DENVER -- Third baseman Nolan Arenado declared Tuesday afternoon that he accepts the pain in his sore left A/C joint the rest of the season, even with help from an anti-inflammatory injection. But his own poor performance or, most of all, the Rockies not making the eight-team National League playoffs?
After a largely homegrown team made postseason trips in 2017 and ’18, and after Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million contract before last season, and after the Rox started this year 11-3, a second straight season without reaching the playoffs would raise more questions than can be addressed in one Zoom session.
“No question -- eight teams make the playoffs,” Arenado said before going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk as the Rockies -- a game outside the National League playoff cutoff -- improved to 22-25.
“If we're not one of those eight teams, that's not a very good sign. Our goal is to get in the playoffs every year, but with eight teams, we’ve got to find a way to fight to get in.”
The A/C joint sits flat atop the shoulder. When it is compromised, it can pinch the muscles of the rotator cuff and inhibit baseball movements such as finishing a swing -- especially on high pitches -- or reaching across the body.
Arenado noted that he played through right (throwing) shoulder pain in 2018, and last year he fouled a pitch off his left big toe. With a longer season, he might have taken more time off. But, he added, “you don’t want to make excuses and you just try to find a way.” After he spoke, he displayed his best batting practice swing in at least a week and took grounders to test those painful movements.
This pain, like the others, will go away after rest and rehab. Not making the playoffs, though, will leave a mark.
Last year’s 71-91 collapse came as a bitter surprise for a team that had built solid starting pitching and had its usual strong lineup. Then rancor surfaced when Arenado went public in January with his feelings of disrespect from the front office. But since Spring Training, through Summer Camp and into this season, Arenado has sent no barbs.
Except when he looks in the mirror. Arenado carries an uncharacteristic slash line of .262/.316/.458.
“I haven’t been very good,” Arenado said. “You can say it. It’s fine. I’ll say it.”
But Arenado isn’t the only one in purple and black in pain, and he’s not the only one trying to put slumps behind him to save this season.
“I like where his head is at,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We want to make the playoffs. We haven't played great lately as a team. I do think that we can put something together if we play well, because I think we have pieces to do it. But we’ve got to do it, you know, in the clubhouse, in the dugout, between the lines -- all the places that are important to winning games.”
“The bottom of the order picked us up,” Black said. “That has to happen at times when the top part doesn't do their job. … It's going to take all of us.”
As any Rockies fan knows, Fuentes is Arenado’s cousin, so he has an understanding how the family member hurts. But he also understands that not climbing into the postseason hurts everyone.
“When Spring Training was canceled, everyone believed we were going to play, and we showed up at Coors ready to go,” Fuentes said. “Obviously, Nolan, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, they’ve been here the longest. But everyone here, whether you’re a rookie or you’re a vet, you want to be in the playoffs.”
The Rockies are shouldering this late-season load with Arenado.