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D-backs trusting Lovullo's 'out of box' ideas

@SteveGilbertMLB
July 31, 2020

With just 60 regular-season games scheduled in 2020, each game takes on more urgency than it normally would, which can cause a manager to change the way he maneuvers in a game. D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo showed that during Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Dodgers at Chase Field when

With just 60 regular-season games scheduled in 2020, each game takes on more urgency than it normally would, which can cause a manager to change the way he maneuvers in a game.

D-backs skipper Torey Lovullo showed that during Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Dodgers at Chase Field when he pinch-hit for veteran David Peralta in the sixth inning.

With one run in, one out and a runner on second, the Dodgers brought in lefty Adam Kolarek to face the left-handed-hitting Peralta. Lovullo sent up switch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas to pinch-hit and he popped up to Kolarek.

Prior to Thursday, Lovullo had pinch-hit for Peralta just three times in his three years as manager, and none was performance-related.

Box score

On Sept. 10, 2018, he hit for Peralta late in a 13-2 loss to the Rockies to get him some rest.

On July 29, 2019, he hit for Peralta because Peralta experienced some shoulder discomfort during the game.

And in the final game of the regular season in 2017, Lovullo hit for Peralta in order to get him a little rest before the National League Wild Card Game.

That’s how noteworthy a move it was, and the message it sends to the rest of the team is that Lovullo cannot afford to be as patient during a short season.

“I tried to express that to you guys that I might do some things that are a little out of the box,” Lovullo said. “I’ve even gone over [it] with the players to let them know what my thoughts are. In David’s case, he’s been an unbelievable teammate since I started having these discussions prior to the first game of the season. Just let them know on this day when this situation comes up, I’m going to ask that somebody else come up there and give us a chance. I don’t think he necessarily liked that news, but in true David form he was a great teammate about it and I think he understood the reasoning why.”

Peralta has had a slow start to the year, going 4-for-23 (.174), but throughout Lovullo’s three seasons at the helm, he has been one of the team’s most important offensive performers.

Vargas was impressive in Summer Camp, particularly from the right side of the plate, which was why Lovullo made the move and why Peralta understood it.

“He’s the one that makes the decision,” Peralta said. “He made the decision and I was like, OK, I know why and [Vargas] is one of the best guys to hit lefties and I was like, hey, do some damage. It didn’t work this time, but we’re a team and we’ve got to trust each other, we’ve got to cheer for each other. It’s about the team first.”

Throughout his time with the D-backs, Lovullo has done two things that have allowed him to build outstanding relationships in the clubhouse.

The first is that he communicates and makes sure that his players know what he’s thinking before they read or hear about it somewhere else.

The second is he shows tremendous faith in the players, letting starting pitchers work their way out of jams, keeping a closer in his role even after a couple of blown saves, and he’ll stick with hitters when they’re slumping.

In a shorter season, he’s realized that he can’t do that and while it may be tough for players to hear, it’s also tough on Lovullo to execute. The relationships that he’s built and the communication that he has with his players, though, has gotten them to buy in.

“He communicated with us really well and he talked with us about the situations and you have to be on board,” Peralta said. “It’s not about one person, it’s a team. In that situation he had to make a decision like he did today and let’s go do it. We have to be all in together.”

Lovullo will likely have even tougher conversations in the coming days.

Six of the nine players in his lineup came into Thursday hitting under .200. One of the organization’s top prospects, catcher/outfielder Daulton Varsho, was called up to the big leagues prior to the game.

What to expect from Daulton Varsho

When a team calls up a prospect like Varsho, it’s usually not to sit on the bench.

Lovullo showed Thursday that he is willing to make the tough decision when he believes he needs to. With the D-backs in last place in the NL West with a 2-5 record, the question becomes what moves might be next.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.