Locastro pressing for playing time in RF

March 20th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has said that the decision as to who gets the bulk of the playing time in right field while recovers from knee surgery could come down to the final days of Spring Training.

That may be true, but if continues to play as he has so far this spring, it's going to be hard to imagine him not getting significant playing time there.

Despite missing 10 days due to a positive COVID-19 test, Locastro has swung the bat extremely well and has played good defense at all three outfield positions.

"He hasn't lost a beat," Lovullo said. "Credit to him, 10 days down and I would never notice it. First game back, slashes a couple balls and is right into the rhythm of his swing. There is an instant energy and a quality [of] at-bats that we've seen throughout the course of Spring Training."

Calhoun is expected to miss the first week or so of the regular season, and while Locastro was a lock to make the club as a backup outfielder when camp opened, the Calhoun injury could lead to more regular at-bats.

Locastro brings elite speed to the table as he has the best sprint speed in Major League Baseball per Statcast, and he has a knack for getting on base. In 2019, he was hit by 22 pitches in just 250 plate appearances.

And when Locastro gets on base, chances are he's going to steal a base -- he's a perfect 26-for-26 in that department in the Majors.

On Friday against the Brewers, Locastro reached via a bunt and nearly beat out a grounder to third. He also walked and stole a base.

"He’s growing and learning," Lovullo said. "You saw what he did [Friday] when he bunted for a base hit, those are areas of his game that he has been fine-tuning during Spring Training. We’ve been very pleased with where he’s at."

Lovullo will likely rely heavily on matchups when making out his daily lineups so there will be others who will likely get reps in right field before Calhoun returns. Left-handed hitters like Josh Rojas, Daulton Varsho and Pavin Smith are among those in the running.

Still, if Locastro continues to develop his game, the team will find ways to get him into the lineup.

"He’s got some natural gifts that we’re all very well aware of, right?" Lovullo said. "He’s got great hand-eye [coordination], he’s as fast as the wind. Those are things that he was born with. I think what has been standing out to me is the type of quality at-bat he has been giving us by surveying the strike zone and swinging at strikes and working pitch counts, getting himself into a good hitting count and not missing the pitch that he’s looking for.

"That’s the hard work he’s putting in behind the scenes that stands out more to me. I feel like when he walks up to home plate right now, there’s a really good chance he’s going to barrel you and he’s going to find himself standing at first base. It’s exciting. There’s a certain level of excitement he brings when he steps up to home plate. It’s not just standing up there getting hit by a pitch as he had done at times in his career. He’s a good baseball player. He’s a good hitter as well."