Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado knows normalcy is impossible -- but it sure looks normal when he swings.
Arenado’s two-run fourth-inning shot was one of three homers the Rockies hit while christening new Globe Life Field with a 5-1 exhibition victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
Besides, with exhibition games between the two clubs serving as the first action since Spring Training ended abruptly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the opener of a 60-game regular season starting Friday night, also between the Rangers and Rockies, what’s normal?
“I mean, 2020, man,” Arenado said. “There's no such thing. You know, whatever happens just happens, you know. Everything that's going on this year, you just roll with the flow.”
The Rockies sent three balls flowing over the fence, all against Rangers starter Kyle Gibson. Daniel Murphy led off the second with a pull shot to right that has been happening with regularity in Summer Camp. Arenado lined an outta-here-quick shot to left for a 3-0 lead, and David Dahl allayed any concerns about core muscle soreness that slowed him last week with his own two-run shot with one out in the fifth.
An interesting theme of Rockies Summer Camp this month was how quickly hitting caught up with pitching. That may be true, and Arenado appreciates it, but he warned not to read too much into Tuesday’s power show. Arenado felt good about his homer because he kept his balance in his legs and waited on Gibson’s changeup. But he noted that Gibson is working on his craft, as well.
“I feel pretty good, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think it's just staying ready during the whole quarantine,” Arenado said. “I was constantly working and talking to my coaches and my teammates, working on different things, getting on the machine and trying to be prepared as best I can.
“There’s nothing like facing, you know, another team and other big leaguers, big stadium. It's hard to replicate that.”
A moment of magic
Manager Bud Black noted the strange quality of leadoff hitter Dahl’s first two plate appearances. He opened the game by drawing a four-pitch walk, then Gibson dominated him on three pitches in the third inning. Next at-bat, Dahl won in a big way.
“David has that ability and that talent to look completely different from one at-bat to the next,” Black said. “To turn it around after that second at-bat and hit the homer in his third at-bat, that was really, really good to see.”
Add another starter/long reliever to the mix?
Two righty-starter types already named to the roster for fifth-starter or long-relief roles, Chi Chi González (three walks) and Jeff Hoffman (three hits), each threw two scoreless relief innings. But did righty Ashton Goudeau, who started, put himself in the conversation?
Goudeau, 27, a former Royals and Mariners farmhand, struck out two in two scoreless innings. The Rockies could have a bullpen opening to start the year if righty late reliever Scott Oberg (back tightness) has to begin the year on the injured list. Black has said all week the team will be deliberating between now and Thursday at 11 a.m. MT, when the Opening Day roster is due.
“The fastball-curve-change combo -- the three of those pitches gave him a good mix tonight,” Black said of Goudeau. “We really liked the change, and the curveball could be the nice equalizer of velocity of the 92 mph fastball.
“But he’s in the mix on a 30-man roster. He provides us length based on where our starting pitchers are as far as their pitch count.”
Goudeau, who admitted he “had to tell myself to slow down that first inning,” pitched increasingly well as Summer Camp in Denver progressed.
“I’ve been trying not to think too much about the roster, to be honest,” said Goudeau, who is on the 40-man Major League roster and eligible for big league action. “I’m trying to focus on what I’m doing as far as execution.”
Diehl's spot cemented?
Lefty Phillip Diehl debuted in the Majors last season with a 7.36 ERA in 10 appearances over three callups, but his scoreless final 5 1/3 innings over seven appearances (five strikeouts) have served as a springboard. Diehl, who turned 26 last Thursday, fanned 10 in five Cactus League innings. On Tuesday, he struck out two in a spotless ninth.
“It was Phillip throwing with confidence with his fastball, he had a good slider and a couple good changeups, too,” Black said.
Also, righty Daniel Bard, who made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster seven years after his last Major League appearance with the Red Sox, gave up a hit on one run and a walk in the seventh. His fastball twice reached 98 mph.