SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As the Rockies' pitching staff makes the turn toward Opening Day, no player has his finger on the pulse of its progress more than veteran catcher Nick Hundley, and he likes what he sees.
In Hundley's second year with the club, the spring has been focused on making the rounds with each of the pitchers slated to be with the big club this year, just as it is any spring. With more familiarity than he could have had a year ago as a newcomer, Hundley says there has been a different energy for this camp.
"The work these guys have been putting in, the focus on improving has been tremendous," Hundley said Monday morning, an off-day from game activity for him. "As opposed to last year, the competition in here for spots is much higher, and you feel that. Competition is never a bad thing. It's always good to see young arms that are very, very talented pushing people. That's always a good thing."
Hundley has made it his mission to know what makes each of the pitchers in camp tick and to be there for each and every one of them. That's his primary job, and he takes that part seriously.
"That's always the focus, whether it's Spring Training or September," Hundley said. "You're always trying to learn and grow with these guys."
It's that approach that has Rockies manager Walt Weiss becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Hundley seemingly by the day.
Said Weiss: "I think Nick's been awesome since he's been here. He goes above and beyond in all aspects as a leader and a player."
On top of his work behind the plate, Weiss says Hundley has also stepped it up this spring at the plate. He said Hundley and hitting coach Blake Doyle have formed a "special bond," and it's showing up with an uptick in Hundley's approach at the plate.
But it's really about his work while wearing catcher's equipment that is most important, and the 32-year-old veteran of eight MLB seasons is doing everything he can to help improve the Rockies' pitching fortunes after Colorado ranked last in MLB in both ERA (5.04) and opponents' batting average (.283) in 2015. Hundley embraces the leadership role for a staff that has to be on top of its game for 162 games, but especially for those 81 at the elevation of Coors Field.
"You prepare, and as long as those guys know you have their best interest at heart and they know you're prepared, it's our job to put them in the best position possible to be successful," Hundley said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.