D-backs’ Lovullo renews friendship with Japanese teammate

Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona manager Torey Lovullo’s final year as a player was an injury filled season with Japan’s Yakult Swallows.

Lovullo’s stats that year were forgettable, but he often talks about his positive experiences during the 2000 season. One day before a game in Hiroshima, he was talking with Swallows star catcher Atsuya Furuta.

“I explained to this player — who was a superstar inside of Japanese baseball — that my days were winding down. I was old and broken,” Lovullo said. “I was probably going to come back to America and become a manager.

“If I did, would he be willing to join the staff in some capacity?”

It took 23 years, but Lovullo finally made it happen.

Lovullo invited Furuta to Diamondbacks camp for a two-week stint, mainly to work with the team’s catchers, particularly Carson Kelly and top prospect Gabriel Moreno. The Diamondbacks manager presented Furuta a team jersey on Monday at spring training.

Furuta said he was enjoying his experience in the U.S. and had just one request from the D-backs.

“I told (Lovullo) yesterday, if they win a championship, please send a champion’s ring to Japan,” Furuta said, grinning.

Lovullo — without hesitation — replied he would make that happen.

Furuta played for Yakult from 1990 to 2007 and hit .294 with 217 homers. He managed the Central League team in 2006 and 2007.

PEDRO’S WATCHING

Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez was at Red Sox camp for the first time this spring training and watched the pitchers throw on a back field, including top prospect Brayan Bello, who had been sidelined for a few days with right forearm soreness.

Martinez also stood to the side of a catcher watching Corey Kluber throw off a mound. The right-hander signed a $10 million, one-year contract.

“It’s just knowledge,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of former players like Martinez talking to the team. “It’s players that have been here, been very successful. We haven’t been able to due that the last two springs because of the restrictions, but now we’re back to almost normal. To have him around is always good for us and good for him.”

Later, Martinez headed to a back field and watched Kluber throw live batting practice to Rafael Devers and Christian Arroyo.

In December, Bello worked out at Martinez’s home in the Dominican Republic.

ELVIS AT 2B

The Chicago White Sox and veteran Elvis Andrus finalized a $3 million, one-year contract.

The two-time All-Star has played shortstop for his entire big league career, but he is going to move over to second in his return to Chicago.

“With the change in the shift rules, having someone with range and a strong arm and good instincts is going to be of added benefit in the middle infield. We think Elvis profiles that way,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Certainly going to be no doubt that he’s going to put the work in to make himself as good as possible at that position and look forward to get starting today.”

The 34-year-old Andrus finished last season with Chicago, hitting .271 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 43 games after he was cut by Oakland.

He was signed by the White Sox after Tim Anderson had surgery for a torn ligament in his left middle finger, but the All-Star shortstop is healthy again.

HARRIS TALKS TIGERS

Scott Harris, who was hired last September as Detroit’s president of baseball operations, spoke at spring training, saying it’s the team’s responsibility to convince prospective free agents of its appeal.

“Each year that we are pursuing new players, we’ve got to make a very compelling pitch to them as to why they should be Tigers,” he said.

As for whether he’s noticed any impediments to attracting new talent – in terms of money or anything else –- it’s hard to say.

“It’s never easy to tell what the final decision-making criteria is for a player,” Harris said. “They don’t tell you. When you are pursuing a free agent, at the end of it, they call you and say they want to be a Tiger or they call you and they say they’re going somewhere else.”

Detroit did sign left-hander Matthew Boyd and righty Michael Lorenzen to one-year deals.

“We identified two starters who we felt are getting better, who we felt could come here … and take sort of the next step in their development,” Harris said.

SIGNINGS

The Chicago Cubs added Michael Fulmer to their bullpen, finalizing a $4 million, one-year contract with the right-hander. Fulmer played for Detroit and Minnesota last season, going 5-6 with 3.39 ERA in a career-high 67 appearances. … RHP Chase Anderson agreed to a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Anderson had a 6.38 ERA over 24 innings last season for the Reds.

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AP Baseball Writers Jay Cohen and Noah Trister and AP freelance writer Ken Powtak contributed to this report.

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