By Eric Christensen

DENVER (CBS4) – Optimism abounds for baseball fans at this time of year. New year, new team, high expectations. If the Rockies are to meet any lofty expectations, a fast start on their opening weekend would be a good place to start.

Jose Iglesias of the Colorado Rockies hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning of the MLB spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Here are 5 things to watch for at Coors Field this weekend as the Rockies host the Dodgers.

  1. Kris Bryant in purple pinstripes. The former NL MVP is now the face of the franchise after signing a 7-Year, $182 million deal this spring. Baseball is not a game where one player can lead you to the promised land but Bryant is a slugger who should be in the prime of his career.

    Kris Bryant (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

    Hitting at Coors Field should do nothing to diminish that, and maybe Bryant can be the leading man in a return of the Blake Street Bombers.

  2. A dominant 1-2 punch in the pitching staff. Unlike most seasons, the strength of this Rockies team might be the starting pitching. Kyle Freeland gets the nod on opening day while German Marquez will also take the hill this weekend vs. the Dodgers. Marquez and Freeland have shown the ability to be dominant pitchers — and if the Rockies are to compete in a stacked N.L. West, nothing less than a stellar 1-2 punch on the hill will get the job done.
  3. New and improved bullpen. The Rockies bullpen struggled last season. They compiled a 4.91 ERA (the 5th worst in all of baseball). This spring the Rockies signed Alex Colome to help fortify the back end of the staff. Colome led the American League in saves with 47 back in 2017. The veteran has the inside track to being the Rockies closer and told the Associated Press “I’m not afraid to pitch anywhere. All I need is a baseball.”
  4. Who will be the team’s designated hitter? All signs point to several players filling the role. The National League adopted the DH this spring. Expect to see players like Connor Joe, Charlie Blackmon, C.J. Cron and maybe Sam Hilliard share the role. Bud Black isn’t a huge fan of the DH but giving players like Cron and Blackmon days off in the field but still having them bat definitely has its benefits.
  5.  The Big, Bad Dodgers. Los Angeles is the betting favorite to win the N.L. West and the World Series. Even with the expanded playoffs this season, the Rockies path to the playoffs will begin with success in the division and against the Dodgers. Last year L.A. went 12-6 against Colorado, so a good start against the boys in blue would do wonders for the team’s confidence and ultimately its postseason aspirations.

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Eric Christensen