Story determined to continue growth

January 28th, 2019

DENVER -- One of the major questions facing the Rockies in 2019 is: Will the real please stand up?

Following a historic beginning to his career, featuring six home runs in his first four games, the shortstop put together a strong rookie campaign, albeit cut short by injury. He regressed in his sophomore year, posting an 84 OPS+ and striking out a league-leading 191 times. Story bounced back with a strong second half last season, garnering some National League MVP consideration.

As he enters 2019, Story is on a mission: to make certain the '17 version of himself never returns.

"It's just a different mindset that I took from ['17] and it paid off for me," Story said. "It's kind of almost a reset every day. Not letting things build up on each other, whether it's good or bad. Just move on to the next thing. It's really to have an intent with everything I do."

Things built up in '17, all right. From July 24 to Aug. 22, Story struck out at least once in every game en route to a whopping 44 percent strikeout rate.

Story has learned what works for him by going through those growing pains. That much is evident in his numbers from last season. Where it wasn't evident -- and this goes for the entire Rockies offense -- was in the National League Division Series against the Brewers last October. Colorado's hitters combined to hit .146 in Milwaukee's three-game sweep. Story was 2-for-12 (.167) and struck out in half of his 12 plate appearances.

"I gave myself a couple weeks or whatever to get away from the game when the season was over, and then went back and watched it," Story said. "I watched it once thoroughly, just kind of watching it as a fan, how I watch other games on TV, seeing it with a very analytical eye. And then I just reviewed it, broke it down, and saw what I could have done better, what we could have done better."

Story worked on tweaking his swing after slumping over the first two months of the '18 season, and it began paying dividends immediately. But tweaking his swing has been a yearly activity for Story. The goal now is to be consistent enough to repeat the second half of '18 over an entire season.

"Every single thing in my routine has a lot of intent behind it, and no wasted time," Story said.

"I think that's the biggest thing I repeated the best last year, the thing I would attribute my success to."

Story, 26, wasted no time getting back in the cage this offseason. He took three weeks off before ramping things up again.

He has gone from rookie sensation to mediocrity to resurgent slugger. Now, he is more than that, becoming one of the pillars propping up Colorado's hopes of a third consecutive postseason berth in '19.

The most notable pillar is, of course, superstar third baseman . But Arenado's impending free agency and the Rockies' effort to sign him to an extension before then loom over the club as Spring Training nears.

Should Arenado leave, Story could become the leading candidate to be the face of the franchise, a star shortstop with what will at that time be two years of team control remaining. But that largely hinges on what happens in the season to come. Whatever the future holds, Story is eager to get back into a batter's box.

"It's hard for me to stay away from the game because I love doing it, so I'm always hitting a little earlier than most," Story said.