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Fowler feeling no stress this spring

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Center fielder Dexter Fowler certainly isn't stressing now.

He didn't worry last spring, when he hit .149 in 21 games and was so out of sync that then-manager Jim Tracy often batted him eighth in the order -- instead of leadoff -- during the first part of the season. And although this year he arrived for Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick with a couple of reasons to be distracted, these distractions are actually positives.

First, Fowler is coming off a winter in which his name appeared in reports of possible trades. But the high price the Rockies asked showed Fowler how the team really felt, and he's still here.

Then there is the arbitration issue. Fowler has requested a salary of $5.15 million, and the Rockies have offered $4.25 million. A hearing could take place any time through Feb. 20, although the two sides could work out a contract of one year or more -- to eat up some, or most of the entire three years of arbitration he has remaining -- before then.

Hearings, during which both sides present their arguments and a panel chooses either the request or the offer, can be contentious, but Fowler is stepping back and appreciating the fact that either way, his payday will be a good one.

"I'm not really worrying about it -- I have a job," said a laughing Fowler, who doesn't have to report to camp until Saturday but was here on Sunday to star in one of the club's TV commercials. "Obviously, I want it resolved and over. I want to be able to go out and just go play."

Fowler finished the 2012 season much better than he started it -- a .300 batting average and career highs in several other categories. Confidence has come from these accomplishments.

The Rockies, under new manager Walt Weiss, certainly could use a better start from Fowler, who is a career .260 hitter before the All-Star break but a .282 hitter afterward. The difference in on-base percentage is slight -- .361 before the break, .366 after -- but the slow starts have included high strikeout counts and long dry spells. But after enduring demotions to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2010 and 2011, Fowler has learned to shorten his dry spells by staying on an even keel.

Fowler handled last year's poor spring and slow start -- which led to a stretch in which Tyler Colvin started in center -- with composure. He vowed to stay the same this spring, no matter what the numbers say.

"I'm not really worried about it, just trying to prepare for the season," he said.

When listening to offers for Fowler, the Rockies made it known that they needed a starting pitcher with experience, low walks and high ground balls, plus other Major League-ready talent and a young impact player. The goal was to end up with someone like outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who came from the Athletics as part of the package for Matt Holliday after the 2008 season. But the price was so steep, the Rockies never came close to a deal.

A conversation with Bill Geivett, senior vice president of Major League operations, further set Fowler's mind at ease.

"He said my name had been floating around, but I'd be the first to know if something happened," Fowler said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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