DENVER -- Connor Joe’s first four-hit day in the Majors ended in a futile slide into second base. For the third straight game, the Rockies ended their loss to the Guardians with a double-play grounder, this one hit by Brendan Rodgers.
Forgive anyone for thinking all the Rockies' games -- this one a 4-2 loss to the Guardians on Thursday afternoon at Coors Field -- end the same.
Well, for Joe, they must.
In his first full season in the Majors, Joe has learned that the rigors of being an everyday player demand consistency. On the field, he has responded with a .269/.360/.399 slash line that is quite workable from the leadoff position. But it’s the rest -- the preparation, the extra work and the recovery -- that Joe has embraced.
Much of it is simply laying eyes on one of his predecessors as Colorado's leadoff man, Charlie Blackmon (two hits and a walk Thursday, 5-for-14 in the series), a Rockie since 2011.
After the disappointing ending, Joe trudged off the field and headed for the weight room, which is Blackmon’s refuge and energy source. Celebrate a big win, lament a galling loss. This game qualified as the latter, given that Joe and Brian Serven had four hits apiece but the Rockies didn’t score with two on and no outs in the first, managed just one run after loading the bases with no outs in the seventh, and had two on and no outs in the ninth.
It didn’t matter. The day is not over until a trip to the weight room.
“I wouldn't say I copy his workout, but seeing him in there after every game, win or lose, has really influenced me positively and opened my eyes to a routine to keep you on the field, like he’s been on the field for the past 11 years,” Joe said. “Obviously, after a tough loss, that’s the last thing on your mind. But looking at the long term and the big picture, that’s what’s going to keep you on the field. It’s really important.”
Joe’s rise from a player who bounced through several organizations before gaining traction with the Rockies, and an inspiring return from a 2020 bout with testicular cancer, has made him a fan favorite. But the only way to maintain such status is to produce and stay on the field.
Simply producing consistently is no small task. Joe reached base in 35 straight games April 29-June 9, which tied for the seventh-longest streak in club history and was the longest since DJ LeMahieu’s 38-gamer in 2016.
But Joe was fighting his swing during much of it. He actually had a lower slugging percentage during the streak (.353) than before (.514). However, his strength -- pitch selection -- never wavered. He had a .371 on-base percentage during the run.
Joe was producing while figuring out the rigors of being an everyday player. He missed one game and had to curtail his off-field workouts because of a bout with a bug that was going around the clubhouse. Otherwise, there is a wear and tear on the body that is hard to see from the outside. There was a brief bout with hamstring soreness during the team’s first trip to San Francisco, but otherwise if Joe was hurting, no one noticed. He found a way to stay in the lineup and help the club.
One way in which Joe has mirrored Blackmon is moving his weight training to after the game, rather than before. He can go immediately into recovery after the lifts. He’s also using modern technology to aid his recovery when he leaves the park.
“It’s part of being a baseball player, being in this game professionally since 2014,” said Joe, a ‘14 first-round Draft pick of the Pirates. “Learning to play through, I’m not going to say injuries, but not feeling 100 percent. It’s very rarely going to be that you feel 100 percent every day. I’m leaning on the training staff and doing stuff for my body before bad things happen.
“We have great people in here with a lot of knowledge, and I’m learning to lean on them.”
Thursday lifted Joe to 6-for-11 for the series against the Guardians, and he believes the extra work he’s putting in can help him find another offensive surge. He expects the same for the team.
“Showing up every day, I feel I’m in a great spot to compete,” he said. “I can’t really speak for the future. But right now I am comfortable in the box, swinging the bat well and seeing the ball well.
“The results haven’t affected this team’s mentality, competitiveness and demeanor. We show up to the park every day. Everyone’s got everyone’s back.”