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Torey Lovullo on Clubhouse Culture, Right-Handed Lineup

The Diamondbacks manager discusses how the new additions have impacted the culture and their likely lineup vs. righties.

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo spoke to the media before the Cactus League game against the Oakland Athletics. The topics that came up included how their new additions have impacted the clubhouse culture set last season, their starting lineup against Oakland, and how an under-the-radar pitcher performing well this spring could factor into their rotation mix.

How the New Additions Have Impacted the Culture

During the offseason, the D-backs swung one major trade and signed four free agents. With four new players on the roster, all expected to play a key role on the 2024 squad, it will impact clubhouse dynamics. In 2023, the team role a strong locker room to their deep postseason run. 

"We do a great job of vetting and bringing in the right guys," said Lovullo. "This is a very strong culture, the players built that culture. They carry it around every single day."

Lovullo then cited examples of how these new players are taking the initiative to help out. Joc Pederson brought in a food truck on Tuesday and has been organizing team gatherings. Eduardo Rodriguez has been playing dominoes and working on building stronger relationships with his new teammates. Eugenio Suárez is holding other players accountable and ensuring they understand what the coaching staff is trying to teach them.  

During today's game there was also a fun moment with Suárez. After making an excellent diving stop his throw was low and off the bag but Christian Walker made another great play on the other end, diving while keeping his foot on the bag to save the play and make the out. Suárez responded by giving Walker a big hug as they went into the dugout. 

Lovullo believes he'll know how strong this clubhouse is when they face adversity. Last year's team proved their resiliency, first overcoming a 7-25 stretch in the regular season to make the playoffs and then a 2-0 deficit to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series to win in seven games.

Potential 2024 Starting Lineup vs. Righties

In today's game against the Oakland Athletics, Lovullo deployed his likely starting lineup vs. right-handed pitching. The most notable takeaway from that lineup is Gabriel Moreno was slotted in the third spot in the order. Moreno moved up to that spot before Game 3 of the NLCS and stayed there for their final 10 postseason games.

"I think Gabi showed towards the back end of the season that he was capable of handling that workload and responsibility, hitting that high in the lineup. So I have no reason to believe that's going to change."

Despite changing two starters in their lineup, it looked very similar to the one they rolled out for Game 5 of the World Series. The biggest change to how the lineup looks comes in the fifth spot, where they have the left-handed Pederson sitting halfway between a string of four right-handed bats between Moreno and Suárez. Lovullo likes the split, which allows them to counterpunch against righties when they get to the middle of the order.

Humberto Castellanos' Potential Role

Castellanos last pitched for the D-backs in 2022, when he had a 5.68 ERA in 11 appearances. An elbow injury that eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery has kept him out of action since. He showed up to camp 20 pounds lighter, which surprised Lovullo. The results have been impressive so far as he's not allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings and struck out three. Much of his outs come from inducing weak contact on balls in play, using his different arm angles and pitches to keep hitters off balance.

"Normally when you see a guy coming off an injury, sometimes they're competing internally. You can sense it, and they can't let pitches go. I think he is in a really good spot, the competition between he and the batter, and he's executing at a very high level." 

The plan is to stretch him out in Spring Training, then decide later if he'll be on their major league starting pitcher depth chart. Lovullo and the front office are having discussions as to who will be their top 8-9 starters and Castellanos is entering those conversations. Should the D-backs elect to keep him as a starter, he's likely to begin the season with Triple-A Reno as the likely eighth or ninth pitcher on that list. Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson, and Slade Cecconi will also be heavily considered.

Randal Grichuk Rehab Update

Grichuk continues his rehab from offseason ankle surgery. The 32-year-old outfielder has been limited in his running activities, but is still getting live at-bats on the back fields. Lovullo gave an update on how Grichuk is currently progressing towards the start of the season.

"He's slowly feeling better about getting on the ground, being able to move in the box, mostly to get out of the way of pitches that are coming at him. All the simple things that we take for granted, he's continuing to build confidence in those movements. We don't feel like there's going to be anything that's going to stop him from progressing every time he goes out there."

With Opening Day coming up in 17 days, the timeline to get Grichuk ready is starting to get really tight. Should they come to the decision that he needs more time to get up to speed, it's possible he starts the season on the injured list and participates in rehab games with Triple-A Reno.