Toglia riding the home/road roller coaster of a Rockies player

September 20th, 2022

DENVER -- Twenty days later, Michael Toglia received his true welcome to the Rockies -- the boom and bust of it, the home and road of it.

On Monday night at Coors Field, Toglia flushed an empty road trip against both Chicago teams by lashing two RBI triples and a single in the Rockies’ 10-7, 10-inning loss to the Giants.

The switch-hitting Toglia’s triples off Giants starter Jakob Junis went into each gap of his friendly home -- left-center in the second inning, right-center in the third. Toglia combined his solid swings with a spacious and difficult-to-cover outfield. Add in the way the ball carries in the Rocky Mountain atmosphere and you can see why the Rockies have high hopes for their 2018 top pick out of UCLA, considered by MLB Pipeline to be the club’s No. 14 prospect.

Toglia’s production came on a fun night for offense -- 31 hits (16 by the Rockies). Thairo Estrada’s three-run shot in the 10th came off debuting righty Gavin Hollowell -- who fanned his first two hitters of the inning after being called up from Double-A Hartford on Sunday.

“It was definitely a hit parade, and I'm glad I got to join it early,” said Toglia, one of six Rockies rookies who saw action. “It definitely didn't finish the way we wanted, which puts a damper on the whole night. There were some good takeaways all around.”

But Toglia, 24, also signed up for droughts like the last week, when he went 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts at Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field, confines both that were unfriendly to him. In fairness, the Rockies went 3-2 despite the offense, rather than because of it.

Toglia, of course, could have simply had a bad streak, which can happen anywhere.

But an MLB team has called Denver home since 1993, and almost all of its hitters deal with the difference between home and road. Pitches don’t travel the same at altitude as closer to sea level. And because 81 games are home and traveling in and out is a way of life, it’s a total misnomer to call one box of games “altitude” and the other “normal.” There is no normal.

True stars, though, which Toglia would love to be, find a way to deal with the dichotomy -- or at least embrace it. Toglia’s night, which also included a walk and a steal, increased his batting average from .190 to .226, and upped him to .296 with a 1.033 OPS at Coors.

“[Altitude] does make a difference, but you still have to bring it in -- you have to square up whatever the pitches are; you’ve still got to be elite at this level,” Toglia said. “When things are going wrong, I'm not being aggressive or convicted in my approach early. I got a little too passive. I wouldn’t have hit in Coors Field.”

Toglia is speaking a language the Rockies like.

As Toglia dealt with high strikeouts early at Hartford, Rockies Minor League instructors noticed him committing to taking pitches even before they were thrown. The strategy too often led to strikeouts. A more solid setup in the box and greater readiness to hit early in counts led to improvement that earned him promotions to Triple-A Albuquerque and the Majors.

But old habits crept in during the road trip. A day off on Sunday at Wrigley reset him long before returning to Coors rejuvenated him.

“He jumped on the first-pitch fastball that he saw today for the triple, then got a breaking ball in the middle of the zone and hit it in the gap, and a sharp, hard-hit ball off a really good pitcher in [Camilo] Doval, and a walk,” manager Bud Black said.

Maybe more than returning to a park he has quickly made his home, Toglia just needed to talk, listen and watch Sunday’s 4-3 Rockies victory at Wrigley.

“It was nice to sit back and watch the game from a different perspective,” Toglia said. “We talked about some approaches, and some of the adjustments this league forces you to make. I felt really good, enjoyed watching the game and got back out there and felt fresh again.”