls with that, and then Goldy gave me one of his. I’m using that now.”
Lamb has played almost 4,000 innings at third base in the major leagues. He has played 29 innings at first base. He’s not the only one who will need to get used to a new spot on the field, as the team has mulled putting Ketel Marte in center field to fill the void left by A.J. Pollock.
“Well, I don’t want to share everything that he ran at me,” manager Torey Lovullo said when asked how Lamb took the news that he’d be playing first. “But he said he’s willing to do whatever he can, whatever we’ll ask, to make this organization and make this team go in the right direction. And that didn’t shock me whatsoever. He didn’t necessarily agree with it in every way and he expressed that to me and I listened, but he knew why we were asking.”
Lamb isn’t the team’s only option at first base. The D-backs this offseason signed Wilmer Flores, who has played 139 career games at first base; and has Christian Walker, who played a career-high 37 games last season.
But Lamb, who has a career .838 OPS against right-handed pitching, gives the D-backs another option and some flexibility at that spot on the diamond. At third, they can feature Eduardo Escobar, who signed a three-year contract in Arizona this offseason.
“The beauty of what he’s starting at is he has his time clock all set up,” Lovullo said. “He’s an infielder, he knows how long it’s going to take to make plays happen within the right timeline to collect outs. It’s just now organizing feet, moving in directions, a different angle off of the bat, and those are things we can’t force.
“We can’t simulate that in any other way than going out and watching him play baseball games, perhaps putting him on a back field and letting him make some mistakes and we know those are going to happen. He’s got tremendous aptitude, he’s got huge desire to make this happen on the level that we want it to happen and it should equal a very good result.”
Lamb said with the basics of first base, he’s comfortable. He can field ground balls, turn double plays and execute the simple fundamentals.
And he can pick a throw out of the dirt at first base, too.
“I’m getting fired up,” he said. “I tell everyone to hit me in the chest but I’ve still got you if you throw it down there.”