Rockies cleaned up messy defense with team meeting, attention to details



LOS ANGELES — The baseball was ugly and uncharacteristic of Rockies teams under manager Bud Black.

The Rockies have had their issues with poor pitching and lackluster offense since Black took over in 2017. Their defense, however, was usually solid.

Until this season, when errors of commission (bad throws, misplayed grounders), as well as errors of omission (not making the smart play), led to the Rockies owning the worst defense in the majors. At least statistically.

“I’ve got to admit I didn’t know what was going on, how it started happening,” said third baseman Ryan McMahon, whose 12 errors were tied with Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena for the most in the majors entering Wednesday’s games.

“I don’t want to say we weren’t locked in because that wasn’t it,” McMahon continued. “Now, we are just trying to slow things down and make sure we make the play. There’s been a lot of emphasis on that.”

After a team meeting in early June and extra pre-game fielding work, the Rockies started to turn things around. Still, they entered Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers with a major league-most 59 errors and had a .980 fielding percentage that was tied with Pittsburgh for the lowest in the majors.

But Colorado took the field at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday having not committed an error in 10 consecutive games — the sixth-longest errorless stretch in franchise history. In fact, it was the Rockies’ longest string of error-free games since an 11-game streak from Aug. 2-14, 2017.

The defensive turnaround was not instantaneous. The Rockies committed a season-high four errors in a 9-8 loss at Miami on June 21, but since that ugly game they made just one error through their next 13 games.

So what’s changed?

For one thing, the team meeting helped. It didn’t solve everything, but it set a better tone.

“There were strong points made, but I wouldn’t say it was tense,” McMahon said. “It was very businesslike. The message was, ‘We’re better than this and now it’s time to stop the errors.”

McMahon said he’s seen steady improvement.

“We’ve stressed fundamentals,” he said. “Instead of always hurrying up and trying to, ‘Go get ’em!’, now we’re just making sure that we make the play.”

Black credited the coaching staff, as well as the players. Infield coach Stu Cole, in particular, has spent extra time before games working on players’ skills.

Cole has a contraption he calls “The Little Red Machine” that spits out grounders from about 20 feet to players such as corner infielder Elehuris Montero and second baseman Brendan Rodgers. The plastic balls are similar to Whiffle Balls, though a bit heavier.



Source link