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La Russa: Err on side of caution with A.J. Pollock’s return

Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock, center, celebrates with teammates after a victory over the Cincinnati Reds in a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
LISTEN: Tony La Russa, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer

The return of centerfielder A.J. Pollock has been a shining moment in a season that hasn’t been so bright for the Diamondbacks.

Three days before the season started, Pollock broke his elbow by sliding into home plate in an exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals. The injury caused him to be out of the majors for five months. The D-backs, who were riding a big wave of expectations coming into the season, seemed to crumble when the 2015 all-star went down.

Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa joined the Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, as he does every Wednesday, to talk about the state of the team.

There was speculation by some whether or not bringing Pollock back in late August during a lost season was such a good idea, but La Russa said he couldn’t keep the outfielder from joining his teammates.

“I’d let (the people questioning) know that we totally agree with that, and in fact if you listen to some of A.J.’s comments he’s been pushing the front office and the training staff to accelerate his return,” La Russa said. “We all had the same concerns, he can only do so much good here at the end (of the season) so make sure that we err on the side of caution.”

Despite Michael Bourn being a solid replacement, as he’s batting .261 with three homers, 30 RBI and 13 stolen bases, he is no Pollock. La Russa stated that Pollock brings many things to the table that were irreplaceable. In the minuscule amount of action he’s seen, the centerfielder is batting .333, with two runs, one RBI and three stolen bases.

“When you have a player like A.J., who’s multidimensional, he just takes the defense at centerfield, and that by itself is a game changer many times,” La Russa said. “Then you take away what he does offensively, he has a very live bat, .300 hitter with a ball that jumps and really has exciting legs.”

Pollock quickly made the ascension to being one of the top outfielders in the game last season, as he took home a Gold-Glove award last year in just his third season at the major league level. La Russa believes that he knew what they had with the 28-year-old, and he did not underestimate the significance of his presence in the lineup.

“Absolutely not, absolutely not… We knew after watching, they were telling me how great he was. Then he got hurt late and it was a shame,” La Russa said. “We knew it, and a good example is next year he’s solidly under contract, and we’re getting a very nice return because of that confidence.”

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