DENVER (AP) — Randal Grichuk already has deep thoughts about playing the outfield at cavernous Coors Field.
Namely, a little deeper the more beneficial for the Colorado Rockies centerfielder.
It’s an outfield reorientation for Grichuk and fellow Rockies newcomer Kris Bryant. Backing up a step or several becomes a necessity at the hitter-friendly park, given there’s so much ground to cover — and the ball carries so well in the thin air at a mile high.
“Give me a homestand or two,” said Grichuk, whose new team is off to a 4-1 start as the Rockies open a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Coors on Thursday. “I’ll be locked in.”
Part of the park’s trickiness has to do with its asymmetrical design. It’s 347 feet to left field, where Bryant will be patrolling. But the power alley in left-center juts out from 390 feet to 420 and goes to 415 in straightaway center.
There’s a spot in right-center that measures 424 feet before retreating back to 375 near the tall out-of-town scoreboard in right, where Coors Field veteran Charlie Blackmon plays. It’s 350 feet down the right-field line.
That’s a lot of dimensions.
“There’s always a quirk in every park that you’ve got to figure out,” explained Bryant, who’s facing his former team — the Cubs took him No. 2 overall in 2013 — this week. “Maybe the grass and how the ball snakes out there when it kind of dies on the ground. Just stuff I’m going to get used to.”
Grichuk found out firsthand the importance of playing deep in the season opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he tracked down a liner that carried and carried in the thin air toward the gap.
“I felt like I was running for days for that ball,” said Grichuk, who was acquired in late March from Toronto. “I felt like the wall was going to come up sooner rather than later.
“Luckily, I was able to make a play before getting to the wall. It just goes to show you there’s a lot of room to cover out there.”
He thought he was playing deep, too. The Rockies suggested him moving back even more. He prides himself on his ability to turn and track down hard hits — no matter where he’s positioned.
“I don’t want to be the guy that just looks good on paper because I play deep,” said Grichuk, who reached over the fence to rob Corey Seager of a 3-run homer Tuesday night in Texas. “I want to look good on paper because I play well, get good jumps, good reads and I’m able to play against the wall. I’m not really scared of the wall. So I’m not wanting to say, ‘Let me play deeper so I can see the wall, see the wall early and get there and feel it.’ I’m cool with running full speed and trying to make a play up against it.”
A casualty of playing deep at Coors has always been this — the blooper falling in.
It’s part of the territory and something the Rockies have learned to live with in order to prevent doubles and triples into the alleys.
“You’re going to get challenged every day,” said Rockies first-base coach Ron Gideon, who also works with the outfielders. “I really don’t know if you’re going to get settled in. You’ll be more comfortable, but there’s still going to be challenges out there.”
At Coors, centerfield is such a big responsibility that no matter the speedster out there, the Rockies need the corner outfielders to help cover the gaps.
A new twist was added Sunday — wind. Strong gusts made fielding even routine flies an adventure.
There was a floater hit at Bryant that appeared to knuckle on him. It glanced off his glove and dropped to the grass for a three-run error.
“Those guys are natural, instinctual baseball players,” Rockies manger Bud Black said. “So cutting the learning curve should be fairly quick for them.”
In Grichuk’s estimation, the toughest outfield spot in the majors is right field at Oracle Park in San Francisco.
“A lot of different moving parts in right with the padding, brick, chain-link fence, little nooks and crannies, that the ball can get caught into — or you can get caught into,” Grichuk said.
Bryant concurred. He played a handful of games in right for the Giants last season after he was acquired in a deal with the Cubs.
“There’s just so much that can go wrong out there,” Bryant said. “Wrigley Field, too, is tough.”
Gideon grinned. His answer to the most difficult place to play outfield would be much closer to home.
“It’s here,” Gideon said.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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