DENVER — Connor Joe is on a mission to show that his performance with Triple-A Albuquerque in July wasn’t a fluke.
Joe was called up to the Rockies for the third time this season Tuesday to replace Chris Owings, who went on the injured list with a mallet finger of the left thumb. With the Isotopes this month, Joe hit .327/.469/.653 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. In his first game back, he hit a home run, the first of his career, to dead center.
No one likes being optioned. But in this case, Joe said it may have benefited him. In his last stint with the Rockies, Joe started two of seven games, spending most of his time riding the bench instead of getting valuable playing time. But with the Isotopes, Joe knew he was going to get at least four or five at-bats every day.
“In the heat of things it's tough to hear that you are getting optioned down,” he said. “You take a step back and you look at the bigger picture. You change perspective and try to take the positives out of the situation. Is it easy to go down? No. Was it beneficial for me, was it what I needed? Most likely.”
He focused on his approach, wanting to be aggressive in every at-bat. He spent time in the outfield and at first base, trying to make himself versatile as possible. Joe is also the Rockies emergency catcher, as the team has only two on the 40-man roster. His biggest flaw, though, is inexperience. He made mistakes last time he was up, particularly on defense, that all boil down to not knowing what to do in key situations.
In Albuquerque, he was able to develop a routine, which helped him focus. Six-game series, a new addition to minor leagues this year, mean that he knows he’s going to have a day off to reset each week. He has an apartment there, which most importantly to Joe means he can cook his favorite breakfast daily: scrambled eggs with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and either chicken apple sausage or bacon.
“Some days I splurge and do some hash browns,” he said.
For lunch, he makes a protein, typically salmon, with rice and vegetables. His parents used to own a series of Chinese restaurants, first in Connecticut when his family immigrated to the U.S. and then in California when they made their way west. They passed their love of cooking to Joe, who spends his offseason trying new things in the kitchen or smoking meats on his grill.
In Denver, though, he stays in hotels and doesn’t have kitchen access. He’s tried out different breakfast places — he’s always on the hunt for a good breakfast burrito — and has his order down pat at Starbucks. It’s important to him to know that what he’s putting into his body is going to help performance.
With four players on the COVID list and others on the injured list, Joe is already getting a chance to show he can compete. He started in left field Tuesday night, and hit second in the lineup.
“There's some times when guys go down to the minor leagues just to play and to keep themselves fresh,” said acting manager Mike Redmond, who is filling in for Bud Black while he’s on the COVID list. “Connor's obviously a guy that we really like and you know he plays hard.”
Austin Gomber, who has been on the injured list with forearm tightness, is set to start Wednesday for the first time since June 20. He threw 62 pitches in a rehab start June 16 with Triple-A Albuquerque, and is expected to be able to go beyond that against the Mariners.
Robert Stephenson (upper back tightness) threw long toss. Jordan Sheffield (lat strain) is in the strengthening phase before he can start throwing.