Torey Lovullo: D-backs OF Alek Thomas started to show ‘loss in confidence’
Arizona Diamondbacks rookie center fielder Alek Thomas was optioned down to Triple-A Reno on Monday.
In a corresponding move, the D-backs activated fellow rookie OF Jake McCarthy from the bereavement list due to a death in his family.
“It was a very difficult decision. We knew that Jake would be coming back from the bereavement list. We knew that we had to make a move,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday.
“What we had been watching Alek do for the first several weeks of his call-up was take the game to the next level and just really go out there and achieve.”
After making his MLB debut on May 8, Thomas finished out the month slashing .260/.317/.452 on eight extra-base hits, which included three home runs. He also added six RBIs in his first 21 games in the big leagues (73 at-bats) to go along with a .769 OPS.
And by the end of August, the lefty was hitting .249 with an OPS of .672 on 15 doubles, one triple and eight homers in his first 326 at-bats (95 games) in The Show. Thomas also had 35 RBIs and four stolen bases in addition to his astounding defensive prowess in the center field.
But after bursting onto the scene for most of the 2022 season, Thomas’ production at the plate took a nose dive once the calendar turned to September.
“It’s been a grind for him, it’s been a little bit of a challenge,” Lovullo said. “I felt like he was starting to show a little bit of a loss in confidence. Maybe that was the case, maybe it wasn’t.
“But in my opinion and the evaluator’s opinion that we were looking to make the right decision and who knows if it’s the right one. Given all the facts that we had on the table, we just felt it was the best thing for him to go down.”
In his last 18 games, the 22-year-old rookie is 7-for-55 with two doubles for a slash line of .127/.138/.164. And since Sept. 10, he has only mustered one hit in 31 at-bats for a .032 batting average and OPS of .065.
However, in Thomas’ first game with the Aces on Monday, the lefty went 2-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and one run scored.
“I know there’s only three games in Reno and they’re going to play some meaningful games here before the playoffs,” Lovullo said. “It gives him a chance to take a deep breath in and say, ‘I’m going to be OK, I was making some mechanical mistakes, I was making some mistakes with my pitch selection. Let me just catch my breath for a second and get back on my feet.’
“And I felt it would be the best opportunity for him to push forward and have a very healthy offseason, have a good ending, rather than an ending where he was just hanging on.”
Lovullo added how excited he is to have a young nucleus of outfielders that include Thomas, McCarthy, Daulton Varsho, Corbin Carroll and Stone Garrett going into next season.
In fact, the manager said an opposing Los Angeles Dodgers player deemed the D-backs outfield as the “no-fly zone” because if it’s not a home run, the speedsters in left, center and right will track down any flyball that stays in the park.
“The bottom line is I just felt like he wasn’t the same version of himself and we were trying to get him back there,” Lovullo said. “With a decision that was looming, a tough decision that was needed to be made, we had to make it and it landed on Alek.
“What I explained to him is that he still is a very big piece of this organization. We’re looking to go into this next dimension as to what we can accomplish as an organization, he’s name is firmly planted in those discussions. So it’s just a little hiccup, he’ll find himself getting back to the big leagues as soon as possible.”