Back in the 1980s, a guy named Lonnie Smith patrolled left field for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Much more an offensive performer than known for his defensive skills, Smith’s acrobatics in left field caused one Philadelphia sports writer to observe at the time, “there’s Smith again, playing left field on skates.”
The first observation of Mark Trumbo playing left field for the Diamondbacks beginning in the spring may be the same conclusion. By his own admission, Trumbo says he’s bounced around between the infield and outfield and never called any one position home.
Now, his permanent residence is Left Field, Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona and “the work in progress” now begins.
Not only does Trumbo’s baggage come with a defensive knock but also a penchant for striking out. In his three-year plus major league career with the Los Angeles of Anaheim, Trumbo fanned 465 times in 1,853 at-bats. That prompted new teammate Paul Goldschmidt to observe, “if you’re talking about striking out, that’s a knock on me, too.”
While there may some concerns with too many Ks, a deeper concern is Trumbo’s productivity in the field. New to left-field, he will have plenty of help in spring training and that will come from manager Kirk Gibson, who patrolled the gardens in both the American and National Leagues and new coach Dave McKay, who is credited with turning Alfonso Soriano into a credible outfielder.
Arriving with a reputation for striking out and adjusting to a new position in left field, that only serves to crank up Trumbo’s incentive.
“I’m here to prove people wrong,” Trumbo said earlier this week at a Diamondbacks’ holiday charity event. “I like to play with a chip on my shoulder.”
One of the first areas of concentration is foot movement. Plus, there’s the communication aspect with A. J. Pollock, who will likely start the season in center field and the infield on short fly balls.
“(Trumbo) will work with McKay, who is very experienced and a very good teacher,” Gibson said. “From the beginning, the biggest thing is learning on how to go back on a ball. Plus, (Trumbo) will have to get used to playing in Chase Field and all the new National League parks.”
Yet, the core seems to be there.
Trumbo developed into an adequate first baseman last season with Angels and that was after Albert Pujols went down. McKay and others believe the foundation is in place for Trumbo to be a productive left-fielder.
“First, (Trumbo) is a good athlete with a great arm,” McKay said. “I really like his work ethic and he’ll be fine. The key is to make the routine play. After all, we want a good outfielder and a good outfield.”
That would include Pollock in center and Gerardo Parra as the right-fielder.
General manager Kevin Towers did not discount moving Trumbo to right field occasionally to give Parra some time off but also recognizes Trumbo’s start here in the National League.
“(Trumbo) has a great work ethic and I’m not worried about him,” Towers said. “At this point, I wouldn’t bet against him and know we have a real plus out there in left field.”