Nick Ahmed, Torey Lovullo discuss end of long road after D-backs DFA veteran SS

Sep 6, 2023, 8:42 PM

Nick Ahmed...

Nick Ahmed #13 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts during introductions before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day of the 2023 Major League Baseball season at Dodger Stadium on March 30, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has imagined embracing Nick Ahmed as his team clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2017.

Ahmed has been with the D-backs since 2013, making his MLB debut with the club in 2014 and has been the only player on the roster for all of Lovullo’s tenure.

He’s been through the 2017 playoff berth and a 110-loss season. Only four players have played more games (885) in the uniform: Luis Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt, David Peralta and Miguel Montero.

They had been together for so long that Lovullo felt he knew what Ahmed was thinking by looking at him and vice versa.

The Diamondbacks went in another direction on Wednesday, designating Ahmed for assignment in the final stretch of their playoff push to call up Jordan Lawlar, the consensus top ranked prospect in the organization.

Ahmed did not see it coming, saying general manager Mike Hazen and Lovullo told him after Arizona’s 12-5 win over the Colorado Rockies.

But he understood it.

“Just disappointed, obviously,” Ahmed said. “I’ve spent a lot of time here. Gave it my all. … Ten years and ripping the band aid off in 10 minutes. … Mike Hazen told me with Torey and just explained they’re gonna call up Lawlar and try to put out a better lineup against left-handed pitching. I didn’t do a very good job this year, obviously, hitting specifically against lefties. So I get it, I didn’t do my job well enough.”

Ahmed has never been an offensive force, but he was one of the best defenders in baseball for a long time. From 2015-19, no one in MLB had more outs above average than Ahmed at 76, and he ranked No. 5 in defensive runs saved with 73. He won two Gold Glove awards.

The bat fell off over the past three seasons after he injured his shoulder diving for a ball in 2020. This year, he’s platooned with Geraldo Perdomo at shortstop, hitting against righties. He has typical splits through most of his career, but this season, his .404 OPS vs. southpaws has been the lowest in baseball among qualified hitters.

Lovullo said Ahmed took Wednesday’s conversation better than he did.

“He said he didn’t do his job and that was his responsibility,” Lovullo said. “He took ownership, he took accountability. In a time of crisis, you see the true human being, you see the true man. He was everything you guys would expect.”

Ahmed said he’s fully healthy now after coming back from surgery, but he acknowledged that working back has been a major challenge. He claimed he does not regret diving for that ball.

His role this year was also a major adjustment. He started 56 of Arizona’s 140 games.

“Really my entire life, I’ve never been on any type of team and not played,” Ahmed said. “When I wasn’t in the lineup or on the field, I to the best of my abilities tried to help all our young guys and encourage guys and the guys who were struggling. Find tips on pitchers, get guys prepared and do things like that. The aspect of not being able to be in the lineup and do what you love is challenging.”

Lovullo said Ahmed’s role never sat quite right with him.

They had some difficult conversations about it throughout the year, which Lovullo said did not always go well. Lovullo explained Ahmed would drive those talks wanting answers.

“He understood that for the good of the team and what I was asking, he was going to do whatever was asked, and that’s what I respect most about him. He was adaptable,” Lovullo said.

Ahmed said he’d be prepared if he landed in a similar role elsewhere, and Lovullo felt his days in MLB are not done.

Ketel Marte now holds the mantle for most games with Arizona among its active players with 772.

The D-backs are right on the outside looking into the playoff table with 22 games remaining. Lawlar is expected to start every game against left-handers.

Lovullo said it will be exciting to get the 21-year-old on the team for the push.

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