By DAVID BRANDT
AP Baseball Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo learned very quickly that Corbin Carroll plays bigger than he looks.
The speedy outfielder — the leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, according to FanDuel Sportsbook — made his first cameo at Chase Field back in 2019, a few weeks after he was selected with the 16th overall pick of the draft. Like a lot of teams, the D-backs invite some of their new draftees to the big league park for a small celebration, complete with batting practice on the field that they might be playing on some day.
Listed at a generous 5-foot-10 and maybe 160 pounds, an 18-year-old Carroll strode to the plate. On one of his first swings, the Seattle native belted a pitch out to center field and admired it for a few seconds.
Lovullo — for a few fleeting moments — wasn’t impressed.
“I don’t know what he’s watching that ball for, it’s not going anywhere,” Lovullo remembered saying to himself. “What is this guy doing?”
Then the ball kept traveling, farther and farther, until it finally smacked off the center field wall. At Chase Field, that’s about 407 feet from home plate.
Suddenly, Lovullo understood what the fuss was about.
It’s the same reason he understood why, during the previous offseason, the usually thrifty D-backs signed Carroll to an $111 million, eight-year deal after he had played 32 games in the big leagues.
“Whatever the price was, it was fair,” Lovullo said laughing.
Carroll has rewarded the D-backs’ confidence with a brilliant rookie season. Through Monday, he was hitting .313 with 13 homers, 34 RBIs, 17 doubles and 19 stolen bases, all while playing excellent defense in the outfield.
Even more impressive, Carroll’s arrival has helped cause a complete shift in franchise fortunes. Just two seasons ago, the D-backs were a laughingstock with 110 losses. These days, they’re in first place in the NL West with a 40-25 record, through Monday’s games, and on a six-game winning streak.
For the soft-spoken Carroll, the hardest part of the sublime start to his big league career is he has to talk about himself. He recently earned NL Player of the Week, which led to a sizable media gaggle around his locker on Monday.
A sampling of the conversation:
What was your reaction to being named NL Player of the Week? “Definitely honored.”
What’s it feel like? “Feels good. It was a successful week.”
Is it hard to stay even-keel when playing so well early in the your career? “No.”
The 22-year-old Carroll laughed after that response before finally elaborating.
“Had a good week, got some pitchers this week,” Carroll said. “There will be plenty of weeks where it’s the other way around. The best thing I’ve learned personally is staying the course and staying within my processes.”
Carroll’s studious, humble approach has made him popular in the D-backs’ clubhouse. It also makes it hard to believe he has still played less than 100 big league games.
“He handles his business like a pro every single day,” D-backs catcher Carson Kelly said. “Being a young guy, coming in doing that, is special, as you can probably see by his contract. He’s an exceptional young man and I’m happy to be a teammate.”
Lovullo echoed that praise.
“He’s always on a search to get better,” he said. “He never wastes a day. He never wastes one day, learning, growing and pushing forward. He’s playing at a very high level right now. Even when he doesn’t get hits, he’s helping us win baseball games.
“He’s got a huge presence in our lineup right now.”
Lovullo was so proud of Carroll winning NL Player of the Week that he called the player himself on Monday. He readied a small speech, talking about Carroll’s perseverance, hard work and his belief that he’s going to execute every day.
The outfielder listened and in his typical no-frills fashion, was ready to get back to work.
“Great, thanks. Appreciate it,” he told Lovullo. “I’ll see you at 2 o’clock later today.”