– Love is not a word you hear often from coaches in any sport. Torey Lovullo uses it often.

The 51-year-old first-year manager of the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks has developed a symbiotic relationship with his players that's at the core of the team's strong start this year.

"I know that I want to be here for these guys," Lovullo said, "to listen to them, accept them, love them and, if they want it, advise them and do the best thing I possibly can for helping them be successful on the field."

So far, so good.

The Diamondbacks are 39-26, two games behind first-place Colorado in the NL West. They have been especially dominant at home, where they have won 11 of their past 12 games for an overall record of 26-9, best in the majors.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt said Lovullo deserves a big share of the credit.

"He does a great job of putting himself in the shoes of whoever he's talking to," Goldschmidt said. "When he talks to me, it's almost like he knows what I'm thinking."

Lovullo traces his communication skills to his late father, Sam, who produced the TV show "Hee Haw" for 25 years.