D-backs OF Kyle Lewis focused on hitting his marks in stout spring

Mar 26, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: 7:15 pm

Kyle Lewis #1 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits a home run during the first inning of the Spring Tra...

Kyle Lewis #1 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits a home run during the first inning of the Spring Training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 12, 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kyle Lewis got off to a late start playing in spring training games, but he caught fire quickly.

The offseason trade acquisition from the Seattle Mariners did not play in Arizona’s first 10 games this spring — including split-squad — while he built up strength after injuries marred his past two seasons.

Once he slid into the lineup, Lewis did not take much time to find a rhythm, homering in his second game and slashing .429/.529/.857 in his first 11 outings in Sedona red. He got his hands around an inside fastball on Thursday for a home run to left-center against the Dodgers, his third of the spring.

“It’s going well, I think it’s just about being consistent,” Lewis said on Thursday. “Just be consistent with the preparation and trying to get my body to a place where I wanted to be able to make an impact this year.

“Hitting all the marks and adding to the workload every day and ability to play more and more, start playing back-to-backs hopefully and then go from there.”

Arizona made a slew of roster moves Sunday, keeping Lewis as one of 13 position players in the fold for the start of the season.

The D-backs traded catcher Cooper Hummel for Lewis early in the offseason to add a right-handed power option with pedigree. Lewis, a first-round pick and Golden Spikes winner at Mercer, won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2020, a 60-game season.

Lewis walked at a 14% rate, struck out at a high 29% but barreled the ball among the 78th percentile of MLB to belt 11 home runs — on pace for 30.7 over 162 games.

It was consistent with what he showed in the minors leading up to his debut in 2019: a big bat with a high strikeout rate but someone who gets on base consistently. D-backs manager Torey Lovullo commented earlier this spring that Lewis’ knowledge of the strike zone was impressive.

Lewis also robbed his share of hits, playing primarily in center field.

A torn meniscus ended his 2021 campaign after only 36 games, though, and knee problems plagued the start of last season, too. He even went on the injured list for a concussion in 2022 and only played 18 MLB games before getting optioned to Triple-A Tacoma in August.

His progression this spring has been calculated. He initially worked solely at designated hitter but has received playing time in left field recently.

“I think sometimes you feel good, you blow it out too quick,” Lewis said. “You just got to find that pace to where you push yourself, make your body respond and not overdo it.”

“He is swinging the bat extremely well from the minute he stepped on the diamond,” Lovullo said on Thursday. “It’s just gaining strength in his lower half and feeling good with his spacing in the outfield, and he got some good reads, good breaks today in the outfield. He’s running the bases very well. So obviously, still getting to know him, but we’ve been very impressed.”

Opening Day is Thursday, when the D-backs head to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.

Arizona entered Sunday with 16 position players on the active roster, including injury list-bound catcher Carson Kelly (forearm).

Six of the 16 were outfielders, including 1B/OF Pavin Smith.

Lewis, Smith and infielder Emmanuel Rivera appeared to be in the thick of the battle for a roster spot, with considerations including positional versatility and having a righty power bat available for potential platoons.

Smith and Rivera were optioned to Triple-A Reno Sunday morning.

Lewis has two options, giving Arizona some flexibility to decide based on opponents or whether it feels he could use more at-bats in Triple-A.

Matchups may have played a part in the decision, as the D-backs will face Dodgers lefties Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw during their first series.

“(Lewis) has had a fantastic spring, he’s starting to hit for power,” D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke this week.

“He’s had multiple knee surgeries, he plays with a big ole knee brace, he won’t run them down like those guys do in the outfield, but he provides a lot of right-handed pop we have been missing the last two years aside from Christian Walker.”

With all the roster shuffling over the past week, Lewis stayed focused on controlling what he could.

“That’s up to the manager, I’ll be ready when I’m needed,” Lewis said.

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