Pollock back with D-backs after short rehab stint

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock (11) celebrates with relief pitcher Archie Bradley, left, after the final out of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Sunday, May 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A.J. Pollock said he knew one at-bat into his minor league rehab assignment that he was ready to return to the Diamondbacks. He joked he thought about texting manager Torey Lovullo as much — before taking another at-bat or playing the field.

Steven Souza Jr., also on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Reno brought up the at-bat as well, unprompted.

“The ball must have exploded off his bat because it was such a special, special result,” Lovullo said to laughter.

It was line out to the right fielder. But everyone viewed it a good sign.

So after two games with Reno, Pollock was back in the cleanup sport for the D-backs on Monday as they opened a three-game series against the Cardinals.

“I gave them feedback that I felt good after my first at-bat. To me, I needed one at-bat but it was good to get that second game,” Pollock said. “I was hoping that they’d let me do it right away and here I am.”

Some of that feedback, according to Lovullo, was a text message some six inches long after Pollock’s second game — in which he went 3 for 3 with a double and home runs.

“I called him a couple days ago because I had a text message that long,” Lovullo said, demonstrating with his fingers, “saying, ‘I’m ready and here are the reasons why.’ … At that point I’d basically made up my mind.

“He worked as hard as he possibly could to get back here. I sat here a while back and said between four and eight weeks and he hit it well before that eight-week mark. A.J. was pounding the table to say he was ready.”

Pollock fractured his left thumb diving for a fly ball on May 14 and missed 44 games.

“My thumb has been good for weeks now, so that’s not even a concern of mine. It was about getting my legs under me,” Pollock said. “Everything has been feeling great for a long time. I knew it wasn’t going to take a lot to feel like I’m ready to go out there and compete at the big-league level. I’m thankful that the guys here trusted me.

“I just wanted to get here so bad. Not many rest days, lots of hard work.”

Pollock was hitting .293/.340/.620 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI before he was injured. He was the NL Player of the Month for April/May and on pace for the best season of his career. The D-backs were 23-20 without their center fielder.

There still is time for him to accomplish that, but at least at first Lovullo and the D-backs will ease him back into playing every day.

“He does not want to come out of the lineup. I love that,” Lovullo said. “But moving forward, I explained to him that we’re going to control his playing time and his innings until he’s 100 percent removed from anything popping up.”

As for slotting Pollock back in the cleanup spot right away, Lovullo said, “It just seemed to fit. It’s a very productive-looking lineup.”