ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Lovullo gives example on how D-backs monitor players at World Baseball Classic

Mar 18, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2023, 7:25 pm
Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks speaks to the media during the Spring Trainin...
Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks speaks to the media during the Spring Training Cactus League Media Day at Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo is watching every single play in the World Baseball Classic to monitor his players representing their countries.

He told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo that the organization would never block a player participating, but he dug deeper on the element of collaboration between clubs and the national teams.

“We saw that Ketel (Marte) had played center field and (Dominican Republic general manager) Nelson Cruz and (manager) Rodney Linares graciously accepted the phone call,” Lovullo said. “I explained to them that it wasn’t what we wanted Ketel to do. He hadn’t played the outfield in over a year, we hadn’t trained him or grilled him in that position.

“I asked them if they wouldn’t mind putting him back at second base and circled back to it a couple times to make sure that the message was loud and clear. Rodney decided that the call was perfectly timed. He accepted it and he got him into second base.”

It’s a difficult balance, as national teams are trying to win a tournament that means so much to many players and fans.

Team USA captain Mike Trout called it the most fun experience he’s had on a baseball field Wednesday at Chase Field. Several Dominican players said in a video that winning the WBC would mean more than a World Series.

Yet, it is spring training and clubs are gearing up for Opening Day in less than two weeks.

Team USA manager Mark DeRosa spoke about the balance of managing a pitching staff to win while adhering to partner club demands after a loss to Mexico in group play at Chase Field. He noted it is his responsibility to not jeopardize any MLB team’s season.

That said, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen called the WBC an incredible experience for his players.

“I think Alek Thomas playing in that game the other night at Chase Field with 50,000 people there … I think Merrill going out there representing Team USA on a different stage — one that doesn’t get created all the time in the National League West or in any major league regular season game — I think it makes a huge difference,” Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday.

“It’s an experience they wouldn’t get otherwise, I think it’s only positive for them to get to see that stuff. The next time you get to see it, you see it in the playoffs.”

Hazen noted that Zac Gallen, Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawlar attended the USA-Mexico game to experience the packed and enthusiastic Chase Field atmosphere.

Injuries and the WBC came to the forefront on Wednesday with Puerto Rico and New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz — fresh off signing an extension — suffering a potential season-ending patella tear in his knee while celebrating a win over the Dominican Republic.

Lovullo said he was sorry to see it happen, but risk of injury is present every time players take the field.

He pointed to D-backs reliever Corbin Martin suffering a lat tear in spring training this week as an example that anything can happen.

“Make sure you’re in shape, make sure that things are okay, and if they’re not, that’s when we would intervene,” Lovullo said. “But we felt like all the athletes that we sent off are ready to go, ready to compete at a high level.”

Thomas and Team Mexico earned a spot in the semifinals against Japan after defeating Puerto Rico on Friday.

Kelly and Team USA reached the quarterfinals and a matchup with Venezuela set for Saturday at 4 p.m. The winner will take on Cuba in the semifinals.

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