Known for glove, Nolan Arenado improving at plate
DENVER (AP) Nolan Arenado is known for his hit-robbing glove at the hot corner.
And while that’s a nice reputation, the Colorado Rockies third baseman wants to be regarded as more of an all-around player.
So he sends Troy Tulowitzki batting practice video for evaluation, hangs around Carlos Gonzalez near the cage to pick up pointers and has hitting conversations with Justin Morneau in the cold tub.
The education of Arenado as a hitter is coming along quite well, with the second-year player off to a sizzling start at the plate. He’s in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak that’s elevated his average to .290 and his place in the batting order from the seventh spot to No. 2, where he should see even more fastballs.
”(This streak) has been cool,” said Arenado, whose team opens a three-game trip to Los Angeles on Friday with a chance to take over first place in the NL West. ”But I haven’t really put too much thought into it. I try to not put too much thought into it. I think I’ll get myself in trouble if I start doing that.”
Arenado had an impressive rookie campaign in 2013- in the field, especially, as he became just the second rookie third baseman to capture a Gold Glove. It was a season filled with one highlight-reel dive after another.
His favorite? Easy, that 5-2-3 double play he started last August at Miami with the bases loaded. He gobbled up a grounder near the line, threw around the baserunner to catcher Jordan Pacheco, who fired a strike to first.
His glove has been just as graceful this season. But his plate presence is what has teammates buzzing. During his current hitting streak, he’s batting .345 with five doubles, two homers and eight RBIs.
”He’s just more under control,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. ”Because Nolan’s always had the ability to hit.”
Tulowitzki is playing the role of mentor in Arenado’s development. Over the offseason, the slugging shortstop would receive videos from Arenado to check out. Tulowitzki would give him little tips on his stance.
Arenado took each instruction to heart.
”If he said I needed to do this or this, I’d work on it,” said Arenado, who hit .267 with 10 homers last season. ”It helps a lot, coming from a guy like that, one of the best players in the game. Just trying to learn and get better. He’s someone I’m very fortunate to know and he’s willing to help.”
The admiration is far from one-sided. Tulowitzki actually has a magazine cover featuring Arenado stuck to the wall near his locker.
”Nolan is just a kid that wants to get better,” Tulowitzki said. ”Anytime he has a chance where someone could help him improve I think he takes advantage of that.”
Gonzalez points out things all the time when they’re hitting before a game, like staying true to a routine.
”I like to do extra hitting. I like to hit a lot,” said the 23-year-old Arenado, who lives in Lake Forest, Calif., in the offseason. ”Cargo told me in spring training: `You don’t want to wear yourself out for the game. You want to feel strong going up there in a game.’ That’s something I’ve really taken into consideration.”
Arenado also breaks down pitchers with Morneau over ice baths.
”Little things that I’m trying to get better at,” said Arenado, a second-round selection in the 2009 draft. ”Justin’s gone through what I’ve gone through.”
The biggest thing Arenado is learning is simple – he can’t berate himself for bad at-bats. He’s trying to tone down his emotions – heavy emphasis on trying, because he’s just an excitable player.
”I was similar to him at a young age, and being a fierce competitor, sometimes wearing our emotions on our sleeve,” Tulowitzki said. ”I’ve toned it down over the years and it helped me become a better player. Once he gets that part of his game under control, I think he’s going to really take off.”
One thing’s for sure: Arenado is getting razzed less this season with the retirement of Todd Helton, who used to give Arenado good-natured grief.
”When I was struggling, Todd would bring up how I was struggling,” Arenado said. ”It was a way of making fun of me and trying to keep it light. Todd liked to keep things light.”
Arenado’s teammates still make fun of the way his dresses or how he combs his hair. Not that he minds.
”I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really good teammates,” Arenado said. ”Guys who are willing to help people out.”