Lovullo explains why D-backs’ Alex Young was pulled during no-hit bid
Jul 7, 2019, 5:56 PM | Updated: Jul 8, 2019, 7:29 am
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — If you’re frustrated manager Torey Lovullo pulled Alex Young after six innings of no-hit baseball, Arizona Diamondbacks fans, don’t worry.
He knows. He heard you yelling at him from behind the dugout.
“I know I’m an idiot,” Lovullo said. “You didn’t have to tell me 15 times, I heard it the first time.”
In Young’s second career start, he completed six innings of no-hit baseball against the Colorado Rockies and their four all-stars, all of whom hit in the one-through-four spots in the lineup Sunday.
Young threw 71 pitches, 46 for a strike, and only walked one while striking out three in the D-backs’ 5-3 win.
The 25-year-old did well changing speeds — his pitches typically range between 80-90 mph – while attacking the edges of the plate and avoiding the barrel of the bat, all while keeping his pitch count down.
“You don’t need overpowering stuff to have success, guys have been doing that forever. You just have to be able to locate pitches and throw strikes. And then throw balls when you need to,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He has four quality pitches that he can locate around the zone and that’s a plus because there’s a lot for a hitter to think about.”
But Lovullo had his reasons for not letting Young chase a complete-game no-hitter.
“It was the right move for him because he’s never been beyond that. He’s been pushed into the starting role and his pitch count has been in that area and never really been beyond that,” Lovullo said. “Innings-wise, I know the pitch count has climbed, but he’s moving back and forth in and out of the pen. For a variety of reasons, it was time.”
Young has worked primarily as a relief pitcher for Triple-A Reno over the last season-and-a-half. From Aug. 11, 2018, through June 22, 2019, Young came out of the bullpen 20 times in 28 appearances. In his eight starts over that span (all in May and June of this season), he broke 80 pitches only twice, when he threw 96 and 94 pitches on June 10 and 16, respectively.
It’s been 11 months (and one day) since the last time Young had pitched more than five innings.
Young retired right fielder Charlie Blackmon, a fellow lefty, to end the sixth inning Sunday. Lovullo said after the game that was going to be Young’s last batter whether or not Blackmon got on base.
The next three hitters were the heart of the order in Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and David Dahl. While Lovullo said upcoming matchups weren’t a primary reason to pull Young, he did consider the hitters as he chose to have the bullpen face the all-stars as opposed to one more time against Young.
Getting through the third time through an order is much more difficult than the second time. Story and Arenado, both right-handed hitters and 2018 Silver Sluggers, would have posed a difficult challenge.
Lovullo said there was an 80-pitch limit. Even if Young were to get through those three hitters unscathed, he would not finish the game without exceeding it. After throwing 74 pitches June 22 and 26 in relief Tuesday, Lovullo said it “didn’t make sense” for him to throw as many as he’d need to complete the game.
“There was no way he was going to get three innings out of his pitch count for his health and to me there’s nothing more important than the good health of our young players,” Lovullo said.
That’s part of a changing trend that Lovullo addressed. He referenced experiences from his time playing.
“I was part of that generation that would just run that tank dry,” Lovullo said. “I would see personally what some of my teammates would go through from a health standpoint, that they were perhaps hiding from trainers, and what they’d do to gear up from four days, five days from that start. I know the impact of what it does to the body.”
Young said he understood. He said he felt good after the game and could go back out, but recognized why Lovullo was getting him out. He didn’t argue much.
“New guy, I have no real leverage,” Young said. “But he knew I wanted to go back out there.”
At that point, Arizona led 1-0 – and that run was scored by Young himself. He struck out on a knuckle curve from German Marquez but got to first on a passed ball, then took second on another passed ball off a fastball. He scored on a double hit by third baseman Eduardo Escobar.
Escobar was a key player for the offense. He tripled in the first, hit the double in the third and then got a base hit in which he advanced to second when the Rockies tried to catch second baseman Ketel Marte advancing to third in the sixth inning. Escobar very nearly hit a home run, too, but it was a few feet to the right of the right field post.
He ended with a home run shy of the cycle.
Arizona first baseman Christian Walker drove Marte and Escobar in to extend the lead to 3-0, and then shortstop Nick Ahmed hit a two-run home run to give Arizona a 5-0 lead.
Arizona enters the all-star break in sole possession of second place in the National League West after sweeping the Rockies, who are now a game back.
“It’s trending in the positive direction,” Lovullo said. “I’m more pleased than I was, but we still got a lot of work to do.”
The D-backs’ approach for Young following his first start was to get another relief appearance in and then get him back to the starting spot. He completed that with flying colors.
Lovullo thinks the next step of a “natural progression” would be to increase Young’s pitch limit to 85-90 and get him into the seventh inning.
“We haven’t really walked through the rotation, we’re gonna probably finalize that in the next day,” Lovullo said, “but my vote is give him a baseball the next time in five days and that’s going to be crystal clear when I’m speaking to the people I need to speak to about it.”