Rodgers gets big league lessons from Story
DENVER -- The words and support that Rockies rookie Brendan Rodgers receives from shortstop Trevor Story always arrive at the right time. The latest text was really needed.
The first was in November. Rodgers played just seven games last season before he was halted by a right shoulder injury and a left hamstring injury sustained while rehabbing the shoulder.
“He was saying, ‘Be ready, this is a big year for you,’ and little things hyping me up,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers, a native of the Orlando, Fla., area, flew to the Dallas area for offseason hitting with current Triple-A Albuquerque outfielder Sam Hilliard and Rangers outfielder David Dahl. Who joined the session but Story?
Another text came before Spring Training, with the fallout from the trade of third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals opening an infield spot for Rodgers. After finally overcoming the hamstring injury that cost him the first 44 games this year, Rodgers found himself staring at a low batting average but looking for positives. Then he looked at his phone.
“I wasn’t getting hits, but I felt in my eyes I was taking quality at-bats every game,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “And you’re not going to get a hit every game, but I’d just try to put together quality, consistent at-bats.
“He texted me out of nowhere. He said, ‘Hey, keep going. Your swing looks good. Your approach to everything -- your plan -- looks good.' That’s good to hear out of him.”
On June 5, in his 137th at-bat of a Major League career that began with an abbreviated 2019 (again, a right shoulder injury), Rodgers hit his first big league home run.
“It was two days before that [when] I got the text,” said a smiling Rodgers, who has homered twice more and has reached base safely in nine of his past 10 games going into Tuesday. “It was cool to communicate with him, and it comes a few days later.”
Since Arenado was traded in February, speculation has centered on Story -- a pending free agent at season’s end, so trade questions come up constantly. Rodgers was drafted as a shortstop and played the position while Story was out recently with an elbow injury. Now they have resumed being the middle infield combo, with Story at shortstop and Rodgers at second base.
It’s an interesting dynamic. And if there is a cynical way to characterize it, social media keyboardists will make music of it. But just maybe, that’s the way baseball players are. Certainly, that’s Story, who sets aside any Trade Deadline anxiety and says he likes the energy of teammates trying to make their mark.
An All-Star type needn’t withhold mentoring from a younger player.
Troy Tulowitzki could not have been certain he was going to be traded in 2015, and he certainly didn’t worry that Story would push him out of Colorado. Tulowitzki brought Story to his then-residence in Las Vegas, worked with him, scolded him in his tough-love way, but finished by letting him know his hard work would bring reward.
Story received his chance a full year later. No one had to tell Story to pass on the lessons.
“Trev took it upon himself, which was great,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I talked to Trevor a number of times this offseason. He had mentioned that he had talked to Brendan without any encouragement from me or any of the other coaches.”
Rodgers appreciates how Story has helped him. Rodgers arrived at his first Major League camp in 2018 not wanting to step on toes. He did the rookie tasks -- good-natured ones like singing on the bus and making sure the bus in the spring was stocked with water and postgame beer -- but limited his speech to answers, rather than statements. Rodgers is a relaxed fellow, he’s not socially outgoing -- and Story’s nature is quieter.
But as Rodgers watched and emulated, he learned to keep up with Story and the Major Leaguers in fielding drills. And this year, at a time when all signs pointed to the Rockies needing Rodgers, Story made sure Rodgers felt that way.
“That first Spring Training, you just want to fit in and have everyone like you,” Rodgers said. “Then you want to get out of your comfort zone, get to know guys and show them what kind of player you are.
“But especially the last year we've just grown with our communication on the infield, in the locker room and everything with hitting. He’s given me some really like really good tips on little things throughout the game that he’s gotten from DJ [LeMahieu, now with the Yankees], ‘Tulo’ [now a volunteer coach at the University of Texas]. It’s good to get those little things and take them into my hands.”
Should Rodgers reach stardom or at least a veteran’s role, can he add mentorship to his game?
Story has set an example.