Scottsdale, Ariz. -- The Colorado Rockies are halfway-and-one-game (a tie!) through spring training, which means the super-long month of kind-of-real baseball is now nearly over and the true, authentic thing will soon begin. Sweet. Since we're halfway, though, I thought now might be the perfect time to throw in some random observations from the last few weeks in camp.
In no particular order of importance, enjoy! (Also, if you've been around this spring, share your observations in the comments—I'd love to know what you're focused on, what you're seeing, who has impressed you, etc.)
Trevor Story is the story
This is a no-brainer if you've been watching him play. Pushed on by an already-vacant job at shortstop and a slew of options to fill it—some of whom have since been injured—Story is asserting himself beyond what most of us probably expected and seriously pushing for a job. We've covered that quite a bit. (His mom is pretty excited about it, too!)
One other Story observation: he's a big dude. All these players are big, of course, but Story is sneaky big, and it stood out to me the last few weeks. He's bigger standing next to you than you think he'd be by seeing him on television, even more so than most of the other guys in the clubhouse. Last week, I spoke with his host family from his time in Modesto on a separate story that will soon be published here, and they marveled at how hard he worked on his nutrition and in the weight room even back then. Clearly he's continued to do it, to say the least.
Tony Wolters wants to win
I can't say enough good things about catcher Tony Wolters, in Rockies camp fresh from his time with the Cleveland Indians. The guy is a 'gamer,' as they say, completely consumed with competition and winning, and it shows in his preparation and intensity both on and off the field. He's not going to break camp with the big league club, and there are a lot of catchers ahead of him on the depth chart—I'd guess he's sent to Double-A Hartford, having yet to conquer the level in his minor league career—but he's one to keep an eye on this summer.
With his unique skill set (a catcher who is very, very good in the middle infield!), if his bat ever comes around to even a league average or slightly below type of level, he could have a very, very good career as a utility man ahead of him, especially in the roster-crunched National League.
The team's aces look good
There's no point in pinning too serious a hope on them right now, considering they've combined to throw less than 15 innings, but Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis have been more than proficient early in camp, throwing strikes and generally working ahead of and aggressively towards hitters. There are miles between this and Opening Day—and, ya know, the entire season—but those two have to this point done exactly what they were supposed to do. That's always a good thing.
There are a lot of hard throwers in this organization
The league's average fastball velocity continues to steadily climb, but even with that held relative, the Rockies are certainly stockpiling power relief pitchers. It seems like every time you turn around in the big league clubhouse, or out on a minor league backfield, you run across one or two more. You can never have too much pitching, right?
Of course, there's more to pitching than just velocity—and at every level, especially the big leagues, this stockpile of arms must prove they can do more than just throw heat—but general manager Jeff Bridich appears to have had a specific bullpen goal over the last calendar year, and he's certainly gone about filling it out with options aplenty.
Minor league camp keeps it moving
After observing a few days the last couple weeks around minor league camp, it's being run in a fairly standard way (stretching, throwing, infield, drills, batting practice, intrasquads and/or games), but it's fast. Position players have very little down time shuttling field to field and station to station, and even pitchers—who by their nature are always going to have more time to stand around—are still on a very regimented path with side work and arm strengthening programs. Such is the point of minor league camp, one would hope, but it's good to see them getting after it, and most importantly (judging by their hustle and general demeanor), to see the players buying into the work.
Chris Rusin, David Hale and others on the mend
It's never fun to get injured in spring training—especially early—and for some, the spring injury has already cost them a year of their career. But for Rusin and Hale, the damage was very minor, and each is slowly returning to action. I caught up with Hale (hamstring) last week, and then on Thursday, he threw in a B-game at the complex and came away feeling good. I spoke with Rusin (finger) yesterday, too, and he indicated he'll soon be throwing a live batting practice session and is on track still to get the work he needs before the season begins. Boone Logan (elbow) also worked in a B-game on Thursday. More updates shortly.
Mental skills are at the forefront
Obviously, Tyler Matzek being sent home is one of the unfortunate storylines from early in Rockies camp, as is the club's hiring of a new mental skills coach. I caught up with minor league reliever Alec Kenilvort on Wednesday on the backfields, and he mentioned to me that the club uses mental skills coaches pretty consistently, even at the minor league level. With Matzek, whatever issues are happening are almost undoubtedly in some way psychologically-based or exacerbated; how he recovers (and how the Rockies impact that) are well worth watching over the next few weeks and months.