D-backs notebook: Lovullo handling rookie starters differently, Lawlar’s playing time

Sep 16, 2023, 4:17 PM | Updated: 4:28 pm

Brandon Pfaadt...

Brandon Pfaadt (Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Felisa Cardenas)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo admitted that rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt may have remained in Friday’s game longer in 2021 or 2022.

Lovullo pulled him at 73 pitches after 5.1 scoreless innings. In an effort to avert risk, Lovullo explained after the game that Pfaadt was going to get through the order twice — plus or minus a few hitters — before exiting.

On Saturday, he elaborated that he was tempted to leave Pfaadt in, who had dealt in a 6-4 win.

“The third time around, I know what happens to the the offensive intensity,” Lovullo said. “I just felt like I wasn’t pushing anybody’s luck out. We weren’t even to that point.

“I just felt like he’d done his job at 70-75 pitches to hand it over. By a third time around, there’s a chance that things happen quickly for any pitcher, let alone somebody like Brandon Pfaadt, who we’re asking a lot of as a rookie.”

Pfaadt’s numbers specifically have been brutal the third time through the order (1.155 OPS), and Arizona’s bullpen has also been a strength of late with a 2.66 ERA in its last 44 innings.

Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson are the two rookies in Arizona’s starting rotation, and Lovullo plans to handle their starts carefully in such a tight playoff push. Top-end Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly will be asked to go “full throttle” with three more starts each, mapped out to the final series of the season against the Houston Astros.

Nelson will get the ball against Chicago on Sunday Night Baseball.

No Jordan Lawlar

D-backs top prospect Jordan Lawlar was out of the lineup for a third straight game on Saturday. He did not see the field Friday even with Cubs left-handed ace Justin Steele on the mound.

Lovullo previously said Lawlar would start each game against lefties but felt Steele offered a particular challenge. His swing path against Steele’s cutter-slider, specifically.

The manager said Lawlar has handled himself in this new situation as well as any 21-year-old he’s come across and isn’t worried about his confidence waning.

“Last year, we were on our way to win somewhere in the low to mid 70s baseball games,” Lovullo said. “This year, we’re charging at something totally different.

“It’s a great experience for everybody, including Jordan. To be sitting in that dugout and watching the intensity of the moment. I’ve pinch hit for him, I’ve taken him out as for defensive replacement, it’s probably never happened to him before in his life, so I’m sure he’s trying to figure out, ‘How can I make that never happen again?’ … he’s still learning very quickly.”

Lawlar will remain in the mix and is expected to grow into an everyday player, Lovullo said. The results offensively have not been there yet (2-for-17), but all it takes is a couple strong games to turn that around with his limited experience thus far.

Chicago’s probable for Sunday is left-hander Jordan Wicks, giving Lawlar a chance to make an impact on the field.

Kyle Hendricks vs. Zach Davies

Lovullo called Saturday’s matchup one of “brothers” given the similar pitch mix and ways Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks and Arizona’s Zach Davies attempt to get outs. The two made 32 starts each for the Cubs in 2021, too.

Both pitchers predominantly use their sinker-changeup-fastball, relying on sharp command and messing with timing. The D-backs saw that Sunday when Hendricks threw 5.2 innings with two earned runs in a 5-2 win at Wrigley Field.

More than half of his pitches that day were changeups, and Arizona averaged a 79.5 mph exit velocity against the pitch with nine whiffs.

“You just got to eliminate chase and be patient, he’s not going to throw the ball by you,” Lovullo said. “He’s gonna probably throw setup pitches to get you sped up. You’ve got to be smart, you got to be aware of where his landing spots are gonna be.

“… I think our guys just have to be really stubborn to seeing the ball in the zone and maybe giving up a little bit of the power thought.”

Davies, meanwhile, is coming off a pair of short outings (7 IP, 8 ER).

Drey Jameson shut down

Lovullo explained on Friday that reliever Drey Jameson (UCL strain) had been pulled back on his throwing program. On Saturday, the manager confirmed Jameson was shut down after not feeling right.

The decision of whether to rehab or opt for Tommy John surgery is back on the table, the manager said.

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D-backs notebook: Lovullo handling rookie starters differently, Lawlar’s playing time