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An important lesson in player patience and development

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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Thus far in 2023, we have seen a tale of two different young players pan out in different ways. Ezequiel Tovar has a firm grasp on the starting shortstop position thanks to his defensive capabilities and the potential of his bat that is slowly coming along. The team has iterated that a demotion to Triple-A isn’t in the cards at the moment and that he is being given the chance to figure things out.

The same can’t be said for Elehuris Montero. He was given the keys to third base in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ shoulder injury but has struggled with his defense and the bat isn’t quite what they had hoped it would be. As a result, he was benched and eventually demoted to Triple-A where he will work on his defense at first base for the foreseeable future.

With all the talk of young players and the Rockies' current approach to them, I was reminded of how the Rockies handled a certain prospect in 2009 by the name of Carlos González.

May 29, 2009

May 29, 2009, was an impactful event in Rockies history. After posting a record of 18-28, the organization decided to shock the system and fired manager Clint Hurdle, the man who had led the Rockies to their first World Series just two years prior. In his place, they promoted bench coach Jim Tracy who wasn’t going to make wholesale changes but was committed to helping the team readjust and get back on course.

One of his most impactful moves was his commitment to Carlos González.

González had been a key piece of the Matt Holliday trade to the Oakland A’s. He didn’t stand out in spring training but was tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A Colorado Springs. In 48 games there, the 23-year-old was batting .339/.418/.630 with 10 home runs and 59 RBI. On June 5, 2009, CarGo was called up from Triple-A to join the Rockies and help a team that had been struggling.

As a unit, the Rockies had not been playing well save for a few players. One of those players was Ryan Spilborghs. By the time CarGo was called up, Spilly was batting .263/.328/.443 with 13 doubles, five home runs, and 25 RBI in 50 games. Unfortunately for Spilly, Tracy decided to start CarGo over him which didn’t sit well with Spilly at all.

“So CarGo starts in place of me and he’s pressing. He’s not doing well. And Jim Tracy would not take him out of the lineup.” Spilly recalled in Drew Goodman’s book If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Colorado Rockies Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box, Eventually... I talk to Tracy... ‘Hey I’m a starting outfielder with a lot of doubles... How did I lose my job?’”

Tracy responded that he would use Spilly in a “position that allows you to succeed.” Spilly began to detract from the team but continued to cheer on CarGo. He noted that CarGo was trying to hit a home run in every at-bat, but could see the talent was elite because of how the ball jumped off his bat and his elite defense.

July 4, 2009

CarGo struggled immensely in that first month. By July 4, CarGo was hitting .194 (13-for-67) with just one home run. Spilly, feeling fed up with the team, walked up to CarGo leading up to that point and told him, “If I’m going to watch you play and I’m feeling bad about myself, can you at least be good? Can you at least have fun? Just relax.”

CarGo went hitless in the game on July 4. While his teammates gathered in the tunnel to watch the fireworks display at Coors Field, he was in the batting cage trying to improve. He then heard a call from Tracy to come into his office. CarGo was worried he was going to be sent down, but it was quite the opposite.

Tracy instead instilled confidence in his young player, telling him that no matter what he did, CarGo was going to be the starting left fielder because of his defense. While the Rockies continued to win during the month of June, Tracy had been bombarded with continuous questions about how much longer could he keep playing González with how well the team was doing.

Getting perturbed and wanting to protect his players, Tracy responded to a writer “When I walk in this clubhouse every day, and I say to Mike Pontarelli, ‘Is González here,’ and if he says, yes, then I’m writing his name on the lineup card.’ He was brought here to the big leagues for a reason. He has to have some time to figure it out.”

Figure it out he did. After batting .202/.280/.333 with one home run in the first half, CarGo batted .320/.384/.608 with 12 home runs and 24 RBI in the second half, all while playing elite defense.

The lesson learned

We know that CarGo went on to do great things in his career with the Rockies. The moral of the story is that the team, and/or its manager, need to make a commitment to their young players when they play. Give them a chance to figure things out. Tovar is getting that chance but Montero, Nolan Jones, Michael Toglia, Brenton Doyle, Ryan Feltner, Noah Davis, and anyone else should also be awarded the same chance CarGo got. You never know who just might surprise you when they figure it out.


MLB All-30: The weirdest and wackiest random notes from each team’s media guide | The Athletic ($)

Media guides are always full of information and fun tidbits about the team. This is a fun read about the random things found in each team’s guide. If you’re wondering, the Rockies guide talks about a brief synopsis of Brent Suter’s children’s book he wrote.

‘Hit tool’: Sterlin Thompson rocketing through Colorado Rockies system | The Spokesman Review

Sterlin Thompson is enjoying a strong season in High-A Spokane and it seems like fate. Thompson was originally born in Longmont, CO before his family moved to Florida. His parents are big Rockies fans that still follow the team and if Sterlin continues to progress like he is, it won’t be too long before he takes his skill set to Coors Field in a few years.


On the Farm

Triple-A: Round Rock Express 4, Albuquerque Isotopes 3 F/11

Antonio Senzatela made his first rehab start, allowing one run on five hits in 3 13 innings and tallied four strikeouts and two walks. The game went to extra innings after Jonathan Morales hit a home run to tie the game late, but Nick Mears struggled with command in the eleventh and Round Rock ended up winning on a walk-off hit by pitch.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 5, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3 (Suspended due to rain)

Warming Bernabel had two RBI in the game as the Yard Goats scored five runs on five hits. However, with Zac Veen scheduled to lead off the fourth inning, the game was suspended due to rain.

High-A: Everett Aquasox 15, Spokane Indians 2

After two great starts, Gabriel Hughes was tagged for seven runs on six hits in four innings of work. He did have six strikeouts but issued four walks. Offensively, Braxton Fulford hit a home run as part of a two-hit game.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 5, San Jose Giants 1

Caleb Franzen was solid on the mound, allowing one run and scattering seven hits in six innings of work. EJ Andrews Jr. hit a home run as part of his two-hit game while Jake Snider also added a pair of hits.


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