Wolters still adjusting to everyday grind

July 22nd, 2017

DENVER -- Rockies catcher Tony Wolters bolted from his crouch to barehand the weak roller from the Pirates' on Friday night. His throw -- balletic, if awkward in catcher's gear -- was reminiscent of his days as a middle infielder.

"You always want to make the cool play -- the kid inside of us comes out," Wolters said.

This season has been a study in Wolters maintaining the youthful spirit. But because he switched to catching in 2013 and made the Majors with the Rockies last year without having played in Triple-A, the Rockies want to have all the advantages of youth with none of the hindrances.

The Rockies are in position for a National League Wild Card -- even with as many as four rookies in the starting rotation, who most of the time are throwing to Wolters, 25. The Rockies also have , 36, a classic backup with advanced game-calling and leadership skills. Colorado is expected to monitor the catching market between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but playoff-tested catchers are tough to acquire.

Wolters, not in the lineup Sunday against the Pirates, made his 59th appearance -- matching his total for last season, when he unexpectedly made the Opening Day roster. Because of his flexibility and anticipation, Wolters, claimed from the Indians just before Spring Training, stuck as veteran Nick Hundley's backup in 2016.

But the demands as a No. 1 catcher -- he has 55 starts, with two regular-season months and possibly the playoffs to go, after 58 starts last year -- are greater. Wolters said he has made physical adjustments -- eating more carbs, varying his maintenance routine -- to deal with the grind. Wolters had a .301 batting average through June 13, but has hit .205 in 24 games since.

"The priority is catching -- blocking balls, throwing guys out -- and we're all going to have ups and downs offensively," he said. "But I keep telling myself I'm going to get out of it. I'm putting together good at-bats and it's going to come. No panic."

Add to that the arrival of former pitcher Bud Black as manager and bench coach and former catcher Mike Redmond -- with pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes working with catchers and pitchers -- and Wolters has more information to sift through.

"I don't want to speak for Tony, but it's more of a learning experience this year than last, and he's holding up OK," Black said. "He wants it; there are players who want the information, and he's very accepting of a lot of information. He's trying to process it."

Wolters is taking all the information as intended.

"It's my job to know what we should throw 3-0 in the sixth inning with a man on third in the sixth inning," Wolters said. "I need to know those things before they happen. I'm trying to learn the league, and I'm not learning for just this year but for my career."