Bob Brenly: ‘I was a little skeptical initially’ of D-backs’ Yasmany Tomas at third base
It’s safe to say Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas has started to look comfortable in big league batter’s boxes.
After seeing his batting average sink to .276 on May 11, the 6-foot-2 rookie has hit safely in seven out of eight games, including six straight contests with two or more hits — heading into Friday’s matchup with the Chicago Cubs.
Although Tomas has turned it around at the plate, Diamondbacks color commentator and former manager Bob Brenly said the bigger surprise might be the third baseman’s improvement in the field.
“I was a little skeptical initially watching Tomas at third base in spring training, and who wouldn’t be? Because it was not pretty,” he told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM‘s Bickley and Marotta on Friday. “But that being said, this guy’s worked his tail off. He’s really working hard to try to become an adequate third baseman; I think he’s gotten to that point, and now, depending on how much more work he wants to put in, he can become better than average at third base. He’s made every play that I feel he should’ve made as a third baseman — a couple of tough plays that he made that kind of surprised me (and) a couple of tough plays that he wasn’t able to make that really didn’t surprise me.”
Brenly then turned his attention to Tomas’ offensive prowess.
“The bat has come a long way,” the former skipper said. “Early on in the season, it looked like he was just feeling for the ball, content to hit ground balls to the right side for base hits. But as the season has progressed and he’s kind of gotten a better idea of how teams are trying to pitch him, he’s looked for off-speed pitches in some counts and hit those balls hard to left-center and left field. He’s gotten a little elevation on some of the balls that he hit to right field — got some good carry toward the gap in right-center.”
The 24-year-old Cuba native goes into the Cubs series with a .349 batting average and five doubles, one home run, 12 RBI, 10 runs scored and six walks in 28 appearances this season. He was the D-backs’ prized acquisition of the offseason, inking a six-year, $68.5 million deal with the club.
“I think maybe we were all asking a little bit too much of this young man going in, but as he’s relaxed, as he feels more comfortable with his role with the ball club, he’s been a pleasant surprise for me,” Brenly said.
There will be a dilemma for manager Chip Hale when Jake Lamb returns from the 15-day disabled list, possibly in early June. Lamb shares the same position as Tomas and got to a hot start of a .414 average, one home run and nine RBI in 29 at-bats before suffering a left foot injury.
Tomas spent some time at the corner outfield positions in Cuba, but the D-backs are already rotating A.J. Pollock, Ender Inciarte, Mark Trumbo and David Peralta among the three outfield spots.
Brenly surmised how Hale might split the playing time at the outfield and third base positions.
“I’m sure he’ll say you’d always rather have too many good players and not enough to fill the slots,” Brenly said. “But based on what Tomas has done in the absence of Jake Lamb, and based on what Jake Lamb did before the injury, it’s going to be a little bit of a logjam. The easy solution is to plug Lamb in at third base and let him play every day against righties and lefties. You like that left-handed power bat somewhere in the middle of the lineup; you love his defense at third base, but that mean Tomas has got to go somewhere, and the outfield is a little jammed already.
“So barring some kind of move, I think it’s just going to be more of the same we’ve seen: It’s going to be a juggling act. You play the matchups. You like this particular hitter on this particular pitcher, and you get Tomas in at third; maybe you get him in at the corner outfield spots and just try to keep everybody happy as best you can.”