SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the few days that pitchers have been working out at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, new Rockies manager Walt Weiss has concentrated on a few simple instructions and objectives. His next task will be to establish what he calls "clarity" on Sunday morning, during his first official meeting in front of the full squad.
Weiss admitted that he is putting intellectual and emotional energy into his talk. Weiss has been meeting individually with pitchers, but beyond chance meetings in the hallways or chatter around the batting cage, he has barely met many members of his team.
"I've been going over it for some time now," Weiss said. "There are some things I need to say, but at the same time you can't sit up there and talk, and talk, and talk. It gets a little bit diluted.
"I want to make sure the message is clear and they understand it. I don't think they expect me to stand up there and talk a whole lot, anyway."
Weiss has established with pitchers that groundballs are a must, and each must find his best way to force hitters to put the ball on the ground. Using athletic ability decisively -- yes, they'll have to be smart, but anything beats being tentative -- will be a theme dear to the club.
Of course, much went wrong in many areas last year as the Rockies went 64-98 -- the worst record in their history -- under Jim Tracy, who resigned in October. But to pound the players, many of whom experienced the year, on every bullet point would risk being too focused on the past, and Weiss and coaches have said too much specific instruction can be confusing. Weiss said the staff spent the winter whittling the priorities.
"We spent a lot of time together as a staff," Weiss said. "Everybody was in Nashville at the Winter Meetings. We talked about a lot of stuff, and got it all on the table there. We got to get together again in Denver a few weeks ago, and that was when we really fine-tuned some of the things we thought were really important to the club."
Weiss worked for the club as a special front-office assistant from 2002-08 before leaving for time with his family, so he worked with several current Rockies during their Minor League years. He lived in the Denver area and followed the club, but spent last year as head coach at Regis Jesuit High School, had no idea the Rockies job would open, and didn't look at the games from a manager's perspective.
To build credibility with the players, Weiss watched video, talked to trusted club personnel and studied key statistics. He admitted he had a better feel for position players at first, and had to play catch-up with the pitchers. Left-handed setup man Rex Brothers, however, was impressed with the degree of homework Weiss had done on him.
"He knew everything as far as what I needed to do, what I had done," Brothers said. "I felt very comfortable talking to him. He knew what I needed to do to improve.
"We talked that you are going to see a totally different me as far as consistency level, yet I'll still be competing. Most of the time, you'll know what you're going to get."