Tulowitzki, Rockies hope to rebound in home opener
AP Sports Writer
DENVER – Troy Tulowitzki is known for his slick fielding and powerful swing.
Maybe not as known, and perhaps just as effective, is another virtue – his voice.
The 25-year-old shortstop’s words carry a lot of weight in the Colorado Rockies’ clubhouse thanks, of course, to his gritty play.
When Tulowitzki talks, teammates can’t help but listen.
After dropping two of three games in Milwaukee, Tulowitzki had a simple, yet succinct, message for his team: Relax.
He’s hoping something as simple as that does the trick.
For a team with lofty designs come October, this wasn’t exactly how the Rockies envisioned kicking off the season. Colorado’s defense was suspect, bullpen shaky and offense sporadic against the Brewers.
Sure, it’s just one series. But the ragged play in the field remains a very real concern. The Rockies led all teams in errors this spring, and committed four more against Milwaukee.
“Hopefully, everybody calms down,” Tulowitzki said. “The next series, I think, will be a little bit different.”
That could be the case.
After all, there’s no place quite like home, especially when it’s cavernous Coors Field. The Rockies will host the San Diego Padres in their home opener Friday.
Colorado went 51-30 in friendly confines last season, one of the better marks in club history. The Rockies would like nothing better than to repeat that success in 2010. The team averaged 5.7 runs a game at home last season, tops among NL teams.
“They (fans) were very, very good to us, and they’ve been very, very good to this organization, this team, for a long period of time,” manager Jim Tracy said when asked about the home opener.
Given the makeup of this roster – a strong starting lineup, a formidable rotation and a reliable bullpen – the Rockies are a trendy pick to win the NL West.
However, the Rockies embrace those high expectations, especially after reaching the World Series in 2007 and the postseason last year as the NL wild card.
“It’s different thinking you’re good, but we know we’re good,” Tulowitzki said. “We’ve done some good things around here. The confidence is there.”
That confidence is fueled by their self-assured shortstop, who’s coming off his finest season yet.
All it took was a tiny adjustment at the plate.
On the recommendation of Tracy, Tulowitzki altered his swing last year, standing more upright in the batter’s box. He proceeded to hit .297 with 32 homers and 92 RBIs.
“That definitely freed me up and enabled me to get to more pitches,” he explained.
Now if only Tulowitzki could cure his early season struggles at the plate. In years past, Tulowitzki hasn’t heated up until the weather turned warmer.
So far this season, he’s hitting .250 with no homers in 12 plate appearances.
Hardly Tulo-like numbers.
Then again, hardly enough time to read anything into it, either.
Coming into the season, Tulowitzki was considered among the pantheon of elite shortstops in the league, joining the likes of Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins, Florida’s Hanley Ramirez, the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter and the Mets’ Jose Reyes.
Does he consider himself in that class?
“That’s for everybody else to discuss,” Tulowitzki said. “I just put it out there and play as hard as I can on the field.”
That’s always been his mantra. That’s what makes him a respected leader in the clubhouse, a voice that carries some clout.
Truth is, he receives just as much fulfillment turning an inning-ending double play as producing at the plate.
More, in fact.
“Defensively, I take more pride,” said Tulowitzki, who trailed only Rollins in fielding percentage among NL shortstops last season. “But hopefully I’m one of those players that can bring a little bit of everything to the field.”
Tulowitzki kept his offseason low key on purpose, preferring to concentrate on all things baseball. His routine consisted of lifting, working out on the track, hitting in the cage and chatting about baseball with anyone who wanted to talk shop.
“All that stuff helps,” said Tulowitzki, who collaborated with Nike on a new cleat that he’s wearing this season. “Individually, to have a good year is special. But my main focus here is to win games and to win a World Series. That’s always in the back of my head.”
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins in Milwaukee contributed to this report.