Thumb healed, Story aims to limit headfirst slides

Rockies shortstop had dream rookie season end early due to injury

Thumb healed, Story aims to limit headfirst slides

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second-year shortstop Trevor Story plans to slide feet first, since a headfirst slide was the beginning of a left thumb injury that halted his standout rookie season last July 30. But a plan is not a guarantee.

Story jammed the thumb into second base during a game against the Mets at Citi Field. In the bottom of that inning, he landed on the thumb while diving for a grounder. It required surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament. So, whether in the Cactus League or the regular season, at some point Story is going to be instinctive.

"That's one of my goals this year, to slide feet first every time," Story said, while chuckling. "But sometimes the game calls for a headfirst slide. It's one of those things I won't think about. It'll just happen. It's really not a big deal to me, not like I play it up in my mind."

Forgive Rockies fans if their minds replay Story walking off the field in pain. Story had hit a National League rookie shortstop-record 27 home runs and was on a 10-game stretch during which he hit .324 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. And the Rockies were 52-52 and four games out of an NL Wild Card.

Of course, Story's presence likely would not have pulled the Rockies into the postseason since the lack of bullpen depth would catch up with them. But it would have been nice to have Story for those final two months of a 75-87 finish.

Story exits with an injury

But the good news is Story has healed. Really, he was close to whole by season's end and was in the weight room at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick by Nov. 1 and not long after that in the batting cage.

With Story already in camp with all of the projected season-opening roster members and competitors for jobs -- even though the first full-squad workout isn't until Monday -- the thumb is not a worry as much as it's a metaphor. Story, 24, will continue learning when to be aggressive and when his nature may backfire.

Story led Major League rookies in home runs and tied for the lead in RBIs with 72. He tied a Major League rookie record for April homers with 10 (Jose Abreu of the White Sox, 2014) and matched the NL rookie record for pre-All-Star break homers (Cubs' Dave Kingman, 1972, and Cardinals' Albert Pujols, 2001) and slashed .272/.341/.567.

Story compiles memorable 2016

But he also finished with 130 strikeouts. Among NL players with at least 400 plate appearances, he fanned 31.3 percent of the time, second to the 32 percent by the Brewers' Chris Carter.

He has to balance putting more balls in play with continuing to hit for power.

"I was getting thrown into the fire right there, trying to survive and do the best I can," Story said. "In certain situations I learned that you don't have to be so aggressive. I'm playing the situational game and learning all the time."

Manager Bud Black said he wants Story to stick with an approach that's situational, not statistical

"If he doesn't hit seven homers in the first week, not all's lost," Black said. "He's a young player. He's still getting his feet down as a Major League player. Just continue to grow and his talent will show up in production."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.