Robbie Ray and Jake Lamb can push D-backs to another level, Lovullo says
Since Torey Lovullo joined the Arizona Diamondbacks as manager, the team has been represented in the MLB All-Star Game nine times.
Players who have since left the organization account for six of those All-Star berths: Zack Greinke (3), Paul Goldschmidt (2) and Patrick Corbin (1).
That leaves breakout star Ketel Marte, who made it last year, along with Jake Lamb and Robbie Ray (2017) as past D-back All-Stars remaining on the roster heading into 2020.
While Marte is expected to continue building off a surprise season, Lamb and Ray find themselves in a similar spot — hoping to re-find that form altogether. That duo has dealt with individual struggles in the two seasons since Arizona’s 93-win campaign of 2017.
“We know a couple things going in,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “If Robbie Ray has a good year, our team takes on a different personality and we look totally different. If Jake Lamb has the type of year that he’s had in ’16 and ’17 — he’s battled through some injury years in ’18 and ’19 and that’s not his fault. But if he gets back to his form, we’re a totally different team.”
Lamb has played in 134 games over the past two years, fewer than the 149 played in his 2017 All-Star season. Injuries have been one thing, but the acquisition of Eduardo Escobar in 2018 and emergence of first baseman Christian Walker last year has pushed him outside the regular list of starters.
Ray hasn’t lost his role as starting pitcher, but the D-backs enter the 2020 season with plenty of options there.
His name has been dangled in trade speculation as his strikeout-forward pitching style has limited his efficiency. Ray’s ERA reached 4.34 in 2019, and his WHIP has been sitting at the mid-1.30s the last two seasons.
But as a lefty, Ray will have value as Lovullo determines how to pattern the rotation that should lead off with fellow southpaw Madison Bumgarner, Arizona’s big free agent signing.
“Coming in, that was one of the things I put on (Bumgarner),” Lovullo said. “We were recruiting him and talking to him: I asked him, ‘Look, if you come here, I know your natural presence is going to be fantastic, but in those areas when you want to, I want you to help out younger pitchers.’ In this case, Robbie Ray is a younger pitcher to him. Robbie is going into his sixth year and he’s had some tremendous years, he’s had some tremendous peaks. What we want Robbie to do is avoid some of those valleys or avoid some of those lulls, because he’s got elite stuff.
“I feel like they’re going to buddy up to one another. I feel like Robbie’s going to watch because Robbie’s a tremendous student of the game and he wants to learn and he wants to get better. Some of those pitfalls, he doesn’t ask for. It tears him apart. I think Madison, being able to step into his world a little bit, they’re going to definitely have some conversation.”