DENVER (AP) — Manager Walt Weiss told rookie Trevor Story when he reported to spring training that he had a chance to win the starting shortstop job for the Colorado Rockies with veteran Jose Reyes on paid leave while facing legal issues.
Then, he sat back and wondered how the 23-year-old would handle his opportunity.
"You see young players go either way. Sometimes it’s too much for them at an early age," Weiss said. "Trevor went the other way. He elevated his game. I never saw the game get too fast for him in spring training. It’s nice when pressure brings out the best in people."
Nobody in major league history ever had a first week like Story did: a record seven home runs in his first six games, including homers in his first four starts.
"It has been fun so far," Story said Sunday after hitting a solo shot in Colorado’s 6-3 win over San Diego, giving him 12 RBIs and putting him on a ridiculous pace for 189 home runs and 324 RBIs this season.
OK, that won’t happen. But that’s the kind of start Story had in his first week in the majors, when just about every day he was doing something nobody had ever done in the history of the game.
Of the 27 players in the 500-homer club, Willie McCovey needed the fewest games — 18 — to reach seven home runs back in 1959, according to STATS.
Barry Bonds needed 38 games. Hank Aaron needed 49, Babe Ruth 68 and Alex Rodriguez 77.
Cooperstown already has Story’s helmet and batting gloves.
"They asked for the bat," Story said, "but I couldn’t give up the bat."
Story, who averaged 14 home runs in his five minor league seasons, has no explanation for his sizzling start other than he’s locked in at the plate, where he said, "I just clear my mind, compete with my eyes and react with my hands."
Story, who already has as many homers as Reyes hit in 116 games last season, isn’t your typical buffed slugger with the six-pack abs and bulging biceps.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound shortstop generates his tremendous bat speed and powerful punch at the plate with a strong core and technique honed in places like Modesto, California, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, since being selected 45th overall in the 2011 draft.
"He uses his lower half well. That’s usually where it comes from," Weiss said. "The guys that hit from the ground up tend to have more power, and that’s what he does very well. He’s a strong kid."
That’s also how he generates such speed with his throws to first, which are making Rockies fans start to forgive owner Dick Monfort for trading star Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto for a trio of pitching prospects last summer along with Reyes — who’s facing a possible suspension under baseball’s new domestic abuse policy.
"Really, anything you do athletically you do from the ground up, whether it’s hitting or fielding a groundball," Weiss said.
The two teammates who are raving the loudest about Story are Nolan Arenado, who plays next to him at third base and admires his glove work as much as anything, and Carlos Gonzales who hits behind him in the order and gets an up-close view of his swing.
"In spring training it surprised me how well he played right away, but I’m just kind of expecting it now," Arenado said. "He’s shown a lot of range. He has the ability to get a lot of balls. He’s not afraid to dive and get dirty, which is cool. And he plays hard, and that’s what you want from a shortstop."
Gonzalez said he’s thoroughly impressed by Story’s approach at the plate and his ability to turn on any pitch, saying, "it’s legendary what he’s doing."
"Whenever he gets a pitch around the strike zone he just hits it out of the ballpark," Gonzalez said. "So, hopefully he can continue to do that for the entire year and we’re going to see a special season."
Of course, he can’t keep up this pace. Pitchers will start to figure out some weaknesses. But this kind of introductory week can propel a rookie to a great season and maybe more.
"That’s a big boost for a player that just got called up to be playing the way he’s been playing," Gonzalez said. "That gives you a lot of confidence. And in this game confidence is No. 1. The more confident you feel out there, the more your ability is going to show and right now that’s his game."