The start was not the best and, in fact, this beginning might have altered a man of lesser character.
When manager Kirk Gibson inserted A. J. Pollock in the opening day line-up against the Dodgers, the expectation was the former Notre Dame standout would give the Diamondbacks credibility both with the glove and the bat.
There is no question that Pollock has demonstrated an underrated performance patrolling the gardens and his first step to any fly ball is one of the best in the majors.
At the start of the season, hitting was another question. As one who admits “I like to hit,” Pollock was projected anywhere in the line-up.
That’s because his speed is decidedly above average and with his ability to drive the ball and hit for power, he could be suited as a lead-off hitter or possibility number five or six to drive in runs.
Gibson settled on Pollock interchanging with Gerardo Parra in the lead-off location and spotted Pollock to lead off against left-handers.
That’s all well and good but Pollock’s start to the season was beyond dreadful. He labored out of the gate 0-for-13 and pundits quickly wrote him off as just another experiment in centerfield.
Yet, Pollock was undaunted and responded in a way which would make any hitter envious. From that ghastly beginning, Pollock entered Friday night’s home game with Cincinnati as a .300 hitter.
“I never doubted anything,” he said in the clubhouse before Friday’s game with Cincinnati. “I kept telling myself that if you dwell on a bad start, it will get worse. No, I didn’t change anything and slowly, things came around.”
Now, Pollock is firmly entrenched in the outfield and as an important contributor. His status rose to such a certain level that a reporter recently asked him about playing in the up-coming All-Star Game at Target Field in mid-July.
Prior to Friday’s game, Pollock was hitting .441 (26-for-59) and safely in 12 of his last 16 games in Chase Field. That includes five home runs and 11 RBIs. For his season, his .306 season average topped the team and jumped ahead of teammate Paul Goldschmidt (.305).
“He’s developing,” Gibson said before Friday’s game. “He’s making the most of his situation and figuring things out.”
Gibson said he is not certain if Pollock will continue to lead-off but indicated, “so far, he’s been very good there.” Going forward, the manager added, “I can’t assume he’ll stay there.”
For now, Pollock continues to make an important contribution and settling in as a player which Gibson can rely.
“I just maintain a good approach and stick with it,” Pollock said. “Look, guys have tried to figure this game out for over 100 years. I’m willing to change but also recognize it’s okay to resist change if you feel the things may not work out.”
Reds’ manager Bryan Price returned to Chase Field over the weekend but with endearing memories as the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach in the NL West Division title year of 2007.
From his office in the visitors’ clubhouse, he spoke with reporters like a proud father.
“We had many young players on that team who were impact players,” Price said before Friday’s game. “Guys who were on their way up made significant contributions and we were able to put together a great run.”
Price cited players such as Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Conor Jackson and reliever Brandon Lyon as those with a marked influence.
In the 2007 post-season, the Diamondbacks swept the Cubs in the divisional series but lost to the Rockies in the National League Championship Series.