Former Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt returns to Arizona during All-Star campaign

Apr 29, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) celebrates with third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Even in his third time returning to Chase Field, there’s always a sense of homecoming for Paul Goldschmidt.

The current St. Louis Cardinals first baseman spent 10 years with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization and still sees familiar faces around the stadium, even if most aren’t on the field anymore.

“I just like seeing people and all the relationships I built over the eight years I was here. Honestly, a lot of the players are gone, but a lot of the staff is still there, even just the employees you see behind the scenes. It’s great to get a chance to say hi, but once the game starts, it’s pretty normal and go out there and try to play well,” Goldschmidt said.

Goldschmidt has been playing more than just well this season. The 34-year-old is coming in from his first All-Star selection since he earned the honor in 2018 with the Diamondbacks.

His efforts have helped the Cardinals stay on top of the National League Central with career highs in batting average (.335), on-base percentage (.418), and slugging percentage (.627).

“Every year is different. I’ve played well, but I’ve still had my ups and downs. There’s still a long way to go and I try to take it day by day. I try to play well when I do and still try to enjoy it when I don’t,” Goldschmidt said. “Overall, just trying to do the same thing, prepare and play well and see what happens.”

While the Diamondbacks have changed the makeup of its roster tremendously since Goldschmidt’s final season in 2018, there are pieces of his former club in St. Louis. Turner Ward, who previously spent eight years as a hitting coach in the Diamondbacks organization, was reunited with Goldschmidt this season as the assistant hitting coach.

Goldschmidt got acquainted with one of the top prospects from Arizona when former Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor High School standout Nolan Gorman made his MLB debut with the Cardinals this season. Gorman watched Goldschmidt’s tenure with the Diamondbacks as a fan and was in attendance during the playoffs in 2017.

Gorman has played 68 games at second base and is hitting .247 with 13 home runs.

“I remember hearing his name when he was in high school getting drafted and he’s played great for us this year. He’s stepped in and he’s learned some different positions over his career. He’s done a great job and he’s learning, he’s a great player,” Goldschmidt said.

While younger players are clawing their way into the lineup, Goldschmidt is aware of the work needed to be put in to stay in the major leagues.

Even after 12 seasons in the major leagues, Goldschmidt has still found ways to reinvent his approach at the plate and remains one of the most consistent hitters in the league.

Given his abilities as a consistent player, he could prolong his career even more. But for him, going to 42 years old like his teammate, Albert Pujols, is something he doesn’t see in his future.

“What he’s doing is superhuman. That guy’s amazing. You see his stats, he’s passing Hall of Famers, he’s first ballot, if not unanimous Hall of Famer. He’s incredible. Even to do half of what he does is an amazing career,” Goldschmidt said.

Mental day

Manager Torey Lovullo said he was giving center fielder Alek Thomas a day off to regroup mentally on Friday, a day after Thomas went hitless in four at-bats and dropped a wind-aided fly ball in the outfield in San Francisco.

“Looks to me like he’s grinding,” Lovullo said. “He’s a young player. He’s learning and growing every single day. Sometimes you have to pull back and take your foot off the gas pedal.”

Thomas is just 2 for 27 with no walks and eight strikeouts over his past eight games. He has not hit well for the better part of the past two months, posting a .204/.247/.293 line over his past 166 plate appearances.

Lovullo said it appeared to him that Thomas has been trying to get out of his slump by being overly aggressive at the plate.

“Big league pitchers and game planners are super smart,” Lovullo said. “They’re not going to throw him a strike until he lays off of some of the balls. Those are going to be some reminders that I’m sure he’s heard today. It’s very hard for a young player. You go into the ‘try harder’ when you should be going to the ‘try easy’ and let your abilities get there. He’ll get there.”

Short hop

Second baseman Ketel Marte said he was going to test his left hamstring running the bases on Saturday and expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday. He is expected to serve as the designated hitter once he returns. Marte missed all four games of the Diamondbacks’ series in San Francisco, save for a pinch-hit appearance on Wednesday night.

Reach the reporter at jenna.ortiz@arizonarepublic.com or 602-647-4122. Follow her on Twitter @jennarortiz

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Paul Goldschmidt returns to Arizona during All-Star season