PHOENIX (AP) — It’s hard to find much that can fluster Arizona rookie Corbin Carroll, the team’s soft-spoken speedster, who in his first postseason has been a whirlwind of stolen bases, solid defense, line drives and long homers.
“If you really want to see my adrenaline flowing, make me do, like, a public speech or something,” Carroll said, laughing.
It’s safe to say staring at about 50 reporters during a Division Series pregame news conference wasn’t Carroll’s favorite activity, but the 23-year-old outfielder is starting to get used to his transformation into baseball star.
“I think the exciting thing is we’re still getting better,” the NL Rookie of the Year favorite said. “Still adapting to this level. Still kind of going through the trials and tribulations and coming out the other side a better product. I think there’s a lot to be excited about.”
The surprising Diamondbacks, who at 84-78 squeezed into the playoffs as the final NL team at 84-78, will meet the Phillies in the NL Championship Series starting Monday in Philadelphia. Arizona is 5-0 in the postseason, sweeping Milwaukee in a best-of-three series and the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five.
Carroll has been a catalyst in many of those wins, batting .412 with two homers, six walks and two stolen bases.
D-backs closer Paul Sewald is used to being on a team with a young phenom. He was traded to the desert on July 31 from Seattle, where he watched 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez become one of the game’s best players as a 21-year-old.
“I don’t understand it — it took me four years to learn how to play in this league,” Sewald said. “I guess when you’re the 1% of the 1% in the major leagues, it’s just something special. It’s why those guys get paid a lot of money to be superstars.
“They’re just built different than the rest of us. Not to take away from Julio or Corbin’s work ethic — for both it’s off the charts — but some guys just have it. And they have it.”
The Diamondbacks recognized that “it” factor last year during Carroll’s 32-game cameo at the end of the season. He hit .260 with nine doubles, four homers and two stolen bases, showing general manager Mike Hazen all he needed to see before signing him to an $111 million, eight-year deal during spring training.
Arizona isn’t historically a big-spending team but never hesitated with Carroll. It was the most expensive contract in MLB history for a player who had less than 100 days service time and no experience in a foreign league.
Carroll was even better than expected, playing with a controlled recklessness that personified the team’s style. By midseason, the team was running “Embrace the Chaos” promos, and the Diamondbacks stole 166 bases, second to Cincinnati.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder isn’t physically imposing, but the ball jumps off his bat. He filled up box scores this season, batting .285 with 25 homers, 30 doubles, 10 triples, 76 RBIs, 116 runs scored and 54 stolen bases.
“He can do a lot of different things,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “I think it’s been fairly consistent throughout the year. The combination of speed, power. We had him out there at there at the All-Star game. He’s a true professional. Really respects the game. I really like this kid.”
Even so, walking through the D-backs clubhouse, you would never know Carroll is the team’s best player.
“I don’t think his teammates look at him as anything elite,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “They know each other so well — they’re like brothers. It’s awesome. Nobody places him on a pedestal. It’s his humility, and I think he exemplifies that every day.”
Carroll might be humble, but his teammates know they’re watching greatness. Merrill Kelly, a right-hander who turned 35 Saturday, said the team’s older pitches are happy they don’t have to pitch to him.
“I’m glad and honored to be on the same team with him, to be able to watch that,” Kelly said. “He just causes absolute chaos, not only in the batter’s box, but if he gets on, you know something good is going to happen.”
Bryce Harper gave the Phillies a brief scare when he hurt his funny bone in a collision at first base in Game 4. Harper clutched his surgically-repaired elbow and walked off with athletic trainers at the end of the eighth inning. He finished the game and said he was fine as he partied in the clubhouse.
Manager Rob Thomson said Saturday there were no issues with the two-time NL MVP.
“He’s in here today. He’s good to go,” Thomson said.
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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