Diamondbacks infielders have had only limited exposure, but the early read is that the new artificial turf at Chase Field might play slower, allowing them to get to more ground balls than they could in the past.
The Diamondbacks are in the process of installing a state-of-the-art synthetic surface at Chase Field, but the club already has put in the turf on a half-field at Salt River Fields. Players have only taken ground balls there once or twice, but they say they could immediately sense a difference.
“Just being on it for one day, I felt like it may have been a little slower (than grass),” shortstop Nick Ahmed said. “It was less bouncy than I expected it to be. Just playing on a bunch of other turf fields in the past, which have been very bouncy, it felt like the hops were fairly normalized compared to grass. It just felt a little slower.”
Said first baseman Jake Lamb: “The ball doesn’t come up as much as you’d expect. I’ve never played on that kind of turf. I grew up playing on turf — my college field is turf, any field in Seattle is turf — but that’s like that rubber turf or the AstroTurf. There’s not a big difference between (the new surface and) grass. … (If anything) it’s a tick slower.”
The infield at Chase Field always was regarded anecdotally as one of the fastest in the majors. Hard and dry, it allowed ground balls to get on infielders quickly — or to make their way into the outfield for hits. It also likely led to more balls hitting the outfield grass and scooting to the wall, leading to more extra-base hits.
“I talked to (former teammate) Brandon Drury over the winter,” Ahmed said. “He played in Toronto a little bit this past summer with the Blue Jays. I asked him how he liked playing on turf and he said, ‘It’s going to be awesome. The ball is going to slow down a little bit and you’ll get to more balls.’ I’m not going to complain about that.”
Lamb, though, sees it the other way, and wonders if a slightly slower infield could take away an advantage.
“We’ve got one of the best defenses in the game,” he said. “So we could use it to our advantage on offense if it’s a little bit quicker.”
Koch gets nod
Right-hander Matt Koch will get the start on Saturday in the Cactus League opener against the Colorado Rockies.
Though Koch is primarily a starter, the Diamondbacks’ rotation is full, meaning his best path to a roster spot will likely be as a long man out of the bullpen. Koch is out of minor league options, so he would have to pass through waivers before he could be sent to the minors.
Manager Torey Lovullo sounded intrigued by what a long-relief role for Koch could mean for the bullpen — perhaps primarily for lefty T.J. McFarland, who has held down that job for most of the past two seasons.
“T.J. was a great weapon for us last year, able to get big outs against some quality left-handed hitters in our league,” Lovullo said. “It would enable us to do some things differently with different guys if we have Kochy in that role.”
Playing ’em slow
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Lovullo named three position players whose spring training debuts could be pushed back a few days for health reasons.
First baseman Jake Lamb (shoulder), right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (shoulder) and outfielder Jarrod Dyson (core) all are returning from injury-plagued 2018 seasons, and Lovullo said the team’s medical staff wants to be sure they are fully healthy before they play.
“I just have to make sure that after today they’re in a very good spot before I ask them to fast-forward anything they may not be ready for,” Lovullo said.
If they are held back, he said, it won’t be long, likely only a few days at most.
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