Arenado welcomes homework from trusted tutor
Young Rox third baseman gaining research tips from Tulo, taking them to field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Called up to the Major Leagues late last April, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado had more access than ever to research tools. Now he wants to learn how to use them.
Arenado, going on pure talent and energy, batted .267 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. That production was nowhere near what Arenado did defensively, where he was the first National League rookie third baseman to earn a Rawlings Gold Glove. But imagine what he could do once he learns his swing and opposing pitchers' strategies.
That's why Arenado is spending the spring learning how and what to study. He's acing the tests so far. In Tuesday's 13-0 win over the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., Arenado went 3-for-3, hitting a single and triple off starting pitcher Travis Wood, coaxing a walk from Carlos Pimentel and belting a two-run homer off Hector Rondon. Arenado is hitting .455 in Cactus League play.
Part of Arenado's Spring Training preparation is spending time in front of the video monitor with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is explaining how he does homework that he carries into a game.
"Up here, we've got a lot of different things to look at. I'm trying to take advantage, try to learn, and 'Tulo' is teaching me that," Arenado said. "If it's going to help me play, I'm going to do it. This year it's going to help me, knowing the pitchers I faced last year.
"Watching it now, watching how they pitched me last year and trying to get a little read on what they do, maybe it'll help me out in the long run."
For someone with not much knowledge of the opponents and way more information at his hands than he was ready to digest, Arenado was not bad. With just 72 strikeouts in 486 at-bats as a first-time Major Leaguer, and no more than 58 strikeouts in any Minor League season, Arenado looks like a player who can produce more runs with just a little knowledge. That's how Tulowitzki sees it.
"I think he's going to be a big RBI guy, and he was in the Minor Leagues," Tulowitzki said. "If you look at his strikeout totals, they're not high. Anytime you have a young kid who's not striking out -- or anyone, they don't have to be a young kid -- they're going to be a high RBI guy."
Arenado has some of Tulowitzki's personality in the batter's box. There is little obsessing about swing mechanics, so their time with video isn't going to be spent stopping the action at various points to see where the hands were. Tulowitzki's focus is what the pitcher is doing, and he's passing that to Arenado.
"The thing I go to on film is certain pitches they go to in certain counts," Tulowitzki said. "At times you want to watch your swing, but I tend to stay away from watching video of my swing. I'm more of a feel guy. I'll feel something out in batting practice or in a game, and hopefully to confirm what I'm feeling, I'll see if it shows up on film, too.
"For the young guys, they're not sure how to watch film. They're not sure if they're watching their swing or the pitchers. So I'm giving guidelines. 'This is what I do, and if something like that helps you, you can apply it to your game.'"
Arenado, who turns 23 on April 16, believes he has folks to go to if he needs to focus on his swing. His father was a good sounding board for much of his life. Also, Kevin Riggs, manager at Double-A Tulsa, was Arenado's hitting coach at Class A Asheville in 2010, at Class A Advanced Modesto in 2011 and Tulsa in 2012. The two communicate often by phone and text, and Riggs can offer the correct little pointers.
More important than any of it, Arenado believes he has found the feel for the correct swing by staying solid over his back leg. At times last season, Arenado's weight would shift toward the front leg, which didn't give him the proper base for solid contact.
"I worked in the offseason, tried to stay on my back leg more and recognize pitches -- that's the way you're supposed to hit," he said. "Last year, I hit that way for a bit, but I also created a bad habit that got me out in front. I'm trying to get away from that. Right now it feels good.
"'Last year, I knew I was in front. That's what got me in trouble. But it was hard to break the habit. Knowing now that I need to finish on my back leg, it's easier to feel if I popped the ball up, 'Oh, I dipped.' As long as I'm turning my hips and staying back, I believe I'll be able to figure out things a little bit quicker."
Now that he has a good idea of himself, his next assignment is to learn the opponent.