The Manager’s Perspective: Torey Lovullo on Conferring with His Coaches

Torey Lovullo relies a lot on his coaching staff. Each has his own role and responsibilities, and the Arizona Diamondbacks skipper is well aware of the value they provide. He’d be the first to tell you that 2017 NL Manager of the Year honors — ditto the D-Backs’ playoff berth — wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of his coaches.

He interacts with them frequently. Communication is vital to any relationship, and Lovullo is a big believer in getting input before making a decision. It’s common to see him conferring with one of his coaches during a game, and behind-the-scenes conversations are a constant. Managers may ultimately have the final say — that’s the case here — but when Lovullo makes a move, there’s a pretty good chance collaboration was part of the process.

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Torey Lovullo: “[Bench coach Jerry Narron] understands the strategy of the game — the moving parts of the game — as well as anybody I’ve been around. He understands the rules as well as anybody. And Jerry’s ability to communicate is something I’m really thankful for. We can hit on any range of our daily communication and not miss.

“I rely on him mostly as my backbone. He’s watching the game in much the same way I am, projecting a lot of moves. I can throw an assortment of things out there — machine gun five thoughts — and he’ll quickly find the information whether it’s on one of the iPads or something we have on paper in the dugout. He’ll give me his thoughts on a particular move.

“He’s projecting what’s happening inside their dugout, or in their bullpen, and then giving me options — two or three options at a time — of what we should do. They’re thoughts I’m having, but I haven’t quite got there. And his timing is perfect. He know when, and how, to say things for a given situation.

“A lot of times, if I have a thought in my head I’ll ask Jerry to immediately go tell the player, ‘This is what we’re thinking.’ Will it happen? Probably not, or probably yes, but if the player knows what I’m thinking, he can prepare himself for what I’m asking him to do, possibly an inning or two later.”

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“[Third base coach Tony Perezchica] controls our infielders, and I communicate with Tony a lot. We probably talk seven to 10 times a game about different situations or scenarios. I get what his thoughts are, then tell him what I’d like based on the combined vision we’re having.

“Being a former infielder, I watch the infielders with a different lens. I pay a lot of attention to what they are doing and ask Tony questions about different things. We have a lot of good baseball discussions that rotate around our infielders.

“How we determine [infield shifts] is a process. The day before the first game of a series we get all sorts of information — the analytics — such as the tendencies, which tell us where our starting points are. Tony watches a lot of video. We get a lot of input from our advance scouts. We come up with a game plan, and I basically approve it. The starting pitcher approves it, as well. Mike Butcher also signs off on it.

“Sometimes our pitchers will tweak it. Zack Greinke knows where guys are going to hit the ball based on the stuff he’s going to be throwing that particular day. He’ll ask us to move guys, migrate them to the right spot. We get the pitcher’s input often, and it happens during games, too. We’re always making adjustments.”

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“I played with [pitching coach Mike Butcher], so we have a real ease of communication. I use his input to make pitching decisions and pitching changes. I don’t make every move because I’m the manager and it’s what I want to do. I want to get as much input as possible, so I’ll huddle with him and Jerry, and we talk over what I’m thinking.

“Jerry is usually standing right next to me, and he’s engaged in the pitch-to-pitch operation of what’s going on in the game. Butch is obviously watching and studying his pitcher, so I’ll consistently ask him questions. I’d say I probably ask him seven to 10 questions per game. I’ll tap into him a little more than he’ll present things to me, but if he has something to say, he will. He may suggest that we start warming someone up.

“Handling mound visits has been a little bit of a challenge at times. We have six of them [per game], and he has a great feel for when to make one. Every once in a while I’ll ask, ‘Hey, is this a good time for a mound visit?’ and he’ll usually say, ‘I’ve been thinking about it.’”

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“I have a great relationship with [bullpen coach Mike Fetters]. It’s been an easy conversation ever since I knew him when we played against each other in college. Mike is making sure all of those pitchers are prepared. He drills in a game plan and allows them to get prepared at the proper pace at the proper time. When they step out of the bullpen and onto the field, they’re going to be ready to execute our game plan.

“There’s a ton of crossover between Mike and Butch — they’re constantly doing everything they can to share their knowledge — but once the game starts, they’re on two different islands. Mike Fetters is in charge of his island, and he’s going to have his guys ready. There’s a lot of order down there.”

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“[Hitting coach Dave Magadan] is watching and studying our hitters, and I’ll probably go over and ask him a question four or five times a game. I’ll ask him what the opposing pitcher is doing, or about what matchups he likes for us. Potentially, two innings from now, it could be this batter or this batter — who do you like against this particular pitcher? At times, Dave will ask me questions about what I’m seeing and what I’m thinking.

“In the National League, you have to be acutely aware of if you’re going to pinch-hit for a guy. You have to make sure you’re telling your pitching coach, ‘This is what we’re thinking; make sure this guy is ready.’ I’m thankful that both [Magadan and Butcher] follow the game on that level, because every once in a while I’ll make a move and Butch will say, ‘Hey, I heard you and Dave talking and we need to make sure we’ve got the right guy available if we end up pinch-hitting. I know it’s four or five hitters away, but we have to figure out who we want.’ There are a lot of moving parts to those decisions, and they don’t allow those kind of things to slip away.

“Dave and Butch talk to each other all the time. They’re sitting over there in the dugout talking baseball during the entire game, and Jerry and I are over on this side talking baseball during the entire game. At different points we come together.”

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“[First base coach] Dave McKay is one of the best coaches I’ve been around. He gets the most out of all our base runners. He makes demands of them, so all of our baserunners run hard. They have a set of responsibilities on the bases, and he makes sure they’re prepared every single day.

“Dave also positions our outfielders, and they’re always well positioned. He does a great job of watching video. He’s as dedicated as any coach I’ve ever seen when it comes to studying the video that’s provided. He spends hours and hours and hours watching video to make sure our guys are doing their thing. All of our coaches make sure our guys are doing their thing. I rely on them a lot.”

We hoped you liked reading The Manager’s Perspective: Torey Lovullo on Conferring with His Coaches by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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