How Blaze Alexander is attacking adjustments at shortstop: ‘It’s up to me now’

Apr 15, 2024, 6:56 AM | Updated: 12:14 pm

Blaze Alexander...

Blaze Alexander #9 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields a ball to short stop in his Major League debut against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on March 28, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Getty Images)

(Photo by Zac BonDurant/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Blaze Alexander remains confident he’ll prove himself as a quality shortstop after the first two weeks of his big league career have involved defensive hiccups.

With Geraldo Perdomo on the injured list having undergone meniscus surgery and top prospect Jordan Lawlar down after thumb surgery, the opportunity is there for Alexander to earn an extended look as the primary shortstop.

Alexander, with balls on the ground and up in the air, has made early mistakes, notably late during Arizona’s 6-5 extra-inning loss at the Atlanta Braves last weekend, its first game without Perdomo available. Alexander is the only player in MLB entering Sunday with -6 outs above average.

“Just have that confidence, they put me here for a reason,” Alexander said. “I’m a really good defender, a lot better defender than what I’ve been showing. I’m gonna go out there and prove that.”

The prospect was a standout defender in spring training, making athletic plays and off-balanced throws look simple at multiple positions. It was a prominent reason he made the team.

Manager Torey Lovullo has two other options with Kevin Newman against lefties and Jace Peterson against righties.

Alexander said many times Sunday he needs to slow the game down.

“Take more game-like reps in pregame, (Tony Perezchica) has been really good the past week working with me,” Alexander said. “Torey trusts me, keeps throwing me out there. It’s up to me now. Go out there, field the ball like you know how and get the out. Don’t do anything crazy. Just make the routine play.”

“Just trust what’s going on around you, trust your eyes and trust your instincts,” Lovullo instructed. “There’s a place and a time for you to work fundamentally on different things and just not be so mechanical and enjoy the game. Those are things I haven’t directly told Blaze but some of the discussions I had with (Perezchica).”

Perezchica works with Arizona’s infielders, and Alexander has focused on footwork, his glove placement and drills he’s worked on for years to shore up the routine plays.

That starts with glove presentation, which Perezchica described as showing the glove pocket after the ball is hit, collecting it and getting his feet underneath to make a good throw.

Alexander increased the size of his glove from an 11.5-inch to a 12-inch for a larger pocket, courtesy of Peterson, who has quite the glove collection given his ability to play every infield position.

Young players also have to adjust to moving around one’s position more and reading different angles. Perezchica added the pitch clock has eliminated the ability to take a beat between pitches, you have to be ready.

“I think just because he would have so much information, you can always put these guys where 70-plus percent of the balls are hit and the hardest balls are being hit,” Perezchica said.

“We have a drill we call flip fungo, meaning I’m hitting a fungo like a live bat. I know Perdomo last year that’s all he did and he said, ‘Man, I attribute that to having my success as a defender.’ (Eugenio) Suarez has done that in the past and (Ketel) Marte has done that in the past, (Christian) Walker has been the same guy so we’re just gonna keep going at it.”

Lovullo said the game moves fast at first for everyone in that position. Alexander just went on his first big league road trip, a much different experience than in the minors. Lovullo met with Alexander in Atlanta after defensive stumbles, reassuring the shortstop he loves his game but there is work to do.

Perezchica was bullish on Alexander’s ceiling as a defender with his arm strength and range, but getting the basic downs and making every routine is expected and needed out of a starting shortstop. He can get to balls and make throws from shortstop others on the team cannot.

On the other hand, Alexander has avoided letting the errors impact his offense as one of Arizona’s most productive hitters (.313/.389/.500 through 11 games).

Lovullo pointed out mechanical adjustments with Alexander’s setup and the starting point with his hands have paid dividends early. Alexander has shown the ability to hit to all fields — a focus of his in the minors working with hitting coach Travis Denker — with home runs both to left and right field already.

Lovullo put him in Sunday’s lineup against a right-handed starter in St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas after Alexander had started primarily against lefties.

There is no doubt in Lovullo’s mind Alexander will have a quality season, the manager said, but he needs to see the routine play become just that.

“We might have to fast forward things a little bit and this is a great opportunity for him,” Lovullo said. “It jumped up on us in a hurry. We had to make some adjustments and Blaze’s name is right in front-center of those adjustments.”

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