With growing pains, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfield of the future coming into focus

PHOENIX – The temptation is to move the calendar ahead, but that’s too convenient. For a team like the Arizona Diamondbacks, mired in another season of mediocrity, the excitement of new players, who are productive, is enticing.

During a number of weeks, Arizona decision-makers pushed the clock ahead and tempted their fans about what the future may entail.

First, Daulton Varsho was installed as an everyday outfielder and has spilt his season between right field and center field. Then, Jake McCarthy emerged as a reliable bat and lethal speed on the bases. In mid-summer, the team drafted Dru Jones as the center fielder of the future and selected the son of former major leaguer Aundrw Jones with the second selection in the 2022 draft.

Not finished, proclaimed Mike Hazen, the club’s general manager.

Early in the season, the club recalled Alek Thomas from the minors (hitting .237 in 87 games, third among NL rookies with 71 hits)) and earlier this week, the club promoted Stone Garrett from Triple AAA Reno. Still in the pipeline is Corbin Carroll (.308 at AAA Reno) and, it appears, with a flip of a few calendar pages, the future is suddenly in focus.

Of this accumulation of talent, Garrett’s story is the most compelling.

Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the eighth round of the 2014 draft, Garrett spent the next eight years wandering amid the minor league landscape. With an alternative career as a real estate agent, Garrett never let the dream of reaching the majors leave the conversation. After three steps with the Gulf Coast Marlins, twice with Juniper, and visits to Batavia, Greensboro, Jacksonville, Amarillo, and Reno, the call to The Show came on Aug. 17.

“I still think being in the majors hasn’t set in yet,” Garrett said before Friday’s game with St Louis. “Just try and treat this as the same game and try not to get too worked up about the bigger stadiums, more fans. Just treat it as the same game. As a kid, you want to be here and once you get here, you take a second to take it all in.”

Adjustment to the big-league level caught up with Garrett in a hurry. After going 4-for-8, including three doubles in his opening two games in San Francisco, Garrett’s defense became an issue in an eventual 5-1 defeat to the Cardinals before 32,183 in Chase Field Friday night.

Holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the seventh, St. Louis placed runners on first and second with one out. Dylan Carlson lifted a fly to short left field and Garrett raced toward the ball. In an awkward move, he turned his glove the wrong way and slid in an attempt to make a diving catch. The ball landed in front of him and that single loaded the bases. Paul Goldschmidt followed with an RBI single off the leg of Arizona reliever Kevin Ginkel and Nolan Arenado then broke the game open with a two-run double.

Afterward, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo gave Garrett the benefit of the doubt.

“I felt if he stays on his feet, he would have made a better attempt at it,” Lovullo said. “Look, it’s no fault to (Garrett). He’s just getting here and getting the lay of the land. He gave it a great effort. That play was a big play and would have been a big out.”

In this one, the Diamondbacks went quietly and managed only three hits, one run, and six base runners for the entire contest.

Another welcome home … Since traded to the Cardinals on December 5, 2018, this series in Chase Field is the third occasion back for Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .297 (209 homers, 710 RBIs, over eight seasons with Arizona). In the middle of perhaps the most productive season of his 12 at the major league level, Goldschmidt remains as humble and unassuming as during his years in the desert.

Sitting in the Cardinals dugout and meeting the media prior to Friday’s game, Goldschmidt said he retains fond memories of his time in the desert, wishes the Diamondbacks well but when the game starts, it’s all business.

“Coming back here, it’s about the relationships I built,” he said. “Honestly, many of the players are gone but the staff is still here, and the employees you see behind the scene and stuff like that. It’s great to ‘hi,’ but once the game starts, it’s pretty normal to go out there and play well.”

Coming into the series with the Diamondbacks, Goldschmidt led the majors with a .335 batting average, first in slugging percentage, and leads the National League with nine homers and 24 RBIs since the All-Star game. Yet, the return to Chase Field, according to Goldschmidt, is no different than any other venue.

“Coming back now is a little more normal,” he said. “The first time was pretty cool, and many people were here. Things here seem completely different and had a lot of memories here. Try and show up early and ‘hi’ to some folks.”

In the opener of the three-game weekend series Friday night, Goldschmidt started the St. Louis fireworks. In the first inning, he hammered a 3-2 pitch from Arizona starter Tommy Henry 420 feet into left field bleachers for this 30th homer of the season. Later, he added an RBI single in the seventh and finished with a 3-for-4 night and a walk.

More with the Cardinals … the brief home stand, all with St. Louis, concludes with a night game on Saturday and a day affair on Sunday. Look for lefty Madison Bumgarner (6-12, 4.37 ERA) to oppose Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.17) on Saturday. For the Sunday afternoon finale, it’s righty Merrill Kelly (10-5, 2.81) going against lefty Jose Quintana (4-5, 3.38). Then, it’s off for two in Kansas City and three with the White Sox in Chicago. The Diamondbacks return home on Monday, Aug. 29 to face the Philadelphia Phillies.

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