Posted on June 26, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Arizona Diamondbacks got a shot in the arm on Wednesday, welcoming back Jake Lamb after a long stint on the Injured List. Lamb has been missing for over two and a half months after straining his quad the first week of the season. His return has a chance to help a Diamondbacks team that’s struggling to get above .500 and remain a part of the playoff picture as we approach the midway point of the season.
“Good to have Jake back in the lineup,” Diamondbacks manager Torrey Lovullo said of Lamb, who played first base and batted fifth in Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers. “He’s worked extremely hard to make today happen, and just to write his name in the lineup again was very refreshing. We’ve missed him for quite some time.”
Lamb’s role heading into the season was a little up in the air. He had a somewhat disastrous and injury-plagued campaign in 2018, hitting just .222 with an OPS of .655 in just 56 games. However, he was an all-star in 2017 when he hit 30 home runs and 30 doubles and posted an OPS of .844. Lamb had nearly identical numbers in 2016, so he’s proven to be a productive offensive player in the big leagues when healthy. The Diamondbacks hoped he could return to his 2017 form this season, and that remains the hope even after an extended stay on the IL.
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“It was a tough one last year both physically and mentally,” Lamb said of his 2018 season. “I definitely got better from it, though. When you go through failure like that, the only option is to either crumble or get better. And so I definitely got mentally stronger and I feel like I’m healthy, I feel like I’m in a good spot. So I’m ready to go.”
The question now becomes where Lamb fits into the Diamondbacks. He’s capable of playing both first base and third base. However, those positions are currently occupied by Christian Walker and Eduardo Escobar, respectively. Outside of Ketel Marte, Walker and Escobar have been Arizona’s most important hitters this season, so it could be difficult to get him consistent playing time.
One possible solution is to move Escobar to second base to open up the hot corner for Lamb and then shift Marte to center field. Marte has gotten most of his starts this year in the outfield rather than his more natural position on the infield. However, he’s been dealing with a groin injury recently and playing him on the infield could reduce the risk of aggravating that injury. The Diamondbacks also figure to get second baseman Wilmer Flores back at some point, further limiting the opportunities to move Escobar to second base.
Of course, if Lamb returns from the IL and starts to hit, Arizona will have to find a way to get him at-bats. The Diamondbacks are one of the top offensive teams in the National League. But they’re not in a position to turn away a player with Lamb’s power and potential. If nothing else, his return will improve Arizona’s depth and in-game flexibility, which can’t hurt a team that’s struggling to stay relevant in the postseason picture.
“I’m super excited for him that he’s finally healthy and that he’s pushing us in the right direction,” says Lovullo. “That type of an offensive guy, putting him back in our lineup should yield some pretty good results.”