Lovullo continues to show confidence in Jake Lamb during hitless stretch
Corner infielder Jake Lamb is in the startling lineup for the second day in a row despite again going hitless Friday.
Manager Torey Lovullo continues to express confidence in Lamb, who has not gotten a hit since Opening Day and only got on base one time in his eight games played since that July 24 opener.
“Jake is once again falling into that category of being somebody that can play excellent defense so I just thought I would give him some back-to-back days, and give him an opportunity to get some rhythm to his swing,” Lovullo said.
“There’s no perfect science to creating a lineup. I can’t just bench Jake Lamb; I can’t just totally forget about him.”
From the sound of it, Lovullo had planned this start out in advance. He saw Saturday as a day Christian Walker, who has emerged as arguably the D-backs’ best bat early in the season, could have as his first game off since July 26.
Lovullo said Walker has had minimal limitations from a groin injury that hampered him during summer camp, but with the road trip to face the Colorado Rockies beginning Monday, the manager thought this a logical time to get Walker a day off.
“Going up to Colorado, knowing what the altitude does to the body, I wanted to follow through and get him that day off,” Lovullo said.
“We won a couple days in a row and I felt like it wasn’t the right time — it’s never the right time to give him a day off, quite frankly, he means that much to our lineup, but I gotta be mindful of what type of information I’m getting from the medical team as well.”
But that means Arizona will be without Walker, whose seven doubles are tied for the league lead, and instead with Lamb, who is 1-for-21 on the season.
Lovullo said that Lamb’s production in 2017, along with “glimpses” of it the past couple years, keeps him faithful in the third baseman.
“He’s an easy guy to bet on because he’s done it before. It’s just a matter of finding that rhythm and that tempo to his swing,” Lovullo said. “If we can get Jake … back to what we’ve seen and what we know he’s capable of doing, he can really impact the game in a big way…
“I understand he’s been struggling, but I gotta find time for him. And I want to give him back-to-back days to see if he can get back in a little bit of a rhythm.”
To put it frankly, it’s been a long time since Lamb has been that player. In 2016 and ’17, he was basically a 30 home run, 100 RBI, .250 hitter.
In the two-plus years since, he has a total of 12 home runs with 61 RBI in 143 games.
That span coincides with a 2018 shoulder injury that cost him the month of April and then, near the end of July, ended his season.
Lovullo was asked when he last had those “glimpses” of the old Lamb.
“I can’t give you the exact days where I’ve seen it be as consistent as it was in ’17 and maybe for parts of ’18, but it’s still the same guy. He didn’t get bad overnight,” Lovullo said.
“As coaches and teachers we gotta teach him up. We gotta believe in him and we gotta push him in the right direction.”
Mentally, he said, Lamb is there. Lovullo is willing to bet a lineup spot that the talent is, too.
“I just know what I think he’s capable of doing because I think he’s got a really good swing and his head space seems to be in the right place,” he said.
Stephen Vogt will also get the start, his second in a row and his third in the last four games.
Lovullo said usual starter Carson Kelly is fine, but he liked Vogt facing Padres starter Chris Paddack more.
“I just have made a decision that it probably would be the best thing for him to get off of his feet for a couple of days,” Lovullo said. “He’ll get back into the rotation, but for right now I just felt like today’s matchup with Vogt behind the plate was going to give us a chance to score some runs.”
The D-backs will need some runs. Arizona couldn’t score off Paddack on Opening Day and lost 7-2.
The first pitch Saturday night will be thrown at 6:10 p.m. Listen live at 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.