Lovullo says D-backs capable of ‘something very special’

PHOENIX — Near the end of the 2015 season, Torey Lovullo took over as interim manager of the Boston Red Sox while John Farrell battled cancer.

It was an experience, he said, that made him "a little more prepared" to be a full-time major league manager. But Lovullo promised to stay on as Red Sox bench coach for the 2016 season. He said he "wanted to make sure John was OK" before taking a manager’s job.

The opportunity came when he was named Arizona Diamondbacks manager on Friday.

The Diamondbacks introduced Lovullo, their third manager in four seasons, at a Chase Field news conference Monday. He has a familiar boss. Former Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen was hired as Arizona general manager three weeks ago.

"For me, it really couldn’t have worked out any better," Lovullo said. "Coming from the organization that I came from, I learned a lot of special things from some really talented people. Certainly my connection with Mike was something I never wanted to lose."

The moment Hazen was hired, Lovullo became the odds-on favorite to get the manager’s job. But Hazen insisted their relationship "was not the overriding factor" in the hiring.

"This was a process," Hazen said, "a strong process, where we had a lot of strong candidates with different backgrounds, different levels of coaching experience, managerial experience. But ultimately Torey was the one who came out on top."

Hazen and Lovullo replace Dave Stewart and Chip Hale, who were fired after the team went 69-93 last season.

"I’m not going to get blinded by the fact the team won 69 games," Lovullo. `I’m more excited about the type of players we have, the culture that we’re going to try to set here in the clubhouse and dugout."

The 51-year-old new manager said the team "has a nucleus of great players."

"I am very optimistic that we have the capabilities of doing something very special," he said. "As I told one player on the phone, I want to be able to have us all tell a great story at the end of the 2017 season."

Lovullo noted that the 2016 Diamondbacks were "at or above league average in just about every offensive category."

He had much less to say about the pitching. Arizona ranked last in the majors with a team ERA of 5.09.

"I haven’t done anything other than look at the numbers," Lovullo said.

He called himself "an active listener" and planned to talk to more players soon.

"I’m not sure what it was like here in the past," Lovullo said, "but what they’re going to talk about and what they’re thinking about is going to matter to me."

He brings an American League attitude to the NL West.

"Once I get a feel for our guys and our personnel, we will determine what type of team we’re going to be," Lovullo said. "But I do like an offensive team, I’m not going to lie."

With the two hirings, the Diamondbacks are something of a "Red Sox West.’

"The Boston Red Sox are a special organization for a lot of reasons," Lovullo said. "But all those key things we watched on a day-to-day basis there in Boston, yes we want to bring them here to Arizona, but we want to make them a little bit better."

Lovullo played for UCLA, where he was a two-time Pac-10 player of the year. His father is television producer Sam Lovullo, whose shows include "Hee Haw," which had a 20-year run. The son went a different direction.

"I think baseball chose me," he said. "… It really meant something special to me when I started to play and just had this incredible love for the game."

Lovullo played parts of eight seasons in the majors.

He spent nine seasons as a minor league manager before Farrell hired him as first base coach in Toronto. When Farrell went to Boston in an unusual trade, he took Lovullo with him as bench coach. Lovullo held the job for four seasons, including the World Series championship year of 2013. After Farrell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Lovullo led the Red Sox to a 28-20 record. With the disease in remission, Farrell returned last season with Lovullo by his side.

Boston went 93-69 and won the AL East. That record is the exact opposite of the team Lovullo inherits in the desert.