Arizona Diamondbacks retake field for first time since World Series appearance

It was a good day for Arizona Diamondbacks fans as pitchers and catchers reported to Salt River Fields, just a little more than three months since their World Series appearance. (Photo by Josh Amick/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE – Just three months ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks watched the Texas Rangers clinch a World Series title on their home field.

Today, the Diamondbacks look to close the chapter on last year’s success and shift their focus to 2024 as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training at Salt River Fields.

“It’s like waking up for the first day of school,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s day one of spring training, we all know what that means and I couldn’t be more thrilled to get out there and be around the guys.”

The Diamondbacks snuck into the postseason last year as the seventh seed, the lowest in the National League, before beating the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies en route to their first World Series berth since winning it all in 2001. It marked an improbable postseason run that the Diamondbacks expect to look different this year.

“We are going to have a target on our back for sure,” pitcher Zac Gallen said. “I am sure there are people across the league that thought last year was a fluke, so we have to come here with the mindset that nothing is going to be handed to us.”

A buzz followed pitchers and catchers who took the field Wednesday with fans already lining up along the barricade, yelling, “Zac!” hoping Gallen would stop and sign their assortment of fan memorabilia, which he obliged before trotting to the diamond.

“There are more people mulling around,” Lovullo said. “I know there was a lot of fan support out there towards the end of last year and that has parlayed itself to what I saw out there today.”

For most of the Diamondbacks on this roster, last October marked their first time playing deep into the postseason, which led to a shortened offseason. It was important to not only give their bodies and arms rest, but to take a step away from the game and reflect.

“I think mentally was probably one of the bigger tolls that the run at the end of the year took,” left-hander Andrew Saalfrank said. “There were so many ups and downs throughout the Series, so it was important to go home, decompress and get away from baseball for a couple of weeks.”

Part of the physical toll on the Diamondbacks came on the shoulders of their two aces, Gallen and Merrill Kelly, who each logged over 200 innings. Rookie Brandon Pfaadt was the only other starter to open a game in the postseason, going 0-1 in his two starts but posting an impressive 3.27 ERA across five postseason appearances.

The Diamondbacks addressed this issue by signing left-handed starter Eduardo Rodríguez to a four-year, $80 million deal with a fifth-year vesting option. Rodríguez has a career 4.03 ERA across eight MLB seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

“I have just been trying to form some relationships with the people I didn’t have a chance to with last year,” Saalfrank said. “I am just trying to get around the guys and the coaches staff more to familiarize myself a little bit more.”

The new faces on the team such as Rodríguez are joined by Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson, two veteran sluggers who should add some pop to the middle of the lineup when they report to the team with the rest of the position players Feb. 19.

Pederson is a two-time World Series champion and should add some experience to a team full of young players who are eager to get back to playoff baseball.

“We are National League champs and that means the world to us,” Lovullo said. “It feels good knowing where we came from last year, but that was an incomplete score. We got some work to do and we all know that. We have to learn to finish the deal.”

Josh Amick jaw-sh ey-mick (he/ him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Josh Amick expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Amick has written and interned for AZPreps365 and is working toward a job as a beat writer or sideline reporter.