SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The weight that Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy refuses to carry is that of his two-year, $24 million contract, especially after the first year didn’t go so well.
Sure, Murphy -- who will turn 35 on April 1 -- adhered to manager Bud Black’s suggestion to drop a few pounds, but that’s about as far as the “best shape of my career” cliché goes here. (Apologies for even going there.) There is no eating or exercise program that can address the burden of coming to a new team and not meeting expectations.
The 2020 Rockies need better than Murphy’s 2019 performance -- .279/.328/.452 slash line with 13 home runs. His first homer at Coors Field didn’t come until July 12 against the Reds.
“Anytime you have experiences to glean from and learn from, you learn from them,” Murphy said, “but you don't also carry it around your neck like an anchor, as well.”
The disappointments happened quickly. In the second game of the season while playing first base, which had never been his primary position, Murphy suffered a mallet fracture of his left index finger trying to field a grounder. He then missed 20 games.
One difference between this past winter and the previous one is Murphy entered the offseason healthy. He had right knee surgery after 2017, started 2018 late and was still affected during the offseason when he signed with the Rockies.
Defensively, having played second base, Murphy (with the confirmation of the analytics staff) played as far from the bag as any first baseman in the game. But there were balls he didn’t get to, and he wasn’t airtight on throws.
The physical differences are part of Murphy’s improvement plan, but so is modified positioning based on other infielders. According to Statcast's Outs Above Average metric, not only is second baseman Ryan McMahon strong going to his left, but so are third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story. So Murphy can play closer to the foul line and control a smaller area.
Whatever the strategies, Black believes a motivated Murphy can make them work.
“I know the pride of a player, and I’ve just seen it too often,” Black said. “Guys like this bounce back.”
Rodgers tries to goose the timeline
The picture-roster the Rockies distributed to the media lists infielder Brendan Rodgers, their top prospect and the No. 29 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, as being ticketed for the 60-day injured list to start the season. Rodgers, 23, suffered through right shoulder pain for much of his 25-game debut last season (.224/.272/.250) before undergoing a labrum repair surgery in July.
Black said Rodgers won’t be a factor at the Major League level until May, but Rodgers wants to push to shorten that. But if the Rockies place him on the 60-day IL, which technically hasn’t begun, it would make rushing for game action moot.
Rodgers said deep down he realizes the Rockies have his interest in mind, but nothing’s wrong with motivation.
“I don’t necessarily think they’re purposely holding me back, not giving me opportunity -- they want me to be ready and confident, and on the same page,” Rodgers said. “My main goal is to be honest with them, be honest with the trainers. And I feel really good so far.”
Not bragging, but there is some history
Non-roster righty Ubaldo Jiménez carries a distinction -- the only player on the team to have appeared in the Rockies’ only World Series. He started Game 2 of the 2007 sweep at the hands of the Red Sox and threw 91 pitches in 4 2/3 innings of a 2-1 loss. Even with a no-hitter and an All-Star Game start in 2010, Jiménez calls that game his career highlight.
“In 2007, it wasn’t about individual numbers,” said Jiménez, whose only remaining teammate from his first stint with the Rockies (2006-11) is outfielder Charlie Blackmon. “It was about the team stat. That’s what everyone plays for, to play as a team, go to the World Series and, hopefully, win it. Being that it was the first year, it’s something that I’ll never forget because I’ve never been back. I know how high it is now.”
• Former Rockies reliever Mike Dunn, who finished an 11-year career by making 28 appearances for the Rockies last season, has joined the team as a special instructor this spring.
• Righty Bryan Shaw was slated to miss the early part of camp because of a family situation, but he decided to show up Tuesday and receive updates from home.