DENVER — Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo was holding his breath. Jogging out toward left field, where Corbin Carroll was on the ground, hurt on the warning track, Lovullo couldn’t help but fear the worst on Saturday night.
“He seems like he’s a very tough kid,” Lovullo said. “And if he were able to get up, he would have bounced right up. When he wasn’t getting up, I was thinking shoulder, fibula, ankle — something severe.”
It appears Carroll suffered little more than a bruised knee — a diagnosis the Diamondbacks hope will be confirmed on Monday when he undergoes an MRI in Texas. That would be a relief for them on any number of levels, not the least of which being what he has meant to them through the first month of the season.
Through 97 at-bats, Carroll owns a .309/.374/.536 line. He is hitting for average, hitting for power, finding his way on base, stealing bases and playing good defense at all three outfield positions.
That is to say: Carroll is doing everything the club had hoped when it signed him to an eight-year, $111 million extension in March. Everything and more, really, given that team officials entered the year with the sort of tempered expectations they usually hold for young, inexperienced players.
Now, the Diamondbacks can only hope that when Carroll gets back on the field — he seemed optimistic he would be able to return to the lineup on Tuesday night vs. the Rangers — he can pick up where he left off.
Because where he left off was impressive, particularly after a stretch early in the year when he was expanding the zone more than expected.
“He’s unbelievable,” Diamondbacks third baseman Josh Rojas said. “He’s that perfect combination of power and contact. I feel like he had, for his standards probably, a slow start. He had a couple of homers in there. He had a couple of 0-for games, which surprises me, for sure. But I think the last week or two he’s really been finding his groove and his approach.”
Rojas’ mind went to a game last week, when Carroll managed to impact the game in a variety of ways. He fought off a pitch that jammed him, blooping it in for a double. He used his blazing speed to beat out an infield hit. He also scorched a ball into the gap for a triple.
“You make a mistake — and not even a mistake, sometimes he’s looking for it — and he’ll hit 430 (feet),” Rojas said. “Even his base hits are like 108 (mph) exit velo. He smashes baseballs. But he also has a high contact rate and he also will walk. It’s really fun to watch.”
Over his first 14 games, Carroll swung at 36.8 percent of pitches he saw outside of the strike zone, well above the major league average of 28.4 percent. Over his next 14 games, that number shrank to 22.6 percent.
Hitting coach Joe Mather wondered if that early aggressiveness was a residual effect of the contract extension.
“I’ve never been — most of us have never been — in a situation where you’ve just made a ton of money and you’re a rookie, which means he’s still got probably the sense that he’s got to prove it,” Mather said. “How long that lasts, who knows. He’s a very consistent kid, but it feels like he’s settled into, ‘I’m a big leaguer. I’m here. What I get is what I earned. And now I’m going to go out and win some games.’ If I see anything, it’s almost a calmness while being confident.”
Carroll seemed to bristle when asked if his contract played a part in his chase rate.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Said outfielder Alek Thomas: “Obviously there’s pressure when you have a contract like that and being so young and not having played that many games in the big leagues — or even the minor leagues. He’s doing a great job. He’s definitely just playing like himself, really. We’ve seen it. He’s definitely trending in a great direction. I hope it continues. He’s helping us win ballgames.”
Carroll’s importance to the team seemed to take center stage on Saturday night. After he walked off the field with trainers, a pall seemed to settle over the club despite the Diamondbacks’ sizable lead in the game, one that did not lift until it became more clear that Carroll’s injury might not be serious.
In the sixth inning that night, Carroll was going nearly full speed when he leaped and rammed his left knee into the fence trying to make a catch. A day later, Lovullo was asked how he felt about Carroll’s aggressive pursuit.
A decade ago, a young Bryce Harper crashed headlong into the center field wall at Dodger Stadium, leaving him with 11 stitches on his chin. It took him two years to come around on the idea, but Harper later vowed to “play a little smarter.”
To be fair, Carroll’s play did not appear nearly as reckless as Harper’s. Still, his availability is far more important to the Diamondbacks than recording anyone out on defense.
“I want our guys to make plays,” Lovullo said. “I want them to be conscious of what’s around them. But I won’t ever ask an athlete to pull back. I’ll just ask them to be smart. You can’t predict injury. I think when you’re trying to protect yourself, my own opinion is you put yourself more at risk putting on the breaks. I want him to play full speed but just be smart about it.”
Lovullo then seemed to consider what he had said before clarifying his point.
“I want him to play 150-plus games this year; everybody does,” he said. “But I don’t want him to be a defensive player when he’s out there.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks hoping Corbin Carroll’s knee injury is only a speed bump
Source: Yahoo Sports