PHILADELPHIA -- Jon Duplantier was angry at himself. He was frustrated and dejected after being pinch-hit for in the top of the fourth inning of the D-backs' 7-4 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The 24-year-old had just experienced his shortest, and roughest, start in his brief three-start big league career.
Falling behind hitters, Duplantier allowed four runs in the second, and the Phillies had swung and missed at just four pitches while fouling off 17 offerings to run up his pitch count to 76 through three innings.
In Duplantier’s mind, there are three things a starting pitcher needs to do. One, keep his team in the game. Two, limit the big innings, and three, pitch deep into the game.
“I was 0-for-3 on that mark,” Duplantier said. “Obviously, I was pretty dejected afterwards, kind of frustrated with myself, my performance -- threw too many pitches for how long I was out there.”
It was while he was mulling that over in his head that manager Torey Lovullo pulled him aside.
“One of the things he said to me was that it was his job to make sure that I can be as great as I can be,” Duplantier said. “And if I’m anything short of that, that’s on him.”
The relief that message provided is hard to overstate because no one is harder on himself than Duplantier, who demands the best in everything he does.
“I’m really appreciative of that message because I’m happy knowing that I’m not alone in that,” Duplantier said. “Sometimes I feel like I take that on myself, like I’ve got to do it all myself. But no, knowing guys like Torey, [pitching coach Mike Butcher], [bullpen coach Mike Fetters], other pitchers -- we’re all on the same page and everybody wants everybody to do great. So that was kind of the biggest thing I took from that.”
Lovullo’s greatest strength as a manager is his ability to communicate and relate to his players, and he seldom, if ever, misses an opportunity to teach and encourage. This was one of those moments.
“I wanted to make sure he knew what was on my mind, and just to go out and continue growing and learning despite the fact the outing didn’t go the way he wanted it to,” Lovullo said. “That you got to take something positive out of it and keep pushing. I just wanted to challenge him to be great where his feet are, challenge him to be the best version of himself at all times.”
The D-backs are walking the fine line between competing and rebuilding -- a retooling, if you will -- and with injuries chipping away at their rotation, they are left relying on a pair of rookies in Duplantier and Taylor Clarke to both learn, and win, at the big league level.
Just last week, cameras caught Lovullo in a conversation with Clarke following his outing. He let the right-hander know that he liked the composure he showed even when things weren’t going well for him in that start. Lovullo reminded Clarke that was a step forward from the start before when things had spiraled out of control for him.
“We’re teachers,” Lovullo said. “Especially when you have youthful guys walking around here every single day. You can’t take for granted what they know and what they’re thinking, and I wanted to make sure my vision is crystal clear inside of their head. I don’t want to miss those opportunities.
"I feel like there’s a point in time during the game, maybe the next day -- whenever my gut is telling me to go out and get my points across, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to miss those times.”