Rockies boost bullpen in effort to make it back to playoffs
DENVER — Nolan Arenado didn’t travel home with the team after the Colorado Rockies lost at Arizona in last October’s wild-card game.
He needed some time to himself, to reflect on a season in which the Rockies made it back to the postseason for the first time since 2009 only to have the run abruptly end with an 11-8 loss to the Diamondbacks.
The Gold Glove third baseman played some golf, went to a concert all by himself — Post Malone — and then made a vow to work even harder .
This from a player who hit 37 homers and drove in 130 runs a season ago.
“A little depression after that wild-card game,” Arenado said. “I was so upset. I wanted to play more baseball.
Colorado went 87-75 in manager Bud Black’s first season and was looking for a deeper playoff run.
“It hurt, but it can only make us better. I talked to some of the guys, and they still talk about it to this day. It’s like, ‘Dang, what happened? How did that game go crazy like that?” Arenado said. “That’s a good thing to have. It makes me hungrier. I can’t wait for spring training.”
Arenado and the Rockies will be trying to make back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time. The team hopes for bounce-back years from shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder/first baseman Ian Desmond, along with the more growth from a young rotation that featured four rookies who started 93 games. The Rockies spent to reshape their bullpen, which could be one of baseball’s best.
“It seems like it’s a group that fits well,” new closer Wade Davis said of the relievers. “I don’t think we’ll have any problems taking care of business, and helping the team win some ball games.”
Here are things to know as the Rockies report to spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona:
Colorado’s biggest offseason upgrades centered on the bullpen, where the team added Bryan Shaw ($27 million, three-year contract), Davis ($52 million, three-year deal) and brought back lefty Jake McGee ($27 million, three-year contract). In addition, the team added catcher Chris Iannetta, who’s in his second stint with Colorado.
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Outfielder David Dahl hit .315 with seven homers in 2016, but sat out all last season with a stress reaction in his rib. He could be a valuable addition should he be healthy.
“He’s swinging at 100 percent. He’s running. He’s throwing. He’s lifting weights,” Black said. “Right now there are no concerns, and medically everybody feels good about (Dahl).”
Another player to keep an eye on is outfielder Raimel Tapia, who batted .288 over 70 games in 2017.
Leadoff spot. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon is coming off a season in which he won the NL batting title with a .331 average. His 102 RBIs from the leadoff spot set a major league record, two more than Darin Erstad’s total with the Angels in 2000.
“We’re well positioned to play better than last year,” Blackmon said. “We have all the pieces that we need to be very competitive.”
Ryan McMahon could be their first baseman. He hit .374 with 14 homers and 56 RBIs with Triple-A Albuquerque last season. Desmond may also be an option. He came aboard a year ago to play the position, but was hurt early and shifted to the outfield with Mark Reynolds off to a fast start. Reynolds is a free agent and could be brought back. Pat Valaika may also be an option.
The NL West will be formidable once again given the Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off a World Series appearance and the San Francisco Giants revamped their lineup.
“Our division is arguably one of the best in baseball at this point,” said Arenado, whose team will feature a new scoreboard this season. “But it can only make you better. You have to beat the best to be the best, I guess.”