Rox creatures of habit adapt to the times

July 31st, 2020

DENVER -- Rockies right fielder ’s baseball days have been clockwork and purposeful. He has taken comfort and seen tangible benefits from his pregame mental and physical preparation, his mealtimes and attention to nutrition, and even his often intense postgame weight training – after three or more hours on his feet in spikes.

But COVID-19 protocols mean some testing and limitations as to when, where and how long he can be in certain places. Blackmon, like many but maybe more than most, has never been one to break his routine for anyone. But there is something he loves more than adhering to his daily patterns.

“In exchange for being able to play baseball, which is way up here,” Blackmon said, extending his right hand above his head, “I’m willing to add some flexibility that I wouldn’t have otherwise tolerated in the past.

“So I’m looking at it as thankful for being able to play baseball and looking at it as an opportunity to overcome some new challenges.”

All players have a routine, or at least they should, given the frequency of games. The best -- Blackmon, being a four-time All-Star, qualifies -- find a way. There is built-in flexibility, forged by Minor League years of lengthy bus rides or the plane with the equipment being delayed, and weather always has been a consideration. But the basics of every day have been tweaked in an attempt of reducing the close personal contact that is believed to help transmit the coronavirus.

Rather than complain about changes forced upon them, players say it’s important to see a bigger picture.

“I don’t want to sit here and just whine about it, because there are a lot of worse things going on,” seven-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman said.

Shortstop , twice an All-Star, believes the disruption offers opportunity for self-improvement.

“The protocols are such that they don’t change your routine that much -- just little things here and there -- and that’s a credit to baseball for getting that right,” Story said. “I realized that I don't need to spend as much time at the field. I try to pride myself in being very intent with my time, always trying to do something to get ready for the game. But there’s only so much you can do. Maybe not spending as much time at the field has shown me that.”

The most difficult change for the players was one that had nothing to do with the pandemic and everything to do with trying to curb an epidemic of sign-stealing. Players can not retreat from the dugout during games and, as Arenado put it, do “homework, in a way, midgame,” to watch video of the opposing pitcher.

"I can't make any in-game adjustments based on video, which I was assured would not be the case,” Blackmon said. “And that has been taken away, which is really important to me.

"But at least I'm still playing baseball, and I keep things in perspective."

Let’s play seven -- and seven
Rockies manager Bud Black took a matter-of-fact stance on the agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association to make both games of doubleheaders seven innings, instead of nine.

“I understand the thought behind it,” Black said. “It works for both teams, right? There’s nobody at a disadvantage. So I’m for any suggestion that help get us through this. It’ll help a little it on the pitching side. You’re talking 14 innings instead of 18. In this season, it makes sense.”

Watchful eyes
The Rockies dotted Coors Field with cutouts of Hall of Famer and many key figures from the team’s past -- and one from the present who is on the minds of teammates.

“Walking into the stadium today, I was able to see them behind home plate -- all the cutouts,” said Denver native , a left-hander who will start Saturday against the Padres. “I was happy to see that they got [outfielder Ian] Desmond in there a few times, so that he can be in the stands supporting us while he is home with his family, doing his thing.

“It’s pretty cool to see. Vinny [Castilla] is out there. Todd [Helton] is in there, some true Rockies legends that will be there, in a way, supporting us.”

Oberg getting closer
Right-handed reliever , eligible to return from his lower back strain, said he threw a live batting practice session on Thursday and "recovered well" on Friday. He anticipates at least another live batting practice session.