DENVER (AP)Fifteen years ago, ”Rocktober” was in full swing, with Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki and the rest of the Colorado Rockies marching toward their one and only World Series appearance.
Since then, Colorado’s made only three postseason appearances, and none over the last four years. The Rockies finished last in the NL West this season at 68-94 – closer to the bottom of the baseball standings (13 clear of Washington) than their division’s leader (43 in back of the Los Angeles Dodgers).
Still, general manager Bill Schmidt insisted this team isn’t that far off. A little more health and production out of slugger Kris Bryant, a little more home-run production on the road, a little more starting pitching and bullpen help, a little assistance from the farm system, and presto, they’re in the running.
”Hopefully we’re going to compete next year,” Schmidt said. ”That’s our expectation.”
In 2007, the Rockies reeled off one of the more improbable late-season runs and continued the streak all the way to the World Series before being swept by Boston. The season before that magical run, they were residing near the bottom of the division before bringing up a young shortstop named Tulowitzki, who would play a central role in the playoff chase.
Like then, this season’s version of the Rockies had an infusion of young talent. A glimpse of the future was on display last week in San Francisco when Colorado started six rookies: Sean Bouchard, Ryan Feltner, Elehuris Montero, Brian Serven, Michael Toglia and highly touted shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. That was the most rookies in a Rockies starting lineup in three years.
”I believe we have pieces here to be good,” Schmidt said. ”We still need some more.”
Colorado started off strong, moving to 16-11 on May 7. But that was the pinnacle, and they went 52-83 the rest of the way.
”We’ll sit back and let the dust settle,” manager Bud Black said, ”and then get to work.”
Losing Bryant after the All-Star break was one of the main reasons for the disappointing season. After signing a seven-year, $182 million deal in the offseason, Bryant dealt with back soreness and plantar fasciitis and didn’t play after July 31. He was held to five homers – none at Coors Field.
Tovar could be the face of the future. The shortstop went went 2 for 4 in his major league debut on Sept. 23. At 21 years, 53 days, he became the youngest position player to make his major league debut in franchise history. He finished with a .212 average, with his one homer arriving on the last day of the season.
”The depth that we’re building gives me a reason to be excited,” Schmidt said. ”The fans should be excited.”
The Rockies finished 27-54 on the road, hitting just 51 of their 149 homers away from Coors Field. It’s the second-fewest road homers in a full season behind the 2000 team, which hit 49.
Among the players set to be free agents are relievers Alex Colome (2-7, 5.74 ERA) and Carlos Estevez (4-4, 3.47), along with starter Chad Kuhl (6-11, 5.72) and shortstop Jose Iglesias (.292 batting average).
BOUCHARD’S BIG MONTH
Another name to keep an eye on is Bouchard, who became the eighth player in franchise history to record an on-base percentage of more than .500 in a single month (.508 in September). He joins Helton (seven times), Larry Walker (five), Jason Giambi, Jeffrey Hammonds, DJ LeMahieu, Ian Stewart and Mark Sweeney.
Schmidt believes in Black and the coaching staff. Black is 417-453 since taking over as the manager of the Rockies in 2017, and led Colorado to the postseason in 2017 and 2018.
”He’s very capable of doing it again,” Schmidt said.
THIS & THAT
The team signed left-hander Kyle Freeland (9-11, 4.53) and closer Daniel Bard (34 saves) to deals during the season. … The staff finished with a 5.07 ERA and lost Antonio Senzatela (3-7, 5.07) to a torn ACL in August. … German Marquez, a 2021 All-Star, wound up 9-13 with a 5.00 ERA. … First baseman C.J. Cron hit a team-leading 29 homers. … Infielder Brendan Rodgers hit .266 with 13 homers. … OF Charlie Blackmon landed on the injured list in late September with a torn meniscus in his left knee. … The preseason over/under total for Colorado was 68 1/2 wins.
AP Sports Writer Beth Harris contributed.
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