On leave, Hazen still very much in charge

June 14th, 2021

Though D-backs GM Mike Hazen announced on Friday that he's taking a physical leave of absence -- with assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye overseeing day-to-day baseball operations -- that doesn't mean there will be a lot of changes.

Hazen, whose wife Nicole is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, will still be the final decision maker in the organization -- he just won't be at the ballpark.

"I don't expect a ton to change from a process standpoint," Sawdaye said on Sunday before the D-backs fell, 10-3, to the Angels at Chase Field.

It was the 10th straight loss for the D-backs, who have dropped 24 of their last 26 games and 33 of their last 38.

Sawdaye is one of Hazen's most trusted confidants and their endless conversations will continue.

"I'm obviously still talking to Mike," Sawdaye said. "The big change is he's not in his office so I'm not sitting in his office talking to him, but I'm still talking to him five times a day."

With the plethora of starting pitcher injuries the D-backs have dealt with this season, there have been changes aplenty almost on a daily basis in the rotation. Conversations frequently take place in manager Torey Lovullo's office postgame, and when the team is at home, it can involve Sawdaye and other members of the baseball operations staff.

Now, they take place without Hazen present, but he's still consulted via phone or text.

"He's definitely chiming in," Sawdaye said. "We may say, 'OK, we're going do this with the rotation,' and just give him a heads up, and he says, 'OK, that makes sense.' Like any roster move, he's still making the final decision."

One of those pieces of the rotation, right-hander , made his fourth start of the year Sunday and struggled, allowing six runs over 1 1/3 innings.

The Angels jumped on him early with two runs in the first and another four in the second before he was pulled. Whether he stays in the rotation will no doubt be a topic of discussion in Lovullo’s office postgame.

As soon as Nicole was diagnosed last year, D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall told Hazen that they would support him if he ever decided to take a leave of absence.

When the decision was finally made, it did not catch Sawdaye by surprise.

"To be honest, we’ve been talking about this for quite some time, going back spanning months," Sawdaye said. "I think he anticipated there was going to be a day when this probably would happen. Didn’t know when it would be, if it’s during the season or in the offseason, we’ve talked about it. I think he got to a point, we got to a point, we started talking a little bit more candidly about it. I think he realized that it was really important -- it’s always important, but it was really important for him to be at home and it was really hard for him to do both."

Sawdaye is heavily involved with scouting director Deric Ladnier in preparing for the MLB Draft, which will take place in July.

The change in role won't take Sawdaye away from that, and while Hazen may not be present for Draft meetings that are held in person, he has participated in Zoom calls that have taken place and that will probably continue.

It's possible the D-backs could add another person in the baseball operations department to help out. The department was already down one person with former assistant GM Jared Porter leaving the organization in the offseason to become GM of the Mets.

Whether Arizona does add someone remains to be seen. What is for sure, though, is the respect Sawdaye has for how Hazen and his family are handling a difficult situation.

"I don’t know how he does it," Sawdaye said. "He’s the most, and I’ve told him this, he’s the most mentally strong human being I know. To be able to deal with the things that we’re entrenched in and going through, whether it’s poor performance, injury bug. ... And then also manage four boys and their schedule and then, the most important thing, manage the health of his wife. I don’t know how he does it. He’s just a rock. He’s so strong and it’s been impressive to see. I’m actually really happy he is taking this."