Diamondbacks’ Lovullo building trust with newcomers, learning Jordan Montgomery on the fly

May 11, 2024, 7:55 PM | Updated: 8:06 pm

Pitcher Jordan Montgomery...

Pitcher Jordan Montgomery #52 of the Arizona Diamondbacks fields the ball for an out on Austin Slater #13 of the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on April 19, 2024 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo knows what to expect when handling the end of a Zac Gallen or Merrill Kelly start. There may be — will likely be — some pushback from two hyper-competitive players, but years of understanding have developed those relationships.

Lovullo is in the process of learning recently-acquired starter Jordan Montgomery, who is counted on to play a critical role in Arizona’s rotation this season. Montgomery signed the day after Arizona’s season opener and has only been with the big league team for four starts.

“I’ve been getting a chance to watch him and examine him and I felt like he was going to come out and do exactly what he did,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Friday after Montgomery earned a win Wednesday in Cincinnati.

“After one of those innings I went to him, I said, ‘Jordan, I don’t know you yet. But I’m gonna get a chance to know you. I can’t wait until it happens. I need to know how you feel, I need to know what you’re thinking and know what you’re doing. Because it’ll eventually be my job to not ask this question and get that answer. But for right now, I’m gonna rely on you.’ And he fed into me perfectly and we’re developing a relationship built on trust, which is very, very important when you’re in the heat of the moment.”

Lovullo left Montgomery in for the seventh inning against the Reds after a six-pitch sixth frame, and the veteran southpaw rewarded him with another clean inning.

Montgomery has experience adapting to new environments having been traded at the deadline in back-to-back seasons.

With Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez on the injured list for the foreseeable future, Montgomery’s output is that much more imperative to the Diamondbacks staying afloat while getting healthier. He is the No. 2 to Gallen, and three of his four starts have been quality.

“You throw a Gallen and Montgomery, those two guys, anything’s possible, they’re liable to shut down any team at any time,” Lovullo said.

“So we always piggyback good pitching with defense and when you’re doing that at the high level that we expect, it’s going to keep you in games. We kept the runs against us down, which is real hard (in Cincinnati). That’s a tough ballpark. I consider that ballpark one of the better hitting parts in the league much like I do when we go into Colorado.”

Joc Pederson, Eugenio Suarez impressions

Lovullo also broke down the early-season fits of Arizona’s premier offseason position player additions a quarter way through the season: third baseman Eugenio Suarez and Joc Pederson.

Pederson has fit into the lineup beautifully as a left-handed bopper with a .946 OPS and 12 extra-base hits in 35 games entering Sunday. The D-backs have been disciplined with his platoon, which has proven effective.

Suarez has an everyday role, which has gone rockier after a scorching first week. He went on a three-game hitting streak that snapped Saturday at the Orioles and has a .634 OPS for the season.

“I can’t say enough about both personalities and both players when it comes to being teammates, being students of the game and I can say the same thing about both of them,” Lovullo said.

“They love being around their teammates, they love to compete, they love to practice. They love to share and talk about the things that can help teammates better and coaches too. Joc will just march right into my office and have a conversation with me about a couple things that are taking place, which we all appreciate. He’s fearless with his ability to communicate with everybody as is Geno.

“Offensively, I know it’s come a little easier for Joc right now. This game ebbs and flows and I love the start that he’s getting off to. I know that Geno is going to figure out where he’s at … I know he’s talking about getting that swing plane, getting the feel for the barrel, getting his balance point to the right space and the right time as he’s transitioning to the baseball and it’s all process. He’s gonna get better.”

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