It was the best day of the spring. Not just because it was the best of the three days I have been in Arizona, but the affirmative chorus from coaches confirmed it to be true. About seventy degrees, a slight breeze, warm sun. Perfect. Plus, Jeff Francis looked better than a solid fifth starter.
He did get hit hard a little in the first two innings. Our old friend below is less than a second away from lining a pitch to the wall in left field. However, Francis retired the final seven he faced.
There is much more to come after the jump.
I arrived with mkorpal at Hi Corbett Field just after 10am local time, giving us three hours to spare before game time. We headed over to the practice fields, while I saw the following vehicle in the parking lot for the second year in a row.
I'm guessing our 2008 1st round pick owns a Chevy Avalanche.
At the minor league fields, I stumbled across jrockies. Former Rockie and current coach Trenidad Hubbard was giving infield fielding practice.
I didn't really see anyone I could immediately recognize. Soon, dozens of players in white pants cut across the minor league outfield. We soon realized practically the entire 40-man roster was heading to one practice field, quite a rarity.
Their apparent disregard for disrupting the minor league practice in favor of avoiding signature barrages(?) led one coach to yell something to the effect of "Hey you in the white pants! Get off our field! Half of you will be back on the minor league fields next week anyway!"
We followed the white pants.
There, I got an up close look at a bullpen session for Juan Nicasio and Jason Hammel, below.
Apparently, Jason Hammel doesn't like the Spring Training hats.
Bob Apodaca kept a close eye on Hammel's delivery despite his strong spring thus far.
Jim Wright, who seems to know a fair amount of Spanish, just finished trying to teach Nicasio a cut-fastball grip.
Nicasio threw the pitch wildly in the dirt, prompting him to say "No bueno. No mah cuttah. No mah." Or something to that effect. I guess Nicasio won't be the second coming of Mariano Rivera. Sigh. The fastball he feels comfortable with certainly does have some zip to it though.
After Nicasio and Hammel, Craig Baker (left) and Matt Reynolds (right) took their turns in front of Apodaca and Wright.
At one point, Baker asked Phillips if his fastball was sinking. After hearing an affirmative muffle through the facemask, Baker mumbled "Huh. That's weird" and got a different baseball. So wait....you're a Rockies pitcher and you are dismayed at a sinking fastball? I'm curious to know the thinking there...
It must be tough being a professional athlete trying to get anything done. You have to balance having an effective practice and getting things done with maintaining a positive rapport with fans. Even when you leave the ballpark to take a ...break...kids might want your autograph.
I did not stop Huston Street, though I did get a few autographs today. Below: (from left to right) Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler, Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge de la Rosa.
Good thing I got those five. My girlfriend wasn't going to let me come home if I didn't get specifically those five for her. Plus the Tulo scribble on her T-shirt.
Warm-up and Stretch
Jeff Francis and Todd Helton speak before working with their elastic bands. The ominous Jason Giambi approaches, perhaps to remove Francis' man card for being goofy, perhaps to beat the ever living daylights out of someone. Giambi scares me.
Okay, so Jason Giambi isn't a bad guy. Carlos Gonzalez came over to see what was up.
Then came time to play catch. Apparently, Todd Helton forgot his glove, so he began trying to bum one off of someone else on the forty man roster. He shouted for Hawpe to no avail. I believe a coach tossed him a glove from his bag, telling Todd to be careful, as it had only been used once. Even potential Hall-of-Famers space a pivotal piece of equipment for work. This makes me feel better.
Todd Helton's toss partner was Giambi (I'm sensing a theme here). That's 734 HR and 4005 hits playing catch right there.
It's All Fun and Games
As has been publicized, the team plays games and contests to make work fun. Here, the whole roster gathers around for a bunting drill.
Troy Tulowitzki was winning for quite a while until Taylor Buchholz (yes, really!) took the lead that lasted until the very end, when Chris Frey took home the bunt accuracy crown.
A couple high-profile Rockies pitchers watch the drill from the comfort of a bucket. I say Rafael Betancourt is unofficially heavier than Ubaldo Jimenez.
Lastly, during stretches, the team played "Duck, Duck, Goose." Seriously, I haven't played that since elementary school. No fair.
Todd Helton has no interest in chasing Chris Frey. Fortunately , Frey was smart enough to duck past Francis and Helton, "goosing" Jonathan Herrera, whom he soundly beat around the circle. The only high profile player picked was Huston Street, who didn't even bother to run after his prey.
I have some hilarious video footage of this game, including Michael McKenry lumbering away from Jhoulys Chacin and Alberto Alburquerque finding a way to cheat. Unfortunately, I didn't bring the right cable to Tucson, so I can't get the video off of my video camera, so you all will have to wait until I get back home and find (hopefully) that cable.
fiberindenver was there as well (though I didn't notice). He filled in some gaps via this comment, or he, mkorpal or jrockies are welcome to add anything as well.