SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler spent his offseason undergoing a physical transformation.
He worked out with teammates Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki along with a trainer for two months in Las Vegas. Fowler worked on his explosiveness, lifted weights more and ate healthier.
He enters spring training 13 pounds heavier than a year ago, but he also lost 4 percent of his body fat. He’s listed at 6 feet, 4 inches and 190 pounds.
“It was good to be with some teammates to challenge each other,” Fowler said. “It’ll help my explosiveness, my jumps, my durability, my endurance.”
Fowler’s added strength has made an impression on his manager.
“(He) looks better physically than he’s ever looked since he signed his name on a sheet of paper to become a professional player,” manager Jim Tracy said. “That’s leadership by example.”
Fowler, the Rockies’ leadoff hitter, is looking to carry a strong second half from 2011 into this season. After the All-Star break, he hit .288 with a .381 on-base percentage and stole 10 bases. Before the All-Star break, he batted .238 with a .340 on-base percentage and stole two bases.
Fowler, who turns 26 on March 22, said he just relaxed and made adjustments at the plate that allowed him to see the ball better.
After spending time on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, he was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on June 20 to work on his swing. He played 24 games in the minors before returning to the Rockies and producing a better second half.
“I believe things happen for a reason,” Fowler said. “My ability has always been there. It’s just a matter of clearing my head and going on from there.”
Despite the slow start to last season, Fowler tied a career high for batting average (.266) and set career highs for triples (15), RBIs (45) and runs (84) in his third full major league season.
“Just build on that and go on from there,” he said. “Ending the season, I was in a good place.”
After Fowler spent time in the minors in 2010 and 2011 while he struggled with his offense, Tracy hopes the outfielder can flourish in the big leagues the way he did late last season.
“Have we had to go back to the drawing board a little bit? A couple times – 2010 we went back, and went back again last year. Now hopefully school’s over and we can move forward and allow him to take what he’s physically done to himself and pick up where he left off,” Tracy said. “If all these things unfold in that matter, Dexter Fowler has a chance to have a pretty special season.”
One area where Fowler is dangerous is on the basepaths. While working out with Tulowitzki and Giambi in the offseason, Fowler honed his explosiveness by training with sleds. He stole a career-high 27 bases in 2009, but finished with just 13 in 2010 and 12 last season.
“I don’t really have a goal set, just trying to go out and get on base and make things happen,” he said. “(I’ll) definitely have more confidence on the basepaths.”
With a stronger, leaner Fowler, the Rockies are aiming to bounce back from their 73-89 record and fourth-place finish in the NL West last season. Fowler will likely top a lineup that includes Todd Helton, Tulowitzki and new addition Michael Cuddyer.
“In here, you couldn’t ask for better guys,” Fowler said. “These guys want to win, which is awesome. They’re working hard to do it.”
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