PHOENIX -- For a guy who has yet to start a game, Jeremy Hazelbaker certainly has contributed a great deal to the D-backs early-season success.Hazelbaker was the final position player this spring to learn that he had made the 25-man roster as a backup outfielder.On Opening Day, Hazelbaker pinch-ran in
PHOENIX -- For a guy who has yet to start a game, Jeremy Hazelbaker certainly has contributed a great deal to the D-backs early-season success.
Hazelbaker was the final position player this spring to learn that he had made the 25-man roster as a backup outfielder.
On Opening Day, Hazelbaker pinch-ran in the bottom of the ninth and scored the tying run as the D-backs went on to win in walk-off fashion.
In the season's second game, he pinch-hit and drew a walk.
Hazelbaker followed that up with a pinch-hit, run-scoring double in the sixth inning the following night and he capped the four-game series with the Giants with a pinch-hit double that drove home a run in the sixth inning.
Hazelbacker made it 3-for-3 this season when he reached base in the seventh inning Friday on an infield hit in a 7-3 victory over the Indians.
"I know that there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes from about the third or fourth inning on," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "I know he's getting physically prepared. I think he's getting mentally prepared and he just puts together a quality at-bat with a good approach. I think he's learned over the years what kind of hitter he is and what the at-bat is asking for, and he can go out there and execute it."
Indeed, Hazelbaker and the other non-starters begin preparing themselves in about the third inning.
They'll hit in the cage, study video and try to figure out when they might be called on and who they might face. They do that by analyzing the lineup, their starter's pitch count, the opposition starter's pitch count as well as how the other team tends to use its bullpen.
"It's a process," Hazelbaker said. "It's not just something you pick up one day and you're good at it. It takes patience and a lot of bookwork, if you will. It's definitely a mental and physical thing."
Last year with the Cardinals was Hazelbaker's first taste of coming off the bench, and he hit .268 with an .871 OPS in those situations.
It hasn't just been Hazelbaker who has had success as a pinch-hitter for the D-backs this year. As a team they are 5-for-9 with four RBIs.
"These guys are walking up to home plate with a plan in how they're going to attack what they're getting," Lovullo said. "They are in constant communication with the coaching staff about what role they may need to step into. I think they go up there with an empty mind, without a worry, other than being prepared for the moment and execute their plan. It's worked out very well."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.