SAN DIEGO -- The advice for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado -- stay off the field and cut down pregame activity -- was solid. With an 0-of-18 slump, might as well relax, change the routine and, hopefully, Saturday night's game against the Padres would go better.And Arenado followed it, but it
SAN DIEGO -- The advice for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado -- stay off the field and cut down pregame activity -- was solid. With an 0-of-18 slump, might as well relax, change the routine and, hopefully, Saturday night's game against the Padres would go better.
And Arenado followed it, but it wasn't easy. Granted, he walked around the clubhouse as if he could barely contain his natural energy. He prepared his bats with vigor. But he realizes that sometimes -- with a pennant race raging and talk that he is some experts' favorite for National League Most Valuable Player honors buzzing through the TV if not in his ear -- it is OK to take a step back.
"Today is a no-BP day for me, to relax, kind of slow down -- plus after today, we've got a day game tomorrow, a day game Monday," Arenado said. "I've got to save some bullets and make sure my energy is there."
Arenado hasn't fired many blanks this season. He entered Saturday night at .300, even with the prolonged funk, with 31 home runs and 91 RBIs. But he was in such a rut that during Friday's 7-0 loss to the Padres, Arenado tried unsuccessfully to bunt for a hit -- something he has accomplished twice in his career. The slump comes at a time when the Rockies need to stay in the NL West race with the D-backs and the Dodgers.
But Arenado said it's nothing more than a slump. The playoff race and the MVP talk are welcome, not sources of pressure.
"It's flattering, and I appreciate it for people to talk about me, but I don't worry about it because we have so many games -- a month left," Arenado said. "You can't win an MVP in August. It doesn't really affect me.
"These games are very important, but we've been through this before. I don't think any of that stuff gets to us. The only thing that's getting to us is trying to do our job, and we feel like we're not doing it the way we can. It's frustrating."
Not far from Arenado's locker at Petco Park is someone who has dealt with more pennant races and the individual buzz -- Matthew Holliday, who finished second in the MVP race during the Rockies' magical 2007 season and dealt with slumps and surges while in constant postseason races with the Cardinals and Yankees.
"It's just reminding him that it's not all on him; we've got a lot of guys to help him and he doesn't have to feel the pressure on his shoulders to carry the team," said Holliday, who developed a relationship with Arenado over several seasons even though he didn't become a teammate until a little more than a week ago. "Just enjoy this.
"I know he grinds. He wears every at-bat, and that's a really good thing. But that's a balance: enjoy this, embrace it."
Arenado also has been playing through soreness in his right shoulder, which has been bothering him since early August and cost him a few days of playing time. But he isn't pinning his slump on the pain.
"Some days are better than some -- one day it feels good and the next it's sore. Just gotta battle that. I don't think it's hurting hitting," he said. "It doesn't help, but it's not hurting me."
The first wave of assistance
With rosters expanding Saturday (40 is the limit), the Rockies added five call-ups from Triple-A Albuquerque. The strategy was to aid the right-handed bench (outfielder Noel Cuevas, infielder Pat Valaika and catcher Tom Murphy) and the bullpen (right-hander Yency Almonte and left-hander Harrison Musgrave).
Dunn to be evaluated
Lefty reliever Mike Dunn, on the disabled list since July 7 with left A/C joint inflammation, reported more intense than normal soreness Saturday, a day after giving up one run on one hit and a walk for Albuquerque against Reno on Friday in his fourth game of his rehab assignment. The Rockies are hoping Dunn will be able to return during the final month, but that is on hold until doctors re-evaluate him on Monday, Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Butera joins Rockies
Andrew Butera, 35, who was acquired in a trade Friday with the Royals, hopes to help the Rockies with his experience -- especially in 2015, as a member of the World Series champion Royals.
"It's being able to slow everything down," Butera said. "A lot of guys, when you first get into that situation, your body gets excited. But also, it's knowing there's no greater feeling than recording that final out and spraying each other with champagne. It's what you play for, and once you've had it nothing else is acceptable."
The trade reunites Butera with Rockies closer Wade Davis, who closed out the 2015 World Series.
Butera's presence behind the plate allows Black to use Chris Iannetta, Tony Wolters and Murphy in offensive situations.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.