D-backs aim to 'finish the job' after Series visit

February 15th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It was not hard to notice a difference at Salt River Fields as the defending National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitchers and catchers went through their first workout of the spring.

Covering the entire wall in the hallway that separates the Major and Minor League sides of the facility was a picture of the D-backs celebrating their victory over the Phillies in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

An overflow media gathering quizzed manager Torey Lovullo as he stood in front of a backdrop that commemorated the NL championship. Fans in attendance wore World Series shirts and hats.

Lovullo took a minute at the beginning to once again praise his players for their unexpected postseason run.

“I want to say right now that I'm so proud of what we accomplished and what they did,” Lovullo said. “And all the effort that they gave me and the staff and the commitment and the sacrifice they made for one another. I cannot undersell that.”

And then there was the inevitable “but.” It symbolized how Lovullo plans to steer his team to turn the page on 2023 and not be complacent in 2024.

“It feels good knowing where we came from last year, but that was an incomplete test score,” Lovullo said. “And we got some work to do. And we all know that. If we're all satisfied with just getting into the World Series and getting that close, then we're in the wrong profession.”

Judging by some of the comments from several of Arizona’s veteran pitchers, it’s a message that has already been received.

Ace Zac Gallen is one of many pitchers and position players who live in the Phoenix area during the offseason and have been coming to Salt River Fields on a regular basis to work out. They’ve seen the commemorations of the 2023 season being put up. Rather than feeling good about it, those players have looked at it as a motivator.

“They’ve been up now for a couple weeks,” Gallen said. “It’s a good remembrance of what we did last year and what we accomplished. But for me it’s more of a reminder of what we didn’t accomplish -- finishing the job. It’s something to be proud of, but it’s a new season and we’ve got to finish the job this time. I think for a lot of guys in here, there’s still something left to prove. We’ll see what happens.”

Closer Paul Sewald, acquired from Seattle at the Trade Deadline last year, said the main focus now should be preparing for the season so that when it opens, the D-backs are already at their best.

The D-backs made the postseason by one game last year, so the margin for error was extremely small. The lesson they learned was that you never know what game will make the difference. Any game, even the ones early in April, could be what gets you in, or keeps you out, of the postseason.

“Nobody here is going to be complacent, that's for sure,” Sewald said. “We're going to get to work and we're going to have to get better if we want to get even close to where we got to last year. Last year, I was on a team [the Mariners] that maybe was a little bit complacent coming off of our first playoff run. And we got off to a really slow start. It's part of the reason I got traded … because they weren't in a postseason opportunity at that time. So I do not want to be a part of that this year.”

Lovullo made a conscious effort to stay away from the word “expectations” during his media session, and he will not dwell on that with his players.

Instead, he wants the focus to be on the “standard” that he has set. If they do that, the rest will take care of itself. Again, his ace seemed to be on the same page.

“I’m hoping this is going to be the start of the standard for us,” Gallen said. “We have the feel in this clubhouse that we should make the postseason every year. That’s a goal we’re striving for. I hope guys in here are holding themselves accountable to that. That’s our goal. That gives us a chance to actually finish the job."