PHOENIX – When the Arizona Diamondbacks introduced Torey Lovullo as the eighth field manager in franchise history on Nov. 4, 2016, he simply explained to reporters, “what matters to the players matters to me.”
Communication, he said at the time, is a significant component of his personality and work ethic. Players do not walk around with solely with numbers and names on their backs, he stressed, but these are people with families, strengths, vulnerabilities, likes, wants and desires. While “baseball” was the principal reason why Arizona elevated Lovullo from bench coach with the Boston Red Sox Sox to the responsibilities of a field manager, the true objective was his experience as a teacher in player development and highly cultivated communications skills.
During his first year at Arizona in 2017, those skills were magnified. That’s because Lovullo’s method of interaction was a principal factor in helping gain a spot in the National League wild-card game and ultimately in the defeat of Colorado in that single-elimination contest.
After the Diamondbacks were subsequently swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 NL Division playoff, reliever Archie Bradley stood at his locker and told reporters, “there is no other manager would rather play for than Torey Lovullo.” Since, the franchise has fallen on difficult times, but Lovullo’s ability to reach out to the players and his emphasis on education and player development earned the trust of Arizona decision-makers.
About mid-morning on Aug 30, as Lovullo completed an examination with an ophthalmologist, he received a call from Mike Hazen, the club’s general manager. The conversation lasted about 5-minutes, but Hazen said the organization decided to pick up the option on Lovullo’s 2023 contract. That meant the 57-year-old would continue in the development of young, promising payers and construct a path to renewed glory.
“I’m honored that the organization put the faith in me and I’m able to go ahead and lead this team for the rest of this year and next year,” Lovullo said before Tuesday’s game with the Phillies in Chase Field. “I don’t want to let them down. This is my home and my wife and I love living here. I could not be in a better situation and be part of great ownership, great leadership, and around great players.”
Before named Arizona manager, Lovullo spent 10 seasons in the Cleveland organization and player development department. That likely gave the Santa Monica, Calif. native an appreciation for talent coming through the Arizona pipeline.
So far this season, the organization has accelerated the movement of several to the major leagues and with the production of Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Daulton Varsho, Jake McCarthy, Tommy Henry, and Stone Garrett, Lovullo said he was excited to continue on this journey.
“We are moving forward,” he added. “This organization has many good things to look forward, but we are not happy where we are today. We have a long way to go, we have building to do and work to put in. Plus, there’s continuing development which needs to be put in place with our young players.”
Given a disturbing level of frustration and limited production of recent seasons, Lovullo said his heart only lays in the desert. While he may be an attractive candidate for field or organizational positions elsewhere in the game, he adamantly denied any thought of going elsewhere. He reiterated his desire to stay in the Phoenix area and continue to develop a burgeoning talent that he constantly referenced.
“I knew a conversation (about picking up the option) was imminent and had to be resolved,” he said. “Everyone was aware something could be happening, and I was glad to get that over and out of the way.”
On the diamond Tuesday night … The Philly connection fueled the Diamondbacks to their second win of the set and a series victory over the Phillies. Behind righthander Zac Gallen, from across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in southern New Jersey, and outfielder Jake McCarthy from Scranton, about a 2-hour drive north of Philly, that combination helped overpower the visiting Phillies, 12-3 before 16,873 in Chase Field.
“Many of my friends and family were texting me and the game was on in Pennsylvania,” said McCarthy, who turned in a 2-for-5 night, including a two-run triple and three-run homer. “Many people I know are Phillies fans and said, hope you play well, but lose.”
Turning in seven shutout innings, Gallen allowed only three base runners (88 total pitches) and stretched his scoreless streak to 34.1 consecutive shutout innings. That’s the second longest in franchise history behind Brandon Webb, who turned in 42.1 consecutive shutout innings in 2007.
From Somerdale in southern New Jersey, Gallen told reporters afterward he grew up as a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Facing the Phillies was not a concern, he pointed out, but the way the Phillies handed him a 7-5 defeat on June 10 weighed on his mind. In that one, Gallen went only 1.2 innings, allowed six runs, four earned. He has not lost since.
“For me, this was more about paybacks,” Gallen said, who improved to 10-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.53. “They got me the last time in Philly in front of friends and family. So, I came out with a little chip on the shoulder. I was going out there to make pitches and had vengeance on my mind.”
In the first two games of the series, the Diamondbacks scored 24 runs and in the win, Tuesday night, the team pounded out 17 hits. … The series concludes Wednesday night and features a pair of rookie left-handers. Arizona will go with Tommy Henry (3-2, 3.25 ERA) and draws Bailey Falter (2-3, 4.41) as his mound opponent.