Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo accepts blame for the 2020 season that spiraled to a 25-35 finish. He’s fine that the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have since led the headlines in the NL West by continuing to hoard talent.
That’s because Lovullo still believes that last season was a poor representation of his team’s abilities.
While the D-backs began reshuffling the bullpen at last year’s trade deadline, the pressure to rebound with a relatively status quo roster remains. For the manager, change starts with him.
“I’m the leader of this team from the dugout level and it’s my responsibility, and I have to be accountable to what happened here,” Lovullo told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “We didn’t perform up to our expectations. What I want to do is turn that pain and frustration into growth.
“I was able to sit back at the end of the season, I kind of self-isolated, I stayed away from a lot of the people and a lot of the friends I normally associate with because I wanted to soul-search a little bit. What I discovered is there were some things I didn’t do that I (usually) do very well. I wasn’t sure why, but I answered those questions internally.”
The Diamondbacks go through their first workouts for pitchers and catches Wednesday with the full squad reporting Monday. And it’s on Lovullo to use that soul-searching to reset a team with many returning pieces that didn’t live up to expectations last year.
The manager said that his message begins by keeping his players in the moment in order to win the day.
But as much as he can motivate, players will need to live up to their own expectations, too. Atop that list is starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who in nine games went 1-4 with a 6.48 ERA and 1.44 WHIP last season.
Like his team, Bumgarner appeared out-of-whack coming out of a stuttered spring training and never got on track.
“We all feel very strongly that there’s a certain personality in there, there’s a certain competitiveness and then there’s a certain ability that he still has,” Lovullo said of the D-backs’ big free agent addition last offseason. “When you combine all three of those things, I think you’re talking about somebody that’s gonna be pretty darn good for us.
“He didn’t get off to a good start and I think he got a little bit frustrated. I feel very strongly that his offseason preparation has been very good — those are the reports I’ve been getting.”
To the always-positive Lovullo, Bumgarner’s expected rebound encapsulates the presumed rebound for the entire D-backs team. With that, Lovullo is comfortable to ride last year’s failures into 2021’s spring training.
“We have a talented group of players here. A lot of teams are fortifying and they’re getting a lot of the attention, and I’m fine with that,” Lovullo said. “I think I like the idea of us having that underdog mentality and going out there and winning today.
“We’re not going to look past today.”