Diamondbacks giving Kevin Newman a look at 3B

Jun 27, 2024, 1:03 PM | Updated: 1:24 pm

Kevin Newman...

Kevin Newman #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a diving play on a ground ball hit by Tyler Stephenson #37 of the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at Chase Field on May 14, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. Newman was safe at first base. Reds won 6-2. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Not much had changed at third base for the Arizona Diamondbacks despite the hullabaloo over manager Torey Lovullo’s comments that he would pull back some on Eugenio Suarez.

Suarez started nine of the last 13 games at the hot corner with Blaze Alexander sprinkled in, the ratio Lovullo essentially laid out (5-2).

The club has added a wrinkle on Thursday, as Kevin Newman will get his first look at third base this season against the Minnesota Twins.

“I think it was natural for me to see what Newman looked like over there,” Lovullo said. “He’s been solid defensively. He’s had a really good year offensively, and he’s helped us win games. I feel like he deserves an opportunity to show us what he can do over there.”

Lovullo said on Tuesday he had considered using Newman at third base but was not there yet. Meanwhile, a hot streak continues to evade Suarez while Alexander has not found the same success in limited at-bats as he did playing regularly at the start of the year.

Suarez has a .555 OPS in June after a .505 OPS in May, albeit while playing strong defense. Alexander has a .547 OPS since the start of May with only 25 starts in that span.

“I’m gonna stay where I was, drip in Blaze, give him some of Geno’s start and still continue to give Geno a couple looks,” Lovullo had said on Tuesday. “But I want somebody to step up and define that position for us. They’re both good players, and I feel like one of those two guys can do it.”

“I thought it was a good day to give Geno a day down with a day game after night game and it just created an opening,” Lovullo added on Thursday. “Would have gone to Blaze, but Blaze has played a handful of games and I just want to see what it looks like on the next level with Newman.”

Newman’s playing time has plummeted since shortstop Geraldo Perdomo returned from the injured list (three starts since June 11), but he is 15-for-39 over his last 11 starts.

Third base is not a spot Newman has played his whole life, but he got his feet wet there last season and puts in reps pregame.

“Last year with the Reds, I think that was the first time I really played there,” Newman told Arizona Sports. “Super comfortable with it, I felt like I did well over there last year.”

Newman played shortstop his entire life until he reached the pros, and from there he had to adapt to find his place in MLB. Last year with the Reds, Newman played 163 innings at third, 148.1 innings at short, 97 innings at second and 55 innings at first.

“It’s different, but I think once you accept it and embrace it, it gets a lot a lot easier to transition from position to position,” Newman said. “I personally try not to overthink it, it’s just another position on the infield. It might be a different glove … same thing, you field the ground ball, throw over to first base. I just try to keep it that simple and not try to make it bigger than it has to be.”

Lovullo said he’d prefer Newman and third base and Perdomo at shortstop when paired up.

A looming roster move comes into play here: The Diamondbacks are expecting to get outfielder Alek Thomas back any day now. Lovullo acknowledged wanting to get a look at his options before that time comes. He did not commit to Newman getting regular third base reps until he sees how Thursday goes.

Whose spot on the roster Thomas takes is going to be a difficult decision.

In the outfield, the only apparent choice surrounds Jake McCarthy, but he has performed admirably (.753 OPS, 12 steals) and has been key in making up for Corbin Carroll’s lack of production before his June turnaround. McCarthy only has one option left, anyway, according to FanGraphs.

The Diamondbacks have depth along the infield to potentially pluck from. Newman acts as a malleable backup, including as the primary understudy to first baseman Christian Walker. That versatility and willingness to make any position work — along with a lack of options — make a choice to move on difficult.

If the D-backs make a move with Alexander or Suarez, Newman jumps in line for more looks at third base. Or this becomes a blip. But Newman is the odd man out in a situation that has yet to find much fruit, and a steady defender who will put the ball in play may be a more steady option than what the D-backs have worked with.

The trade deadline is also a month away, if that is a route the club aims to at add another option.

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