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Lovullo looking past spring training stats when evaluating D-backs

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks relieves Robbie Ray #38 in the second inning of the spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 23, 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Stats are an integral part of any sport.

They can be used to show trends, both good and bad, and give those tuning in a better look at who is doing what on a given day.

But stats don’t always tell the full story. There’s much more that goes into a game than just the numbers on a piece paper. Especially during spring training, where the games don’t impact a team’s record moving forward.

While there’s no doubt the Arizona Diamondbacks’ spring training numbers will be evaluated by the coaching staff, skipper Torey Lovullo is taking a deeper look into much more than just what the stat sheet shows.

“It’s the practice habits that I’m watching, the bullpens that they’re throwing, the batting practice they’re taking, the intimate moments they’re having one-on-one with the hitting coaches,” Lovullo said ahead of the team’s 8-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Monday. “I’m paying attention to some of their concepts they’re locking down, and then during the game I’m watching actions more than results.

“Actions to me are the speed that you are playing the game, the ways your hands are firing forward on a ball that you’re swinging at, the way you’re feet are moving as you’re moving left or right on a roundball and the first step breaks you’re getting in the outfield. It’s funny, I watch the game a little bit differently than most people. … I’m watching the things inside of movements.”

The D-backs may have taken the loss on Monday, but for Lovullo, what he saw from starting pitcher Merrill Kelly was far more important than what the final line read.

“I thought Merrill Kelly threw the ball very well, he was on the attack and he came out of the bullpen throwing his best stuff, and dropping in his breaking ball and attacking the hitters like we wanted him to,” Lovullo said.

Looking to bounce back from a rough first outing, in which he gave up two runs and lasted just 1.1 innings, Kelly turned in a better showing on Monday.

In 2.2 innings of work, the 2019 starting pitcher allowed three hits and an earned run on 49 pitches (33 strikes). He also struck out three batters — he failed to record a strikeout against the Oakland Athletics — and walked one.

“I felt like I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes and I was just really focused on getting ahead,” Kelly said of the outing. “Really just focused on not trying to be too fine early in the count and just trying to pound the plate and I was pretty happy with it.”

It’s a good sign for the D-backs, who are looking to knock the remaining rust off as they traverse their second full week of spring training action.

“The first week of spring training, I expect things to happen that have been happening here. Getting doubled off of bases and not having real productive at-bats. There’s just no rhythm to the games you’re playing in because you’re not out there every single day, but I’m looking for things to change here in the next couple of days and start to ramp it up.

“The first day you’re just getting dirt on your spikes and getting used to them again. … We feel like we have plenty of time to have guys stretched out and doing their job the way they’re supposed to be doing it from both an offensive, defensive and a pitching standpoint.”

Part of the ramping up Lovullo is talking about is getting key position players added reps to help them get a better feel for where they are at as camp rolls on.

Practice is one thing. Live game action — spring training or not — is a whole other ballgame.

“Getting to play back-to-back and piling up your at-bats, you can evaluate yourself the right way, you know where your hands are today and then again tomorrow,” Lovullo said. “You don’t have to wait that extra day or two in between and I believe in that.

“You’re going to start to see some guys pop up and play back-to-back, that’s the next part of this progression. Whether that’s a DH position, I’m not sure, but eventually, I want to get guys back-to-back here real soon.”

EXTRA BASES

– Lovullo on Madison Bumgarner’s next spring training start:

“Wednesday will be his day and he’s right on schedule. Everything’s good.”

Bumgarner will face off against the Cleveland Indians.

– Lovullo on if MLB or team has talked to the skipper about safety precautions surrounding the coronavirus:

“Not at this point, no, but I know Major League Baseball does an incredible job in that area. I’m sure they are looking into it and if they do we will adhere to those rules. You’re talking about people losing their lives, it’s a very unfortunate situation. We’ll take those necessary steps if needed.”

– The D-backs were hit with a rain and hail during Monday’s contest. The downpour stopped play for roughly seven minutes, with fans and players running for cover to avoid the rain, hail and lightning over Salt River Fields.


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