Rockies’ Connor Joe seeks working balance as he battles slump


Connor Joe’s consistent ability to get on base, be it by hit or walk, made him the Rockies’ leadoff hitter for 82 games this season.

His smile, hustle, flair, and hair made him a fan favorite. The spontaneous chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!” still ring at Coors Field.

Just not as often.

As the Rockies enter the final quarter of their season, the outfielder/first baseman is fighting to dig out of a deep slump as he faces reduced playing time. But Joe, being Joe, continues preparing the way he always has — all out, all of the time.

“That’s what I know and that’s what’s gotten me to this point,” Joe said.

His nose-to-the-grindstone philosophy paid off Friday when he went 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk in Colorado’s 7-4 win over San Francisco. Manager Bud Black said Joe’s at-bats looked “crisper” and thought some bat speed had returned.

Joe entered that game hitting just .085 (4-for-47) since the All-Star break and had hit .139 (14-for-101) over his last 30 games since July 1. Joe’s homer was his first since June 7, at San Francisco, a drought of 169 at-bats.

Joe flashed a radiant grin as he circled the bases.

“It felt great,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard for a night like that, and I feel like it’s been getting better over the past week or so. I’m just getting back to myself; being aggressive and firing with my best swing.”

That’s what he was doing earlier this season. From the beginning of the season through the end of June, Joe slashed .277/.374/.399 in 69 games (67 starts). He mashed five homers, 12 doubles and three triples. He was a dynamo.

But as the season has worn on, Joe’s production has waned. Black believes fatigue is a factor.

“It’s been a long season for Connor,” Black said after Friday’s game. “This is really his first full go from spring training to mid-to-late August.”

Joe, who turned 30 last Tuesday, missed all of the 2020 season as he battled testicular cancer. Last season, he got his chance to show what he could do as he shuttled between the majors and Triple-A Albuquerque.

He appeared in 63 games with the Rockies and impressed, hitting .285 with eight homers. The first of those homers — his first as a big-leaguer — came on the anniversary of his learning he was cancer-free after undergoing surgery in March 2020 when he was in the Dodgers’ organization.

Joe, who’s been through so much already, refuses to use fatigue as an excuse.

“In my mind, I’d say no, that’s not the case,” he said. “As a ballplayer and a competitor, I don’t want to succumb to that and say I’m fatigued.

“But I will say it’s been different. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to. If I step back and look at it, the load was a lot less in the minors than in the major leagues. So, I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but Buddy could be on to something. Maybe he sees me not firing (at pitches) like I was.”

Black loves players who are all in, all the time. More than once he’s said, “I’m a big Connor Joe fan.” But Black also says that Joe could benefit from taking his workouts down a gear or two.

“I’d be in the camp that says that it’s OK to take a step back,” Black said. “Some guys are wired where ‘more is better.’ But in this sport, not so much. At least at times.

“But you’d still rather a player (who works) than a player who doesn’t. Connor is a worker.


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