DENVER (AP) – Nolan Arenado spent some of his offseason kicking back on a beach in Mexico. A much-needed break to recharge and forget about yet another season that went south.
This is Arenado’s team now and the All-Star third baseman is ready to step up and become even more of a leader for Colorado. Not since 2010 have the Rockies turned in a winning record.
“We’re tired of losing. Guys are tired of losing in general. It gets old,” Arenado recently told the media at Rockies Fest. “Guys want to step up. Guys are getting better and the young guys are getting better. I think this team is going to be different than years past.”
It certainly will have a new look after Troy Tulowitzki – a fixture in the Mile High City for a decade – was traded last July to Toronto. Outfielder Corey Dickerson was dealt in January to Tampa Bay.
There’s also a big question mark looming over the status of shortstop Jose Reyes, who remains under investigation in accordance with the league’s new domestic violence policy. Reyes was arrested Oct. 31 at a resort in Hawaii and pleaded not guilty to a charge of abuse of a family or household member.
Turning this team around may rest with Arenado, who’s coming off a season in which he led the league with 130 RBIs. He’s vowed to be more of a clubhouse leader this season.
“There are going to be times when I’m going to need to let guys know how I feel and what we need to do,” Arenado said. “I’m going to voice my opinion.”
Here are some things to watch as manager Walt Weiss and the Rockies head into spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona:
BOLSTERED BULLPEN: General manager Jeff Bridich spent the offseason fine-tuning a bullpen that struggled a year ago. He brought in former closers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls and traded with the Rays for Jake McGee, a hard-throwing lefty who could emerge with the closer’s role.
“There’s no secret that the arsenal of arms we have needs to get stronger and bigger and better,” Bridich said. “We’ve set out to focus on this.”
THE START OF SOMETHING: The Rockies didn’t add a veteran starter in the offseason. Instead, they will rely on the likes of lefty Jorge De La Rosa and righty Chad Bettis. The team is hoping for a strong season from hard-throwing righty Jon Gray. Not only that, but bounce-back years from right-handers Tyler Chatwood (Tommy John surgery) and Jordan Lyles (toe).
SWIRLING RUMORS: Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has grown accustomed to his name surfacing in trade rumors. It’s been that way the last few years. If the Rockies get off to a slow start, no doubt he will be mentioned again near the trade deadline.
“Right now, my focus is on the same thing it’s always been: Training, trying to get better, trying to get stronger,” Gonzalez told the media at Rockies Fest. “I don’t really pay attention to what’s gonna happen tomorrow or what happened in the past.”
POWERFUL NL WEST: The division got a whole lot stronger, especially with Arizona making some major moves such as signing Zack Greinke. Colorado’s splashiest moves were addressing bullpen needs, along with bringing in Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra.
“It’ll be really tough to win the division,” Gonzalez said. “But we have time. We have enough players.”
WHO’S ON FIRST?: With Justin Morneau gone, the Rockies will more than likely platoon Reynolds and Ben Paulsen at first base. Reynolds also will spell Arenado at third and may even play some in the outfield. Reynolds believes he can be a 30-homer player again by hitting at Coors Field.
– By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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