DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks open the season Friday afternoon at sold out Coors Field. Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound for the Rox. There’s plenty of optimism for the Rockies this season, and looking at their roster, it’s easy to see why.
There’s no doubt who their leader on the field is. Troy Tulowitzki has replaced Todd Helton as the face of the franchise. That means at times he tells his teammates things they don’t want to hear.
“I think obviously when you are labeled the leader and the fiery guy; I definitely want them to like me, but at the same time I want them to know that I mean business; things should be done the right way here,” Tulowitzki said.
One teammate that Tulowitzki gives an earful to is third baseman Ian Stewart. Nobody denies Stewart’s talent, but the Rockies believe it’s time for him to step up, and Tulowitzki has let him know it.
“The more that he’s been in the big leagues; he’s gotten more and more comfortable in that role and he’s definitely got to the point where he can kind of kick somebody in the rear and get them going if they need it,” Stewart said.
Carlos Gonzalez is a player who doesn’t need any extra motivation. The defending National League batting champ is already one of the best players in baseball. And Look out National League, he says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“Well, I think I can get better on every single thing. That’s why I’m working here every single day,” Gonzalez said. “If you think you know everything, you’re going to get stuck. I don’t want to get stuck. I want to keep reaching (higher) levels and just be the best that I can.”
Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are the Rockies “givens.” The team knows what they “can” and “will” do. So does Jimenez, who is the team’s undisputed ace.
Helton is coming off a season in which he looked every one of his 36 years of age. He’s looked good so far in spring training and will be given every chance to prove that he can be a productive contributor at the age of 37.
“You have previous history to go on. We had a surgery, I believe, in 2008 and everyone was wondering, ‘What’s going to happen? Have we seen the better days of Todd Helton; are they behind him?'” manager Jim Tracy said. “Yet the bounce back in 2009 was phenomenal.
“I’d say if there is one guy you had to pick in there and say, ‘Is this guy capable of bouncing back from not a Todd Helton-like year a year ago; he’s my guy.”
“It’s a 20-year-old’s game, it’s not an upper 30-year-old game, and I realize that and I realize I’ve got to make the right decisions that give me the best opportunity to go out there and compete in a long season,” Helton said.
The Rockies have the deepest starting pitching staff in team history and a bullpen that has succeeded before. They definitely need a bounce-back year from closer Huston Street.
As the season approaches, they are a team loaded with talent, but still has some question marks. They need Chris Ianetta to step up at catcher and they have to find a second baseman they can count on. But with a break or two, this team can win.
“I’m trying to get our mindset that, it’s not that I’d like to win a World Series, it’s I have to win a World Series; I want a ring,” outfielder Ryan Spilborghs said. “We’re lined up to compete, and not just compete for the division; we’re competing for what I hope for is a ring.”
The Rockies were right in the race last year until they went south on the final two weeks of the season. They’re betting that won’t happen again.