Hot-hitting Brandon Drury making impression on D-backs

Brandon Drury's bat and his on-the-fly learning of second base has opened eyes.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks have made sure to give Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb as many looks as possible at third base and at the plate as they compete for a job. While that duo has flip-flopped at third and designated hitter this spring, Arizona also is learning about another third baseman.

And Brandon Drury hasn’t just played third.

Playing at second, he mishandled a ground ball Friday in a 6-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Stadium. It was his first big mistake as a learning-on-the-go second baseman.

Arizona manager Chip Hale says he loves Drury’s athleticism, which has allowed the D-backs to also get a good peek at him while Tomas and Lamb battle it out at third. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds — with a build that would make you think that weight measurement is on the low side — Drury’s feet are what make him capable of playing at second base, Hale said.

"He’s got what we call quick-twitch muscles. His are as quick as you can find," Hale said.

The team’s seventh-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America, Drury led the D-backs regular contributors through nine spring games by averaging .462 at the plate and a .529 on base percentage heading into Friday. He has six hits and six runs in 15 at-bats, while on defense he’s slid to second smoothly. 

Pitch selection is something the Diamondbacks have focused on throughout camp. Even in batting practice, coaches will throw pitches out of the strike zone to keep the hitters on their toes. That’s part of helping to deliver Hale’s message, and Drury is taking it to heart. He’s seeing the ball well, picking his spots well.

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"I’m trying to work on my pitch selection, swinging at a pitch I want to hit, nothing that a pitcher wants me to hit early in the count," Drury said. "Two strikes, I’m trying to go into battle mode and just find a way to get it done."

Drury, who hit a .295/.345/.476 line last year with Double-A Mobile, came to Arizona as a piece of the trade that shipped Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves. He and current roommate, shortstop Nick Ahmed, have been pleasant surprises this spring. The two said they’re soaking in information during hitters’ meetings, learning from the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo. 

"You don’t get that feeling like they’re older than you," Drury said. "They make you feel like you belong here and that’s always nice. You’ve got guys who are willing to work with you every day, and it makes you more comfortable."

Drury has also picked the brains of fine hitters from back in the day — special assistant to the GM Joe Carter and special assistant to the president Luis Gonzalez, Hale said.

Considering Drury played only 29 minor league games above A-ball, it seems the support has allowed him to take a big step forward this spring.

He came back down to earth on Friday, going 0-for-3 against the Indians. Hale believes his patient approach at the plate will do wonders wherever he ends up.

D-backs veterans Aaron Hill, Cliff Pennington and even Chris Owings will vie for time at second base, and the Tomas-Lamb competition at third will likely keep Drury as an odd-man out of that spot. But as Hale says, major league teams don’t cut off their depth charts at 25, even though that’s the roster limit.

"You look, I think the Giants and the Royals ended up with 45 and 46 (contributors throughout the season)," Hale said of the 2014 World Series participants. "You have injury issues, you have the 15-day DL … I expect we’re going to be like every other team and make some moves."

Maybe Drury is in the middle of a depth chart crunch, but he has already made an impression, putting himself in the mix for a call-up throughout the season.

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