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Rookie Andrew Saalfrank’s reflections on 2023 success

Oct 30, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Andrew Saalfrank (57) pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers in game three of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In a postseason that contained many memorable pieces, Andrew Saalfrank’s performance down the stretch in 2023 was quite frankly overlooked.

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Saalfrank, who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2019 draft, made his major league debut in September of last year, positioning himself in the heat of an extremely tight Wild Card race.

In September, the rookie made 10 appearances, tossing 10.1 innings and only allowing two earned runs, both of which came in the same game. Primarily coming in during the 6th or 7th inning, Saalfrank quickly emerged as a centerpiece in the Diamondbacks bullpen.

Then, in the postseason, with just a little over 10 innings under his belt, Saalfrank looked like a full-blown veteran on the mound. No matter the situation, the big left-hander played a large role in turning the D-backs reliever rotation into one of, if not the best, bullpens in the 2023 postseason.

Seeing his role transform into more of a setup man, as he would come in to get the final one or two outs of an inning, Saalfrank almost perfectly transitioned into a master escape artist.

Besides a couple of hiccups that occurred against the Phillies in the NLCS, Saalfrank did not allow a run in nine different appearances; he also only allowed two hits during that time.

Keep in mind that he had only made his major league debut a little over a month prior.

After the postseason run, Andrew Saalfrank sat down on Hot Stove, where he reflected on the journey that 2023 was.

In this 9-minute interview, Saalfrank began by giving props to his manager, Torey Lovullo. In particular, Saalfrank pointed out the confidence that Lovullo influenced inside the clubhouse, allowing his team to not look at themselves as underdogs.

“First off, I don’t think you can pick a greater leader than what we have with Torey. Just a great human being, um, and I think, just for us, the confidence that we all had in each other that he had in us and every player from top to bottom, I don’t think we really ever saw ourselves as the underdogs going through it.”

Saalfrank described Torey as a “fearless leader.”

When asked how difficult it was to overcome Tommy John’s surgery and to go almost straight from the minor leagues to pitching on the biggest stage in baseball, Saalfrank responded, “I think when you’re away from the game, you know, for like a couple of years like I was, I think you’re itching so bad to get back that it helps you do the extra thing; you want to come back and have success, and you want to be able to make an impact wherever you are. So I think for me, not allowing any of the negatives to really get to me in any situation and just trying to find the positives and come out better on the end was like ultimately my goal.”

The Diamondbacks can take comfort in the fact that Saalfrank won’t enter arbitration until 2027 and won’t reach free agency until after the 2030 season, ensuring they are likely to retain him during the peak years of his career.

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