DENVER -- Rockies rookie Raimel Tapia puts the bat to his nose and face when he skims a pitch foul. Those who observe say the scent of leather, wood, pine and dirt -- set afire -- permeates the nose, taste buds and soul.However, Tapia insists he is not smelling the
DENVER -- Rockies rookie Raimel Tapia puts the bat to his nose and face when he skims a pitch foul. Those who observe say the scent of leather, wood, pine and dirt -- set afire -- permeates the nose, taste buds and soul.
However, Tapia insists he is not smelling the residue of being this close to success. But it's not because he doesn't want to seem weird. His reasoning isn't the norm.
"I talk to my bat. I go, 'Let's go. We can mash the next one,'" Tapia said in Spanish, with first-base coach Tony Diaz translating. "I've been doing it since I was 13 or 14, when I was in Little League. Whatever it was, metal bat, wood bat, broomstick, whatever I had in my hand.
"I think it helps me a lot. And I believe in it."
Gif: Tapia Smells Bat
Watch Tapia play, and his unapologetic communication with his bat falls in line with his daring approach to throws from right field and baserunning, as well as with his uncommon crouch with two strikes -- named "The Crab" by assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar, who worked with Tapia in the Minors. Of course he'd unapologetically talk about speaking to his bat.
Tapia, 23, is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Rockies' No. 3 prospect. He's been up and down between Triple-A Albuquerque and the Majors and is succeeding with his particular method and style. He started Saturday against the Dodgers for a second straight game with Carlos Gonzalez nursing a sore right shoulder, having gone 13-for-29 (.448) in his previous 10 games.
"I remember watching Max Scherzer pitch the other day and he was vocalizing something," Salazar said. "You could read some of the words and it wasn't PG. Personal conversation, internal conversation, is a good thing. Raimel is fun to watch. I love that he's different."
Same with the hitting approach.
"Is he on time? Does he see the ball well? Is his barrel in the zone an extended period of time," Salazar said of the Nationals' ace. "However he wants to do it is how he does it."
Tapia also has a strong left arm he doesn't mind using. In the second inning of Friday's 6-1 loss to the Dodgers, Tapia picked up Corey Seager's single and threw home -- on the fly, with no interest in a cutoff man -- that landed before Austin Barnes, who was trying to score from second. But the throw was off line and catcher Tom Murphy, unsure whether to move forward or back, tried a short-hop in foul ground but couldn't corral the ball.
"When you love what you do, you have fun," said Tapia, who added if he had it to do over again he would have hit Murphy in the chest. "I love what I do. I'm ready on defense to make a web gem every time. My at-bats, I take them very seriously, compete and have fun. Sometimes it doesn't go my way, but I enjoy the battle against the pitcher, against the runner."
• Righty Chad Bettis, who has yet to pitch this year as he undergoes chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer, is feeling so good that he's actually fretting about pitching issues.
"I finally can be frustrated with a bullpen from a mechanical standpoint, and not from a strength and stamina standpoint," Bettis said after Saturday's 30-pitch bullpen session, which consisted of 27 fastballs or changeups and three curves. "I wasn't too pleased that my stride got a little out of whack toward the last 10 pitches. But I passed the eye test and I can move up to 35 pitches next time."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.