A strong defense of the Arizona Diamondbacks represents one of the factors for a fast start in the NL West.
Coming into the opening contest of a six-game homestand Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks equaled the best start in franchise history. Their 11-4 commencement out of the gate tied the 2000 team and equaled by the 2008 team. For some, this may be a surprise, but not to the participants.
While pitching remains the catalyst for this strong beginning and the club’s 3.12 ERA is second-best in the NL, the culture created by manager Torey Lovullo remains one of the pillars which drives success.
On the front burner, his open communication is the hallmark of how this team plays and development of a strong character foundation.
On Nov. 4, 2016, and the day of his hire as Arizona Diamondbacks manager, Lovullo told listeners at that introductory news conference, “whatever matters to the players, matters to me.” That resonated through the Arizona clubhouse throughout last season, and players attested to that foundation as a principal reason for success.
From day one in the desert, Lovullo opened the door to his office wide-open, untapped the beer keg in the clubhouse, allowed pitcher Taijuan Walker to bring in a basket and basketball and, here at the commencement of the latest homestand, a ping-pong table was placed directly in the middle of the clubhouse.
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If Lovullo developed a culture of open communication and honesty last season, those factors have carried over and represented the core for the Diamondbacks quick start.
One beneficiary is outfielder David Peralta, who hit .400 over his previous five games before the homestand began, told Call to the Pen that Lovullo continues to embrace those values he established last season.
"“You have to remember that we got off to a good start last season,” he said in the clubhouse before Tuesday’s game with the Giants. “It’s Torey’s method of communicating and he brought us together as family and as a brotherhood. We win as a team and lose as a team. That’s why we play so hard each night.”"
Pundits like to emphasize that pitching and defense wins championships. If the opening two weeks are any indication, Arizona’s success clearly falls directly into that criteria.
Aside from second in the NL in ERA behind the Mets (2.93), the Diamondbacks top the NL in fielding and committed only four errors in their opening 15 games.
In the trainer’s room …
Placed on the disabled list with a sprained left AC joint since April 3, the recovery of third baseman Jake Lamb seems well underway. After appearing as a DH in an extended spring game Tuesday morning at Salt River, Lamb told Call to the Pen before Tuesday’s night game in Chase Field that he is scheduled to play third on Wednesday and play five to seven innings. While the season is still young, Lamb said he is willing to be patient for the long run.
Lamb sustained the injury during the Diamondbacks marathon, 15-inning win over the Dodgers on April 2. Diving for a ball off the bat of Chris Taylor, Lamb hit the ground hard and bruised his left shoulder.
Taking just over a week for the swelling to disappear, Lamb told Call to the Pen that he is not rushing to get back in the line-up.
"“I feel great and it’s great to be back with the dudes, I missed those guys,” he said. “We’re playing really well right now and looks like they don’t need me. Really, I missed the guys and watched all of the games (n the recent nine-game road trip). I feel great and now it’s a matter of getting back to baseball activity.”"
The injury to pitcher Taijuan Walker appears to be more serious, although Lovullo, in speaking with Call to the Pen before Tuesday’s game, reserved judgment on the severity of the injury. Walker left his last start Friday night in Dodger Stadium after only two innings.
On Monday, an MRI revealed possible UCL ligament damage to Walker’s right forearm. Beyond that, Lovullo would not comment further.
That included a possible length of injury nor a replacement in the rotation. On Tuesday, Walker was on his way to New York for a second opinion and is expected back in Phoenix by the end of this week.
Walker’s turn in the rotation is due Friday at home against San Diego, and Lovullo promised more information and naming a starter for Friday in the next day or two.