Disappointing D-backs aim for bounce back in 2021 season

MLB

PHOENIX (AP)Torey Lovullo’s routine during baseball’s postseason consisted of grabbing a big bowl of ice cream, plopping down in front of the TV and reflecting on a season that couldn’t have gone much worse for the Diamondbacks.

Arizona’s fifth-year manager admits it wasn’t a fun stretch of time.

”To be totally honest with you, I was pretty bitter for the first several weeks of the offseason,” Lovullo said. ”Watching the postseason, it was tough, it was a really tough pill for me to swallow, and I know our organization basically felt the same way.”

Now the Diamondbacks are out to prove that 2020’s 60-game flop was an aberration and not a signal that the franchise is falling further out of contention behind the World Series-winning Los Angeles Dodgers and the up-and-coming San Diego Padres.

If Arizona is going to improve on this year’s 25-35 record and last place finish in the NL West, it’s going to be done with a lot of the same faces. Lovullo brought back his entire coaching staff and most of the players will also be familiar.

The Diamondbacks – who occupy a weird space in the baseball landscape between large-market and small-market teams – opened the pocketbooks last offseason, adding veteran left-handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner, outfielder Kole Calhoun and giving contract extensions to shortstop Nick Ahmed and outfielder David Peralta.

Another flurry of moves isn’t expected this offseason. Lovullo says the D-backs have the pieces in place for a turnaround.

”We’re a good baseball team,” Lovullo said. ”We’re a good organization with good baseball players and I want that to shine through next year.”

The Diamondbacks did have some bright spots in 2020. Right-hander Zac Gallen finished ninth in the NL Cy Young voting after finishing with a 2.75 ERA over 72 innings. Calhoun hit a team-high 16 homers. First baseman Christian Walker had 18 doubles and seven homers to solidify his role in the middle of the batting order.

But others need a big bounce-back year, including Bumgarner, who was a huge disappointment in his first season in the desert. The four-time All-Star had easily his worst year in the big leagues, finishing with a 1-4 record and a 6.48 ERA. His fastball velocity was down in the upper-80s and he was routinely hit hard.

Lovullo said they worked with Bumgarner to formulate an offseason workout to make sure the disappointment was a one-year blip.

”I know he works hard no matter what, he’s always done that,” Lovullo said. ”But this (workout) was a little more targeted in certain areas. So I do know he’s been working out, working at it, and I’m really anxious to see how he comes back to us in spring training whenever that may be.”

Lovullo just hopes that the D-backs get a chance to show their worth over a full 162-game season. The continuing COVID-19 crisis has left some wondering if spring training will start as planned in mid-February.

The manager said the experience of going through the 2020 season and following the league’s protocols gives him confidence.

”Knowing what I know now about last season, I feel like the 2021 season can be played in full,” Lovullo said. ”I’m hopeful for that. I’m just proud of the way everyone in our industry from top to bottom made that adjustment and made it work (in 2020).”

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