For Gurriel, three is the magic -- and historic -- number

March 31st, 2024

PHOENIX -- When praising the work that D-backs general manager Mike Hazen did during the offseason, people tend to focus on the players he brought in -- third baseman Eugenio Suárez, lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and Jordan Montgomery and the DH tandem of Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk.

One of the biggest moves Hazen made, however, was bringing back free-agent outfielder , a key contributor to last year’s surprise run to the World Series.

Gurriel helped the D-backs collect a pair of wins in their first two games of the year, hitting a home run in his first at-bat in each game. On Saturday night, he was still productive in their 9-4 loss to the Rockies at Chase Field as he became the first player in Arizona franchise history to homer in each of the first three games of a season.

“Really impressive,” D-backs starter Tommy Henry said. “It's fun to watch. You know, the electricity that he shows up to the field with every day in here, in the weight room, it's just fun to see that translate over to the field and see him get off to a hot start. Everyone rallies around it and just enjoys seeing him smile and play with that electricity.”

The D-backs acquired Gurriel, who has six hits through three contests, from the Blue Jays in an offseason trade before the 2023 season. Daulton Varsho, whom Arizona traded to Toronto, and catcher Gabriel Moreno, whom they received in addition to Gurriel, both got more attention than Gurriel at the time of the trade. Gurriel was seen as more of a one-year rental and the D-backs were not expected to re-sign him.

But as December wore on and Gurriel remained unsigned, the two sides re-engaged and eventually settled on a three-year, $42 million contract.

Unlike last year, when he spent the spring trying to get to know his new teammates and get comfortable, he was able to instead focus more on the baseball side of things this time around.

The result has been an even different level of comfort than he had with the Blue Jays.

“I didn’t have to come in and impress anyone, so to speak,” Gurriel said. “Prior years, it wasn’t necessarily to win a spot, but I felt like I had to prove myself in Toronto every year. This year, I kind of came in working more on game situations. More about working the count. Whether it was swinging early in the count or trying to get deep into the count.”

Could that be the reason he’s off to such a hot start?

“I don’t know,” Gurriel said. “I can’t say if that’s specifically what’s given me success, I just know that’s what I prepped for, what I planned for.”

Gurriel has been a streaky hitter in his career. Last year was no different.

For a point of reference, you can look at his batting average in different months. In May, he hit .352; but in June, he hit .191. In July, his batting average was .159. He then picked things back up again with a .286 mark in August, then he hit .296 in September as the D-backs made their playoff push.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo mentioned Gurriel’s swing decisions, which he worked on during the spring with his newfound comfort level, as part of the reason for Gurriel’s success so far.

“It's an all-field approach,” Lovullo said. “He’s seeing the ball, everything is in a very strong hitting position and he’s just making really good swing decisions. I don't think he tries to hit home runs. I think all good hitters don't try to hit home runs. They just get a little extra loft, a little extra carry with their finish and hit home runs. He’s not a slugger. He's an excellent hitter who can hit a home run on any pitch at any time. It's just translating right now. It's fun for us to watch."