CHICAGO -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado's range and creativity on a play to retire the Cubs' Kristopher Bryant on Thursday night left veteran observers stumped. Manager Bud Black had never seen a third baseman range so far left but still use his bare hand -- and no one else could recall a similar situation, either.
But Arenado, one of the best defensive hot cornermen in the game, saw the play many times before he executed it in the fourth inning of the Rockies' 4-1 victory. And the coaches as University of California at Irvine have been witnesses.
"I work on it in the offseason -- started working on that play at UCI, with the coaches there," Arenado said. "I work on different barehands. That's just how it goes. I wasn't surprised I made that play."
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Arenado and other #ASGWorthy players
Arenado, who has won the Gold Glove Award in each of his first four Major League seasons, chuckled about the fact that the play probably should have been shortstop Trevor Story.
"I just went for it," Arenado said. "At the end of the day, I probably should let Story have that ball."
But third base is more performance art than science for Arenado, and Wrigley Field was his stage at that moment.
It's hard not to note that the play was against Bryant, last year's National League MVP Award winner and the one whose presence on a successful team in a large market could mean Arenado is destined to finish second at third base on the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot. And Bryant smashed a home run to center field earlier in the game.
Arenado, 26, said he made the play out of joy for playing, not to prove anything. But Bryant brings out the best in him.
"When you step on the field, you know you're facing the Cubs and Kris Bryant won the MVP -- everyone knows who the MVP is," Arenado said. "But at the end of the day, I have a lot of respect for the way he plays, and he has respect for me. It's always fun to play against the Cubs because they're good players. It raises your game."
• The Rockies activated righty pitcher Adam Ottavino, a key setup man, from the 10-day disabled list Friday and optioned righty Carlos Estevez to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Estevez, 24, is capable of hitting 100 mph on his fastball, but he was used sparingly while filling in for Ottavino. The club continues to urge him to hone his delivery, with an eye toward making him an important part of the bullpen.
"I want his viewpoint in the present to be to work on the things we've talked about -- mechanical things, back leg drop and staying tall, solidifying the slider, fastball command, all that stuff," Black said. "But I want him to think big picture, where his career is going to be, what he means to us.
"He's going to help us this year. He's going to help us in years to come. He's a very bright prospect."
• Statistical analysts debate the value of batting average with runners in scoring position, but it's made a difference for the Rockies over the past 14 games. During a 2-5 stretch from May 25-31, they hit .212 (11-for-52); in winning six of seven going into Friday afternoon, they led the Majors at .317 with RISP.