PHOENIX -- Before Spring Training was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were a pair of questions that D-backs manager Torey Lovullo faced quite a bit.
And second, how hard would it be for him to get second baseman Ketel Marte the rest he needed after being overused in 2019, considering that his bat is such a key part of the lineup?
The adoption of the designated hitter in the National League for the upcoming 60-game season might just ease both dilemmas for Lovullo.
Lamb could see significant time as the DH, and Lovullo could use Escobar or Walker in the role some days to get Lamb on the field.
“I think, at times, I would have had my hands tied,” Lovullo said in May about the logjam at first and third. “We have three really good players who play two positions. [The DH] creates an extra spot, potentially. Yeah, it’s going to give me a ton of versatility. I don’t want to say what would have happened with Jake Lamb. He was going to fight for his playing time, he was going to earn his playing time. And I have no doubt he would have done that. He’s in a very good spot right now. But I feel like getting that extra spot is going to give us that ability to get those three guys a lot of at-bats.”
As for Marte, the switch-hitter had a breakout year in 2019 and was in the NL Most Valuable Player Award conversation up until his season ended on Sept. 17 due to a stress reaction in his back.
In retrospect, Lovullo said he probably played Marte too much, especially considering he was moving back and forth between second base and center field. While Marte is set to primarily play second in 2020, Lovullo talked all spring about getting him more rest.
“I’m going to work hard to get him days off, no doubt about it,” Lovullo said. “We asked a lot of him [last year]. I would guess it’s going to be less strenuous on him to play second base for the majority of the innings, but I’m going to still be mindful.”
The option of using Marte as the DH would allow Lovullo to keep Marte’s bat in the lineup while limiting the pounding that his legs would take.
And with a 60-game sprint rather than a 162-game marathon, it will be important to get the most out of Marte’s bat.
“It will give me a chance to get guys off their feet,” Lovullo said of the DH. “Knowing the workload is going to be pretty heavy and we’re going to be going full throttle, getting a guy off his feet for a day game in Colorado is probably something we would be addressing.”
There are other candidates to keep in mind for the DH spot as well, including slugger Kevin Cron.
Cron hit 38 homers in 374 plate appearances for Triple-A Reno last year, earning his first promotion to the big leagues. While with the D-backs, Cron hit six homers in 78 plate appearances.
With Lamb being a lefty and Cron a righty, Lovullo could look to pair them up at the DH spot.
“It’s interesting, we have a lot of really good candidates who can bang the baseball,” Lovullo said.
And this year, he’ll get a chance to use one more of them than he usually would.