Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training Notes: March 20, 2021
When Saturday began, there were 11 days left in Diamondbacks spring training. Here are the news and highlights from March 20 in Diamondbacks spring training…
Ketel Marte’s ankle is doing better. He probably could have played Saturday, but they wanted to rest him for another day before getting him back into the lineup every day. Jon Duplantier threw a 30-pitch bullpen that went well. The team will look at the results and plan the next steps forward.
Among those vying for the right field spot, Tim Locastro has been playing the best. This is despite his 10-day absence due to COVID. “He hasn’t lost a beat,” Lovullo said in amazement. “Credit to him. Ten days down? I never would have noticed it. In his first game back, he slashed a couple of balls and was right in the rhythm of his swing.” Locastro brings an “instant energy” and a “quality at-bat” that the coaching staff has noticed throughout his time in spring training. It is “stuff we want and expect from him.”
“He’s growing and learning. You saw what he did (Friday) when he bunted for a base hit. (That is an) area of his game that he’s been fine-tuning during spring training. We’ve been very pleased” with where Locastro is.
Locastro is — as David Brandt of the Associated Press put it — a “disruptive” player no matter when he bats. This is because he, in the words of Lovullo, has “some natural gifts.” Lovullo pointed out that “he has great hand-eye coordination” and is “fast as the wind.” Those are not coachable. What has stood out to Lovullo is “the type of quality at-bat he’s been giving us by surveying the strike zone.” He’s “swinging at strikes and working pitch counts.”
Lovullo especially likes that Locastro is “getting himself into good hitting counts and not missing the pitch.” He continued, “That’s the hard work that he’s putting in behind the scenes that stands out more to me.” Lovullo feels that “there’s a good chance he’s going to barrel you and end up standing on 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 and getting hit by a pitch. He’s a good baseball player, and he’s a good hitter as well.”
Diamondbacks spring training pitching update: Luke Weaver
Luke Weaver had a somewhat rough outing in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals. (4 1/3 IP, 4 R (3 ER), 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR). Despite that, Weaver “thought it went really well, honestly. Sometimes we look back at a stat line and think, ‘What the heck is this guy talking about?’ But it was definitely the first outing this year where everything came together. That was the best I’ve thrown my changeup in a while.”
He knows there were goods and bads. “I couldn’t land the curveball today, but it had good action. Some sliders had some good action as well. I had no walks — I tried to control what I could control. That first homer was the big one I take away. It was sloppy. Besides that, I can live with everything else. You can’t get mad about some singles that come through or where they find gaps.”
Baseball’s Version of March Madness
Weaver knows that the team is being overlooked. It’s a natural consequence of the roster construction of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. He is okay with that. “A lot of us think that it’s kind of more fun that way. It’s draining to have all the attention.” He alluded to NCAA March Madness, saying it’s more fun “to have an upset. Everyone wants to see an upset. (They want) to see the big names go down. If you want to classify us as the 12-seed or a double-digit seed, we’re hungry and ready to take you down. That’s how we’re approaching it.”
He concluded, “There’s no extra pressure on us. We’re just going out there to have fun and play a game. When you can do that consistently, you’re going to have some good results. That’s what we’re striving for.”
Reflection on the Exhibition Game
Lovullo feels the team is headed in the right direction. “Step by step, we’re getting closer and closer. In different areas, each guy is starting to bring things together.” He included at-bats and pitching appearances. Defensively, the team has had “a couple of miscues — certain things that we need to sure up. But those are all identifiable things that typically happen in spring training. We’re on the right track and right path and getting closer each day.” He is satisfied with the progress so far but knows there is still work to do. “We have a little more time here and a few things we have to tighten up. But we’ll get that done.”
That work includes “landing all pitches in all areas for all of our pitchers.” Lovullo said that is something that “gets tightened up as we get further into spring training.” This includes “command, location, and having the ability to finish off hitters with quality secondary stuff.” It also includes “being able to position defense behind that.” In addition, Lovullo wants to, over the final week of spring, “Get the team together and let the players all play together.” Over the last week, they’re going to get the majority of their projected regulars on the field at the same time. This will allow them to “let it play out with the pitcher making pitches and the defense picking up the ball.”
Offensively, he wants the players to “continue looking for the pitch that (they) want. Digging out the right equation to go up there and have a productive approach. Put your A-swing on the pitch you want. We’re seeing that more and more.”
Diamondbacks Spring Training Position Player Updates
Lovullo has been impressed with the growth of Christian Walker over the past three seasons but feels that he is capable of even more. “The sky’s the limit for him.” Lovullo continued, “He is consistent with his swing plane. Consistent with his work ethic on both offense and defense. We’re watching him improve day by day. I have every reason to think he can continue to improve.”
Walker isn’t the only one improving, obviously, nor is he the only one they expect to improve. “Those are our expectations for everybody here. We don’t ever want to sit still. If you are sitting still, you’re getting passed. (Not just in baseball, but) in life. Christian takes advantage of every opportunity that is presented to him. He accepts coaching, looks at limitations legitimately, and keeps getting better every single day.”
Vogt was hit on the back of the hand by a pitch in the bottom of the second. Although there was concern, he seemed to be fine. A home run in his next at-bat confirmed it.
Lovullo said that this spring, Vogt is “swinging the bat extremely well. I know he’s worked hard to fine-tune a couple of things that bothered him last year.” That work has paid off. “He’s had a very productive swing.”