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Fowler already a seasoned veteran at just 26

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)

(Eds: Adds details, quotes. )By JOSE M. ROMEROAssociated Press

Dexter Fowler is no longer the precocious prospect brimming with potential. At 26 and entering his fifth full season in the major leagues, the Colorado Rockies' center fielder is a seasoned veteran.

''I was walking in and I said `I feel old,''' Fowler said after a conditioning session this week at the club's spring training facilities. ''I've been in this organization since `04, so it's home.''

The Rockies have staked their present and near future on the lanky Fowler after avoiding arbitration and signing him to a two-year, $11.6 million contract earlier this month.

Fowler has always shown the potential to be an impact player but finally became a more effective and productive player in 2012 when he set career highs in hits, home runs, RBIs, batting average (.300) and on-base percentage (.389).

The Rockies certainly feel good about their investment following his breakout season, and the feeling is mutual. He's glad to be in purple and black for two more years with the organization he's been with since 2004.

''It's awesome and it's an awesome organization. This is home. This is what I know,'' Fowler said. ''I'm going to try to go out and build upon where I am now. I understand this is a business, but at the same time, you've been here your whole career coming up in the minor leagues, and you see these guys and this is what you know.''

New Rockies manager Walt Weiss has held individual meetings with his players since the outset of spring training and said of Fowler: ''He's a dynamic player. Skills across the board. Established himself as a very good player in this league last year. (We were) just talking about not settling and keep shooting for great because he's got that kind of ability.''

Weiss is trying to help his player take the next step. He brought in a guy who's had success at the major-league level as a leadoff man, original Rockies player Eric Young, to work on base-stealing and bunting with Fowler. Young arrived Monday and got right down to business on a back field with Fowler and others.

Weiss said Fowler's height and long legs could be what prevents him from stealing more bases. After swiping 27 as a rookie in 2009, Fowler was down to 12 the last two seasons.

''Maybe it's a little bit tougher with a guy that is that long to accelerate to steal bases, but he's shown he can steal bases,'' Weiss said. ''And we're going to give him the freedom to do that. He's got to get comfortable, get a feel for it, pick his spots. That's the next level for him, that's part of it.''

Fowler got stronger and worked on his speed in the offseason. He also experienced a major life moment: marriage. The Fowlers went to Paris for their honeymoon and did some more traveling.

There were also things going on around Fowler which he couldn't control. Several reports said the Rockies were shopping him to other clubs for a potential trade, although their high asking price showed they weren't really that motivated to move on without him.

''You can't take things too personally,'' Fowler said. ''The fortunate thing is that people want you and you have a job.''

Notes: Young isn't the only former Rockies great with the club in spring training. Aside from hitting coach Dante Bichette and special assistant Vinny Castilla, Weiss said he plans to bring former pitcher Pedro Astacio to camp for a couple of weeks. Astacio is one of the most successful pitchers in Rockies history. ''I love that stuff. I think it has a lot of value,'' Weiss said. ''Bringing guys back that have been here that have a connection to the organization that have been successful, there's nothing negative about that.''. Young will be with the team for a couple of weeks and possibly come back before spring training is over.

Tagged: Rockies, Eric Young, Dexter Fowler

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