PHOENIX -- Talk to any D-backs player and you’ll learn that Torey Lovullo isn’t like most managers. He communicates well with his team and is frequently available for conversation and to provide teaching moments. Those traits stem from his decade-plus of experience in player development.
It didn’t take Josh Rojas long to learn that. He quickly heard from his veteran teammates upon his arrival to the Majors in 2019 that big league managers don’t always act that way.
“He is willing to talk to guys and be open with guys,” Rojas said. “We even had a meeting in Spring Training and he was open with us about the approach he was going to take with the lineups this year. You don’t get that from a lot of managers. Even in the Minor Leagues, that wasn’t the case.”
Despite enduring one of the toughest seasons in franchise history, the D-backs announced that Lovullo will be returning to the club in 2022, as they gave him a one-year extension with a club option for ‘23 ahead of Thursday afternoon’s 6-4 win over the Braves at Chase Field. Even though Arizona hasn’t produced on-field results this year, it remains confident in Lovullo to turn things around.
Lovullo said he was “humbled and honored” by the D-backs’ decision to bring him back, as he thanked managing general partner Ken Kendrick, president/CEO Derrick Hall, general manager Mike Hazen, assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye and the rest of Arizona's front office for the opportunity.
“We know what the record looks like. I’m not an idiot. I know what can happen in these types of circumstances,” Lovullo said. “But they have enough faith in me to continue running this team from the dugout level, and I’m going to give my absolute best effort every single day to get this thing turned around and pushed in the right direction.”
The D-backs improved to 49-104 with Thursday’s win, but it’s still possible they’ll end the season with the worst record in franchise history. With nine games to go, they’re seven losses shy of the 111 that the 2004 team experienced.
There have been many tough times for Arizona over the course of this season. It went 5-24 in May. Then, the D-backs went 3-24 in June. They had a 17-game losing streak, as well as an MLB-record 24-game road losing skid.
Lovullo said there were times he talked with his wife about the possibilities of what could happen in the future.
“I think those are all normal conversations that you have if you’re a business executive with Microsoft or whether you’re a big league manager, right? You have to be accountable and you have to have some reality,” Lovullo said. “I would think about it, but I’ll tell you, when I walked into this clubhouse and when I was supposed to do what I was trained to do and brought here to do, I would block out that black noise.”
September has been tough for the D-backs, too. They’re 5-14 this month while trying to play the role of spoiler to teams with postseason aspirations.
However, Arizona’s players can now take solace in the fact that they know what to expect heading into the offseason as they try to improve and build for 2022.
“You never know what’s going to happen, regardless of whose fault it is,” said Madison Bumgarner, who allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in five innings in the series finale. “Years like this, you see the consequences a lot of times, whether they deserve it or not, it’s just part of the gig. I’m glad he’s going to be back.”
Added Rojas: “I think a lot of guys -- probably every guy in this clubhouse -- it’s been one of the toughest seasons that we’ve ever been a part of at any level. To bring in a guy that went through it with us, he’s going to know what it takes to get out of it. I think this was a great decision.”
Even if the win-loss record doesn’t show it, Lovullo feels like he has improved as a manager over his five seasons in Arizona. Hazen thinks so, too.
“I think he does a good job of running a game and running a bullpen. That’s a piece to being a good manager, in my mind,” Hazen said. “He does a great job with the veteran players, but he’s also been very proactive with a lot of our younger players. I just think that’s going to be the ultimate deciding factor for us here is how we take our young guys and put them in positions of being very good players at the Major League level.”
There have been moments this season in which these youngsters have flashed their potential. Among the bright spots have been the solid everyday contributions of players such as Rojas, Pavin Smith and Daulton Varsho, who had two hits and two RBIs -- including a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh -- in Thursday’s victory.
Now, Lovullo is eager that he can keep working with these young players moving forward.
“I’m going to continue to progress and do the things that I need to do that’s going to help this organization get back on its feet again,” Lovullo said, “and move daily in the right direction.”