JaVale McGee gets in some swings, says Suns are a 'team on my list' for return

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Diamondbacks had a special guest on the field for pregame batting practice — Phoenix Suns big man JaVale McGee, who took some cuts in the batting cage Friday afternoon.

McGee was able to make solid contact a couple of times. He was at the ballpark to promote his charity softball game June 22 at Chase Field, the sixth annual Juglife Foundation Water For Life Charity Softball Game.

The event benefits McGee's Juglife Foundation, which promotes a healthy and active lifestyle by encouraging everyone to drink more water. The foundation also builds water wells and hopes to build a sports complex in Uganda this year. McGee said.

"We're just doing a lot of things on that side of the world that people tend to forget about. Third World countries that really need our help. And that's just what we're passionate about," McGee said.

RELATED: Devin Booker, Chris Paul confirmed participants for JaVale McGee's JUGLIFE charity softball game

After hitting, McGee put on a glove and played catch on the side with the Diamondbacks' Jordan Luplow, who then took him to the outfield to shag balls during team batting practice. McGee caught a fly ball.

He later threw out the ceremonial first pitch just prior to the start the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game, off the mound.

McGee said he plans to hit home runs and play first base. He's glad to have the event in Phoenix and appreciates the support from Suns fans this season, even though things did not turn out how the team had hoped.

The Suns were knocked out of the Western Conference playoffs in the second round with a Game 7 loss at home to the Dallas Mavericks, who just got bounced from the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Several of McGee's Suns teammates, including Devin Booker and Chris Paul, are scheduled to attend the charity game. Tickets are now on sale at the Juglife website.

"I just want the fans to come out, just have fun and really enjoy the team. Because we had a great season, so just something other than basketball," McGee said. "It's a great experience. And every team I've done it with, it's been a great turnout, and everybody loves it."

McGee said early in his career, he participated in turkey drives and handed out Christmas presents, but felt he could really make a difference with the establishment of his foundation. He explained how his mother told him that philanthropy was important once he was in a place to be able to give back.

"When I really started my foundation, the enjoyment that I get out of seeing other people happy, helping other people and making their lives easier, is just tenfold," McGee said. "Nothing compares to it."

A pending free agent after playing on a one-year deal this season, the 34-year-old McGee was asked if a return to the Suns for him is possible. He said he will be "directly involved" in where he plays next season.

"Definitely a team on my list (the Suns) and I would love to be back," McGee said. "You know how the offseason goes. You never know what can happen. Trades, signings. But yeah, I'm definitely open to it."

Honing in

The Diamondbacks optioned right-hander Luis Frias after Thursday night’s game, sending the power-armed reliever back to Triple-A Reno with the hopes that he can refine his fastball command and development more consistency with his offspeed pitches.

Frias allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks in 2 ⅔ innings on Thursday night against the Dodgers. His inability to land his secondary pitches allowed Dodgers hitters to anticipate fastballs, four of which they hit with exit velocities of 96 mph or harder. Frias also struggled to keep the fastball on the edges of the zone.

“He’s got to find a way to manipulate the baseball and make secondary pitches land where they need to and continue to work on throwing his fastball where he needs to,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I think everything is contingent off of where you throw your fastball. Having command is very, very important at this level. This level of hitter will hit mistakes, and it doesn’t matter how hard it is.”

The Diamondbacks recalled left-hander Tyler Holton from Triple-A Reno. He logged a scoreless inning in St. Louis last month in his major league debut.

Short hops

*Shortstop prospect Jordan Lawlar, who is on the Low-A Visalia injured list with a back injury, underwent imaging on Thursday and visited with a team doctor on Friday, but farm director Josh Barfield said a full diagnosis has not yet been reached. “They want to do some more imaging, get more looks at this thing,” Barfield said. With the holiday weekend, Lawlar likely will not be evaluated again until Tuesday or Wednesday, Barfield said. The injury is being called “mid back soreness.”

*Diamondbacks bullpen coach Mike Fetters was not with the team on Thursday and remained away on Friday. Fetters appears to have entered COVID protocols, along with first-base coach Dave McKay, who has been out since Monday.

*Shortstop Nick Ahmed, who went on the COVID injured list last week in Los Angeles, is starting to rebuild strength and endurance following a bout with the virus. Lovullo said Ahmed resumed “light baseball activities” on Friday. “It was in a text exchange with him and he said he felt OK but was just a little fatigued,” Lovullo said.

*Right-hander Luke Weaver is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training game on Saturday, his second such appearance as he works his way back from an elbow injury.

*Catcher Carson Kelly (oblique) took batting practice in the cage for the first time since landing on the injured list almost three weeks ago.

*Right-hander Keynan Middleton threw a 21-pitch bullpen Friday. He has been on injured list since May 17 with elbow inflammation.

Nick Piecoro contributed to this report.

Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns' JaVale McGee talks charity softball game at Chase Field