Story's meteoric arrival sure to have Coors Field rocking
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
DENVER -- The Rockies come home Friday after a blazing road start to their season has made them the talk of the Majors, thanks to a few key elements tilting their way:
• They've got a defense cluttered with Gold Gloves, giving their pitchers the confidence to throw strikes.
• They've got "de fence," the new 8-foot-9-inch addition to the bullpen fence in right field -- now standing at 16 feet, 6 inches -- that the Rockies hope keeps the ball from leaving the park as often as it has historically.
• And they've got a rookie shortstop whom no fence can contain -- a kid who's already had the Hall of Fame come knocking after he set a Major League record by hitting four home runs in his first three games.
"It's something special," Carlos Gonzalez said of Trevor Story's career-opening assault on the fences. "I've never seen anything like it before. I felt like every day was a new record. It's nice to see a teammate play the way he played in Arizona. Hopefully that's just the beginning."
Three games into his career, the 23-year-old is showing the potential to make Rockies fans ask, "Tulo who?" of his longtime predecessor at short, Troy Tulowitzki. He's pacing an always potent offense that collected 20 runs on 32 hits and a best-in-MLB 10 home runs through three games -- all on the road, and as teammate Nolan Arenado said, "All [Story's] hits are homers. It's pretty ridiculous."
Story's batting helmet and batting gloves are already on their way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I'm very superstitious," Story said of giving up the tools of the game that fueled his explosive debut. "I made an exception for this one. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. They asked for the bat, but I couldn't give up the bat. I decided [the helmet and gloves] would suffice."
To call his big league debut a surprise is probably an understatement, but as much as the Rockies have anticipated the arrival of their first-round Draft pick from 2011, they never expected this kind of splash.
"I hadn't been around him a whole lot," manager Walt Weiss said. "I saw him in instructional league here and there, and I got a glimpse of him last spring. He's really matured. He was very motivated this winter when he saw there was going to be an opportunity. ... He was turning a lot of heads with the way he was working this winter down at our complex. He came in very prepared, very ready for the challenge. That always gives you confidence when you feel like you're prepared, and he's played with confidence from Day 1 at Spring Training."
Some of that confidence comes from a comfort level of playing between a pair of Gold Glove Award winners in Arenado and DJ LeMahieu. Story's plus range at short gives the Rockies the potential for an unparalleled infield defense.
"I felt comfortable with him," Arenado said. "I got to Spring Training early, and we were taking ground balls together. We got situated with each other pretty quickly. I'm showing him what I can go for, what I like to go for, and he's showing me what he likes to go for. There's a communication that me and Tulo had that really helps us out that me and Story need to get down, too. Tulo's been a big communicator on defense. I don't know if Story has, but he's starting to now, because we need him to. He's the shortstop, and the shortstop is the leader of the defense. "
Add three-time Gold Glove winner Gonzalez to an outfield with Charlie Blackmon and new Rockie and two-time Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra, and it's easy to see why Friday's starting pitcher, Jordan Lyles, is so confident about pitching at Coors Field.
"Ever since I've been up here, and it's my third season now, defense, talentwise, we're at the top in baseball," Lyles said. "That's the first thing I notice. Obviously we can swing it, but defensively, infieldwise, it doesn't get much better."
The new heights of the outfield fence could serve as a "10th man" on the Rockies defense, turning homers into doubles and giving pitchers another chance to avoid the big inning.
"It's pretty tall, but I don't really hit balls that way anyway, so it doesn't really mess me up," Gonzalez said.
The extra elevation is more about messing up opponents, and Weiss welcomed another element to add to the park's mystique and intimidate visiting teams.
"That's what I've been preaching since I took over here," Weiss said of the added home-field advantage that will come as the team becomes comfortable with the unique play of the new fence. "I like that aspect of it."
Over the course of a 90-minute workout, the Rockies didn't obsess over the fences. But they did set their sights on a home opener against the Padres (2:10 p.m. MT) that will have them every bit as pumped as the fans welcoming them back to Blake Street and one of the game's most exciting ballparks.
"It's something that never gets old," Gonzalez said. "You get back home in front of the fans. You have a good ballpark, and the excitement -- it feels like it's the first time. I can't wait to get out there and play."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.