A significant part of the Diamondbacks’ future commenced Thursday night in Chase Field.
Rather than spoon-feed and attempt to move forward with marginal and incremental steps, decision-makers within the Arizona organization decided to take a rather giant leap into the future. That’s why third baseman Jake Lamb was recalled from Triple-A Reno and immediately inserted into the line-up, hitting sixth against Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.
As manager Kirk Gibson told reporters prior to Thursday’s game with the Royals, the Diamondbacks turned to Lamb for two reasons.
First, the team, in the absence of Paul Goldschmidt, is need of a lethal bat and run production in the line-up. Plus, the organization is looking for stability at third base and Gibson said he plans to play Lamb most of the time between now and the end of the season.
“I had been with Reno four or five days and when we returned home, I looked around the ball park to be familiar with the surroundings,” Lamb said before starting Thursday night. “Reno was new to me and then all of a sudden, I got the call (Wednesday night) to pack my bags and head to Phoenix.”
Plus, the timing was not expected.
“Yes, I was very surprised to be called up here,” Lamb said. “Really excited about this opportunity but I know it will take time to get acclimated.”
Lamb arrives in the desert with a big bat and even bigger expectation.
At Double-AA Mobile, the 23-year-old native of Seattle led the Southern League in batting average and RBIs when promoted to Reno late last month. Combined with Reno and Mobile, Lamb hit .327 (128-for-392) with 39 doubles, 15 home runs, 84 RBIs in 108 games.
Over three minor league seasons since drafted by the Diamondbacks on the sixth round in the 2012 draft out of the University of Washington, Lamb hit .321 with 37 home runs and 193 RBIs in 244 games.
The reason for Lamb showing up in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse in early August is clear.
“We’re looking forward to the future a little more,” Gibson said. “Now, we’ll get a better idea of his capabilities. He has a great bat and we need offense. Plus, he’s improved defensively and he’ll play at third most of the time.”
Then again, Lamb’s elevation to the major leagues can be daunting.
“We don’t want to overwhelm him,” Gibson added. “We’re excited to have him and told him if there is anything he needs from me or the organization, we’ll here to help.”
Lamb is considered a strong and cerebral student of the game and during spring training, he seemed to walk around the Salt River clubhouse was a tape recorder.
“I watched and spoke with guys like Eric Chavez and Martin Prado and observed how they went about their business,” Lamb said. “These are great players and I wanted to learn from them as much as I could.”
Over the course of spring training and into the championship season, Lamb’s education was not overlooked.
“We encourage that kind of interaction among players and saw the communication factor immediately in (Lamb),” Gibson pointed out. “That’s why we brought him up here.”
To make room for Lamb on the 25-man major league roster, the Diamondbacks designated infielder Andy Marte for assignment.
Marte, 30-years-old, appeared in six games with Arizona, hit .188 with one home run and three RBIs.
Beyond the remainder of the season, Lamb’s production should influence composition of the infield for 2015, and for that matter, the offensive structure.
While infielder Cliff Pennington will not likely be offered a contract for next season, and should the Diamondbacks’ effort to move Aaron Hill be successful, the infield could have a look of Goldschmidt at first, Didi Gregorius at second, Chris Owings at short and Lamb at third.
With injured centerfielder A. J. Pollock (currently on DL with broken right hand) healthy for 2015, the outfielder could have a rotation of Mark Trumbo in left, David Peralta in right and Pollock in center.
From an offensive stand-point, this would be a creditable line-up but the true objective lays ahead.
Ffinding a solid and cohesive starting rotation going forward is paramount, and that’s the major task ahead for general manager Kevin Towers, Tony La Russa, chief baseball officer and other front office officials.