Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Jake Lamb is back in the baseball fold with the Triple-A Reno Aces.
Lamb is on a rehabilitation assignment with the Aces after suffering a Grade 2 strain of his left quadriceps muscle on April 5. Lamb injured his quad while legging out a double in the ninth inning on April 3 against the San Diego Padres.
Now back on the field, Lamb went 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts in the Aces 5-3 victory over the Memphis Redbirds on Star Wars Night Saturday at Greater Nevada Field.
He got the day off on Sunday in the Aces’ 7-4 loss to the Redbirds. Starting pitchers Genésis Cabrera of Memphis and Reno’s Braden Shipley battled, but Cabrera came away with the win.
“I only got a couple games on the season,” he said. “So I’m just trying to get back into baseball shape. I may play for 3 or 4 hours, however long these games take to make sure I feel good. The quad feels great it’s just a matter of getting back on the field.”
Playing consecutive games is crucial for Lamb’s return to Arizona.
“I need to string together 3 or 4 games in a row to get back into it,” he said. “It’s all a matter of repetition.”
A sixth round pick by the Dbacks in the 2012 MLB Draft, Lamb has solidified the hot corner since his first career big-league call-up in 2014. In 505 career games, he has 75 homers, 274 RBIs and a .780 OPS.
Lamb made his first All-Star appearance in 2017, the year he slugged a career-high 30 homers and 105 RBIs.
The absence of six-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt — who the Dbacks traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on Dec. 6, 2018 — made the slugging third baseman transition to first base. Lamb appeared in three games at first base with Arizona before getting injured.
“It will still be a bit of an adjustment,” he said. “I spent all spring there, a funky spring for me. I got pulled out of a couple games and obviously I didn’t play much there. So I still have to get used to it and it’s gonna take some time.”
He already has looked comfortable at first base with the Aces. The lanky 6-foot-3 infielder flashed the leather with a scoop, tag and toss for a double play in the fifth inning on Saturday against the Redbirds.
The move to first base has kept Lamb on his toes defensively.
“At first base you’re involved in every play,” he said. “You’re covering the bag, cutting off from right field and doing a bunch of stuff. It’s actually a lot more work than I thought and I think my work at first makes me even better at third, as well.”
At the plate, Lamb is equipped with lots of left-handed pop. His slow right leg kick reaches the numbers of his jersey as makes hard contact on the inside part of the plate. Once Lamb locates a pitch he likes, his quick hands and lower body do the rest of the work.
His swing is a perfect complement to Chase Field in Arizona, but Lamb’s power translates to all sides of the field.
“I just try to hit the ball hard and hit it where it’s pitched,” he said. “Mainly, I try to work the middle of the field and hit the ball as hard I can.”
Former Reno Aces first baseman Christian Walker has made the most of Lamb’s absence. As the starting first baseman, the 2017 Pacific Coast League MVP is batting .259 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs in 61 games with the Dbacks this season.
Walker’s power bat has carried over to Arizona.
“I’ve known (Walker) to be one of the better hitters I’ve played with,” he said. “He’s unreal. … He tore up this league for a few years. I have a ton of respect for the guy and we’re good friends and I love what he’s doing for the (Dbacks) right now.”
Lamb’s assignment in Reno helped him reunite with a familiar friend from the Northwest.
He and Aces outfielder Travis Snider both began their careers in Washington. Snider was drafted 14th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington. Lamb went to Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle and attended the University of Washington.
“I got to know him pretty well over the last couple of years,” he said. “Especially being here with the Diamondbacks. He texted me asking when I was gonna buy spread for the boys a few weeks ago. He’s an awesome dude.”
Lamb has made the most of his time in the Biggest Little City.
“I actually went to a magic show last night,” he chuckled. “It was The Illusionists at the El Dorado. I don’t gamble, so I’m not always at the casino, but it was fun.”
Memphis Redbirds victorious in PCL pitchers’ duel
Starting pitchers Génesis Cabrera and Braden Shipley battled on the mound for five, innings but Cabrera came away with the win for Memphis.
Cabrera notched his third win of the season. He pitched five innings, giving up one earned run on six hits, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Shipley was tagged with his third loss of the seasons. He surrendered two earned runs on eight hits, with six strikeouts over six innings. The Reno right-hander pitched four-straight shutout innings.
The Aces’ bullpen coughed up five runs in the seventh.
Reno had 11 hits. Marty Herum was 3-for-4 with a double and one RBI. Yasmany Tomás went 1-for-4 with a triple and RBI. John Ryan Murphy finished 2-for-5 with one RBI. Almonte added two hits and one RBI.
The Aces jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first. Memphis scored one run in each of the fifth and sixth innings. The Redbirds poured it on with five more runs in the seventh. Reno scored two more runs in the eighth and another in the ninth.
Notes: With a three-inning relief appearance Saturday against the Memphis Redbirds, Stefan Crichton set a season-high in innings pitched. The last time the Texas Christian University product threw three or more innings was on May 22, 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles (3.1 IP). The two teams combined for 22 strikeouts and 10 walks. … The Aces were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
On Deck: Reno, 27-36, faces Memphis for the final game of the four-game series on Monday, 7:05 p.m. at Greater Nevada Field. Starting pitchers have not been announced.