The Rockies' youth movement has begun -- quietly

June 12th, 2023

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DENVER -- The Rockies didn’t necessarily announce a youth movement this year, but the beginning stages of it have been evident throughout the season. It has mostly been playing out like it did on Sunday afternoon.

Much of the day was darkened by overcast skies, late-game rain and even a ninth-inning downpour. But maybe ’ walk-off homer that ended a seven-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over the Padres, after a ninth-inning rain delay, illuminated what has been going on in Colorado.

Here are the clear examples of the Rockies’ unannounced building program:

• When turning to youth, teams trust middle-of-the-diamond leadership to players such as 21-year-old rookie shortstop . As a result, the Rockies saw him take on a learning experience when his incomplete knowledge of a rule potentially cost the Rockies a run in during Saturday’s 3-2 loss. He had no idea he could have run as soon as the Padres’ Manny Machado began juggling this foul ball, instead of waiting until after the catch.

On Sunday, Tovar was not only back but batting second. Any thought of a hangover was gone when he cracked Blake Snell’s 1-0 changeup for a first-inning home run.

has manned another key middle position, playing center field since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on April 24. Because he provides some much-needed defensive range, Doyle has played regularly despite going 0-for-16 over five games through Sunday.

• The club addressed two of its pitching holes by signing veteran and moving from the bullpen to the rotation. Lamet struck out five in five innings on Sunday against the Padres, for whom he was a full-time starter from 2017-20.

The move showed commitment to second-year starter , and the Rockies will keep it going when he returns from a fractured skull.

Colorado also stuck with rookie through a rough period, and is now seeing results.

• With veteran struggling after early success as closer, the Rockies didn’t go to another veteran in . Instead, they set up the last two games against the Padres for righty , who was bouncing between the Majors and Albuquerque as recently as last year. Lawrence’s wild pitch that let in a run on Sunday merely set up the drama for ’s homer before the deluge and Jones’ heroic moment.

The aforementioned players -- along with reliever , who also spent time in Albuquerque last year and is now being trusted with leads -- have held key roles all year.

IL stints for (back), (right foot) and (right hand) have accelerated the pivot to youth.

Jones has played steadily since joining the club on May 26, and ’s training as a first baseman (after some poor work at third for the Rockies) was curtailed when of injuries forced him to be recalled and play mostly as a DH. Infielder homered in his Major League debut on Sunday.

But were those roles already planned for them? The Rockies gave Montero 64 at-bats in Spring Training, Jones got 52 and Montes had 48. , back in Albuquerque after struggling during his callup, had a whopping 75 at-bats in the Cactus League.

Colorado didn’t warn of youthful headaches when the season started, but the club will take those to solidify the future.

Doyle’s eight stolen bases and Jones’ four account for 46 percent of the team’s total. Not only that, but Doyle had a successful 98.1 mph throw to nab the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds at the plate in a road win on May 10.

Jones’ winning homer on Sunday traveled a projected 472 feet -- longer than any walk-off long ball since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

Should Jones continue producing, manager Bud Black may need to find lineup opportunities at first base and right field once Cron and Bryant, respectively, return.

Whether painful or encouraging, the pivot to youth is happening -- and may intensify if Trade Deadline moves clear room for prospects.