PHOENIX — D-backs manager Torey Lovullo was driving home from an eye doctor appointment Tuesday when general manager Mike Hazen called to let him know that the team had opted to exercise Lovullo's contract option for 2023.
Hazen said he had the full support of managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall in making the decision.
"I’m honored that this organization has put the faith in me — Ken, Derrick and Mike — that I’m able to go ahead and lead this team for the rest of this year and next year," Lovullo said. "I don’t want to let them down. This is my home. My wife and I love the Valley, and I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in with great ownership, great leadership."
The #Dbacks have exercised the club option for the 2023 season for Manager Torey Lovullo. pic.twitter.com/PYyLPDLzz9
Lovullo was hired by the D-backs not long after Hazen took over as general manager following the 2016 season. In his first year at the helm, Lovullo led Arizona to a 93-69 record and the top National League Wild Card spot. The D-backs beat the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game that year before being swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
Arizona finished 82-80 in 2018, when it was in first place in the NL West at the start of each month before fading out of the postseason race in September.
In what many expected to be a rebuilding year in 2019, the D-backs were a surprise NL Wild Card contender, as they won 85 games. Things fell off for them after that, as they struggled during the pandemic-shortened '20 season (when they went 25-35) and then bottomed out last year, as they finished 52-110, one loss shy of the club record.
Lovullo was in the final year of his contract in 2021, and despite the struggles on the field, Hazen extended Lovullo's contract last September and added an option year for '23.
The D-backs, who entered Tuesday with a 60-67 record this season, have been playing better baseball of late, as they're 20-15 since the All-Star break.
"I feel like the way this group has come together, has grown, the style of play, especially since the All-Star break, where I believe we’ve been in basically every single game we’ve played, even the games we’ve lost," Hazen said. "A lot of one-run losses in the mix leading up to that. I felt like the work that [the coaches are] doing with the players, the quality of play vs. last year, is noticeably different. Torey deserves a lot of credit for that."
Even with Arizona picking up the option, Lovullo will enter 2023 as a "lame duck" manager for the third straight season.
Lovullo said it wasn't an issue, but Hazen was asked why the club didn't give Lovullo more security with an extension.
"It's a fair question," Hazen said. "We’re not really where we need to be. We’re not satisfied with whatever position we finish in outside of the playoffs this year. I think until we get striking within that spot where we’re buying at the Deadline and competing until the end, he and me — it's not just him — I get there may be some different contractual situations at certain times, but this is a situation where we need to continue to show progress."
One of Lovullo's biggest strengths as a manager is his ability to build relationships with his players and get them to play hard. Even during last year's difficult season, the D-backs' players continued to support him by doing that.
As Arizona continues its transition to a younger core, Lovullo's ability to bring those players along is a valuable asset.
"That’s awesome," D-backs third baseman Josh Rojas said of Tuesday's news. "I was pretty excited to see that. That’s pretty big that they picked it up. I’m excited to have him back. He makes it really comfortable for you to come to him and ask questions. I think, more importantly for the team, having a lot of young guys coming up last year and even more this year, I think it’s really big for them to have somebody they can trust and know that he’s not going to condemn you for every mistake."