Arenado offers apology for not hustling on grounder
DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado circled the bases at a pace pleasing to manager Walt Weiss, his teammates and a Coors Field crowd of 44,611 on Saturday night.
A seventh-inning solo home run off Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke was the punctuation to Arenado's return after receiving a punitive benching for not running out a ground ball during Friday night's victory over the Pirates.
Arenado's Saturday started with an apology, mixed with a thank you, in an afternoon meeting with Weiss. It ended 3-for-5 with his eighth homer of the season, two RBIs, and two dazzling defensive plays.
"Obviously, it's hard to end on a day like yesterday," Arenado said. "It was nice to get back out there, but the most important thing is to help the team win. it was nice to win. The feeling of winning is so much better."
Weiss finished Friday night saying Arenado didn't meet his simple requirement -- "Play the game hard, play the game right." Saturday, Weiss was back to being quite fond of Arenado, who last year was the first National League rookie third baseman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award and this year had a club-record 28-game hit streak.
"We've all seen him do those things before, but it was real impressive tonight to see him go back out there and play the game that he did," Weiss said. "He's a special player. We all know that."
In the fourth inning on Friday, he jogged despairingly out of the batter's box on his fourth-inning ground ball to the mound. Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton fumbled the ball, but because Arenado didn't hustle immediately, he had time to retrieve it and throw in time to first base.
The act was out of frustration rather than defiance. Still, Weiss had to punish it, and Arenado understood.
"Honestly, I thanked Walt for it," Arenado before Saturday's game. "I said, 'I thank you for doing that. You were absolutely right. I messed up. I appreciate what you did.' There's a standard that he holds us to, and the only standard is he wants us to play hard. It's not that hard. That's something I need to do on a daily basis. I'm going to start doing that."
Arenado had struggled since returning this month from a broken left middle finger -- .206 with a .219 on-base percentage in 17 games going into Saturday. Arenado had similar incidents in the Minors, but club officials and coaches realized it was Arenado not channeling his competitive nature.
Weiss understood that as well. He likes Arenado's boyish energy. It was Arenado's idea for the Rockies to wear high-cuffed pants -- a fashion statement whose advent coincides with the team's three-game win streak. As long as the energy is channeled positively, Weiss has no qualms.
"He gets frustrated," Weiss said before the game. "He's got a burning desire to be great. That's what makes him who he is. At the same time, in a lot of instances our greatest strength is the thing that we battle.
"That's how it is with Nolan. That's what drives him, that desire and drive to be great. He practices with that intensity every day. It's just frustration that gets the best of him sometimes."