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New contract, old work ethic for improving D-backs SS Nick Ahmed

Nick Ahmed #13 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields a ground ball in the third inning of the MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on June 19, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Manager Torey Lovullo stopped before addressing Nick Ahmed’s offensive uptick. He first wanted to talk about the “entire athlete.”

Ahmed, the shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks who recently agreed to a four-year extension, is coming off back-to-back Gold Glove Award-winning seasons. He had a combined 5.5 defensive WAR (wins above replacement) over the last two seasons, but in 2019 brought something new to the table.

Ahmed set career-highs in batting average (.254), on-base percentage (.316), slugging percentage (.437), OPS (.753), home runs (19), RBIs (82) and more.

“Offensively, we know what the numbers have looked like over the past couple of years,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “There’s a lot of offensive production. The slug has been outstanding. And we’ve seen things trend upward, and that’s because of this hard work and very dedicated work habit to getting better day by day.

“And it’s not just on that side of the ball, too. Even though he’s an elite defender and he’s won back-to-back Gold Gloves, I see him working on something new every day to just get better. And he hasn’t stopped.”

At spring training in Scottsdale on Tuesday, the second day of mandatory full-team workouts, Ahmed said his work ethic and his confidence weren’t changing.

“Go about my work the same way, no matter what,” he said.

Interestingly, Ahmed answered negatively when asked if it was a “no-brainer” to sign an extension in Arizona.

“Not really. It was a tough decision,” he said. “It wasn’t something I was 100% set on doing. But the more I looked at the pros and cons of it, it became evident that this was a good situation.”

The alternative, he said, was to go into free agency, play out the 2020 season and bet on himself that he’d continue to improve. That’s always a gamble, one that could’ve resulted in more money and years on the contract — or less.

Ahmed wouldn’t say that there was one specific improvement that made his offensive game take a step forward.

“No, just getting a little bit better every day,” he said. “Just using the available information and help myself to get better on a daily basis and be consistent about making the work smart. When you do that, you look up at the end of the year and you end up having a good year.”

When asked about what Ahmed has gotten better at specifically, Lovullo offered one suggestion:

“I know that he has eliminated certain areas of chase,” Lovullo said. “I know that’s something that he’s talked a lot about. And when you eliminate chase, you’re zoning in your pitch. And he seems to not miss it more times than not now than he used to when he was a younger hitter.”

BASE HITS

— Starling Marte (migraine) participated in all workouts on Tuesday and was cleared, health-wise. He is feeling fine now, Lovullo said.

— Mike Leake (left wrist fracture) is trying to regain full range of motion. He will be throwing bullpens, with someone catching the ball for him on the throw back.

— Archie Bradley, who was expected to have an arbitration case on Tuesday, was not at camp. According to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, Bradley is seeking $4.1 million. The D-backs filed at $3.625 million.

“We know it’s a big day for him, and we just wanted to make sure he was around the people he needed to be around in preparation for the hearing,” Lovullo said. “So I just said, ‘Take the day off completely and throw your bullpen tomorrow,’ which we’ve already arranged for.”


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