Tovar making a complete turnaround in Majors

May 8th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DENVER -- Through his first 19 games, Rockies rookie shortstop Ezequiel Tovar seemed headed nowhere fast, hitting .172 with 20 strikeouts in his first 64 at-bats.

But in the sense that it mattered, Tovar, 21, wasn’t going anywhere.

While the Rockies sent second-year man Elehuris Montero to Triple-A Albuquerque in late April, they made it clear that they were committed to Tovar making his adjustments at the highest level. The decision proved correct.

In his last 13 games, Tovar has batted .340 (16-for-47) with two home runs, five doubles and a triple and 11 RBIs. Playing against his model for a shortstop, the Mets’ Francisco Lindor, Tovar went 5-for-9 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs as the Rockies took the final two in a three-game set at Citi Field.

“Montero is a good friend; you hate to see someone go down like that,” Tovar said. “But from my mindset, I don’t really think about that sort of pressure. I try to do what I can, trust what I’m doing and have confidence doing so.”

There was concern that Tovar pressed early by being too aggressive in the batter’s box and not playing defense with the freedom that made him a top prospect in the first place. But manager Bud Black remained steadfast, and hitting coach Hensley Meulens and third-base coach Warren Schaeffer made sure communication was open, frequent and encouraging.

“As a young guy coming up here, the first thing is to stay up here and not go back down,” Meulens said. “That got him into a little trouble, chasing.”

Before improvement showed in numbers, it showed in action. 

“He’s moving better. I don’t know why, whether it’s freedom,” Black said during the Rockies’ last homestand.

This game-ending play on April 30 against the D-backs was an example. Not only was the play solid, but the body language was confident.

During Wednesday night’s 7-1 home victory over the Brewers, Tovar displayed muscle on a first-inning homer …

Then he showed flash on this spinning throw to retire Brian Anderson …

… before he went flying on this leaping grab of Rowdy Tellez’s ninth-inning line drive.

“That game, everything clicked,” Tovar said. “Moving forward, you want to take the best away from that game. Baseball is a game of failure. You’ve got to learn from the mistakes and continue to move forward, trusting the process. I think it’s going to turn out to be all right.”

More confident movements in the field have carried over to the batter’s box.

“He’s keeping upright in his posture, so he’s made some adjustments mechanically to allow him to hit the ball hard,” Meulens said. “He hit the ball at 108 [mph] on the home run [on Saturday], the double 104 [mph on Sunday].”