Manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks set about to change the principals of the clubhouse.
What a difference one year can make. Just take a survey around the clubhouse of the Arizona Diamondbacks and a positive change is evident.
Not only has the culture changed but that alteration has translated into wins in the standings. Coming into a 10-game home stand, beginning Friday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks captured 10 of their opening 17 games and placed one-half game behind the National League West Division-leading Colorado Rockies.
At this point last season, the Diamondbacks were 9-8 and about to spin out of control. They proceeded to lose 10 of the next 12 games and by May 6, the club sported a 12-18 mark. Despite sweeping the Braves in Atlanta in early May and winning the next two over the Rockies, the Diamondbacks proceeded to drop five straight and by mid-May on their way to their third, straight losing season.
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That quickly brought then manager Chip Hale to the guillotine and prompted to hiring of Torey Lovullo, considered an able communicator. On the day Lovullo was hired, the new Arizona skipper told Venom Strikes, “what matters to each player, matters to me.” That attitude clearly resonated with players and a staid, sedate clubhouse under Hale was immediately transformed.
Before Friday’s game with the Dodgers, pitcher Archie Bradley spoke about the change. The difference, he told Venom Strikes, has been striking.
"There is a different vibe in here. At the start of spring training, there was an attempt to change the culture and everything has been positive. (Lovullo) is awesome, and he sets the tone. We do everything together, as a team and as a family. Plus, he cares about each player. About half of the communication is about you, your family, how you’re doing. Baseball is second, most times."
While the numbers may not show in individual numbers, the team appears to function on all cylinders. Coming into the Dodgers game, the Diamondbacks’ starters combined ERA is 3.19 and lefty Robbie Ray has a 1.96 for his three starts to date.
Since the opening week, hitters have cooled. Coming into the Dodgers series, the team batting average of .254 and that includes one run in the previous two losses at San Diego. The expectation is for Paul Goldschmidt (.237), David Peralta (.237) and Brandon Drury (.273) to rise. For now, A. J. Pollock (.284), Yasmany Tomas (.283) and Jake Lamb (.300), over the opening 17 games, appear consistent.
If the culture in the clubhouse has changed, it’s mainly because Lovullo has given players room and the ability to challenge. Before Friday’s game, Lovullo told Venom Strikes that the clubhouse environment is positive and the hopes this stays that way.
"I focus on today and really don’t consider the big picture. I may start thinking in broader terms but for now, I want to give the players space to step out of the box. The one thing I don’t want to do is micro-manage each player."
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At this point, Lovullo has been received very well. The atmosphere is different than that environment created by Hale and players have embraced open communication. At the same time, Paul Goldschmidt told Venom Strikes before Friday’s game the one word which used now by players to describe Lovullo, “awesome.”