DENVER — This, right here and now, is the best era of Rockies baseball yet. It comes at a cost.

Pain.

"It’s not too bad, for real,” Rockies superfan Diego Sanchez said from his home in El Paso. “After they get started on the tattoo it kind of all goes numb. You don’t feel it too much.”

Imagine what you love most in the world. Is your devotion profound enough to have its likeness inked into your skin? For our friend Diego and others like him, there's no love like Rockies love. He was born in 1993 — same as his beloved — and has stood with the purple pinstripes through thick and mostly thin.

The Rockies open Season No. 28 — Nolan's year, ahem — on Thursday at Miami. And if the Rox win 100 games or the National League West — "Either/or,” he confirmed — Diego is coming to Colorado to score a new tattoo on his right arm.

The tatt? Dinger.

“Probably on my arm. I want it to be visible, don’t want to hide it or anything,” Diego said.

Diego’s Dinger would add to a museum of body art. He has roughly 20 tatts, including a sleeve of good (an angel, probably Kyle Freeland) and evil (a skull, not Matt Kemp). Boy, does he want a pants-less dinosaur to top it off.

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“I think we can be better than last year. I really do. I think this team has what it takes,” said Diego, whose usual tattoo artist left El Paso for Denver a few years ago. “Last year we were good, just fell a little bit short in the playoffs. I think all these young guys are going to step up and step up big. (David) Dahl, (Ryan) McMahon. We have big hopes for the young guys.”

The Rox tied the stupid Dodgers atop the NL West last season. They tied the Twins, 5-5, to close spring training on Tuesday. Enough of the exhibition games. Time for the permanent stuff.

For the Rockies to triple down on their postseason steak and sink a chunk of cash into the local tattoo market, three things need to happen at the corner of 20th and Blake:

1. David Dahl must be a bat to be reckoned with. Here’s the easiest prediction of the season: if Dahl avoids injury and manages to stay healthy, the Rockies add another All-Star. That’s what is expected of the former No. 10 overall draft pick, who believes he’s in the best shape of his baseball career. "I mean, I guess we say that every year,” he acknowledged. Good. Honesty matters. Plus, every lineup needs a lefty swing so lovely it belongs on a Hallmark card — and Carlos Gonzalez is gone.

2. Find some relief. The Rockies spent $106 million to remake the bullpen prior to last season. So far it looks like a sucker bet. After seeing the Brewers’ collection of relievers roll through its lineup in a playoff series, Colorado must hope and pray the tandem of Jake McGee ($27 million) and Bryan Shaw ($27 million) performs better than it did a year ago. Nothing challenges the fortitude of a clubhouse more than a blown lead, and the Rockies need a whole lot more from Shaw, who’s coming off the worst ERA (5.93) of an otherwise steady career.

3. Hit the ball already. Count me in the crowd that digs the idea of $260-million man Nolan Arenado batting second in the lineup. (More at-bats for Arenado, more juicy pitches for leadoff man Chuck Blackmon, more, more, more.) While the Rockies mostly stood pat when it came to their lineup, the addition of Daniel Murphy should provide a big boost. Murphy led the National League in doubles in 2016 and 2017. His job is to fill in the gaps at Coors Field.

Can the Rockies make it three straight trips to the postseason?

“That is the goal, but it’s also the expectation now,” McMahon said.

Can they send Diego and friends back to the tattoo parlor?

“I would be pretty excited to get this one,” he said.

The Rockies last year won 91. (The Over-Under this year is 84.5.) Make mine 91 again.

Repeat the feat ... or go bigger, a Dinger for Diego.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

Sports columnist

Denver sports columnist for The Gazette

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