SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nolan Arenado’s presence is felt, but his absence is significant at Rockies Camp Talking Stick.
Among the few hundred scattered sun- and spring-worshippers at Salt River Fields for the Rox-Rangers exhibition earlier this week, two dozen wore jerseys with “28” and “Arenado’’ on the back. Two others sported “Tulowitzki” uniform tops, and a fellow in a “Galarraga’’ T-shirt lounged on the grassy slope.
Oddly lacking were any jerseys acknowledging current Rockies’ players.
No one wants to be shorted in a Trevor Story investment.
And, now, in another critical blow, the Rockies have lost starter Kyle Freeland until May, at least, with a shoulder strain; second baseman Brendan Rodgers, with a strained hamstring, is out for weeks.
The Ghost of Arenado Past haunts Talking Stick.
“I paid a lot for that (Arenado) jersey,’’ said Charlie (not one of the Monfort Brothers or a Rockies’ outfielder), between nacho bites in a seat behind the dugout. “I love him. I don’t even know who that guy on third is.’’
Who was on third was Colter Welker, a prized prospect. Although hitting .351, with a team-leading 10 RBIs in 23 Cactus League games, the 23-year-old Welker likely, and mistakenly, will open the season in Albuquerque.
The third baseman replacement for Arenado is Ryan McMahon, who was at second Thursday versus the Angels. He’s hitting. .239.
The Rangers game did include three Rockies’ All-Stars — Story, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl of the Rangers.
Dahl, a prized prospect previously, was dumped by the Rockies in the off-season because of “business,’’ meaning owner Dick Monfort and GM Jeff Bridich refused to pay $2.55 million he would have been rewarded in arbitration.
Monfort and Bridich were not seen sitting or standing in the languid ballpark, and requests to enter the club’s facility to talk to them were denied.
For the first time in the 10 years since the Rockies moved from Tucson to Scottsdale, Arenado wasn’t at camp, either. He’s 2,281 miles away in Jupiter, Fla.
Blackmon is the Last Man Standing from when Arenado first joined the big-league club in Arizona, and he’s hitting .147 among the cacti.
The Rockies and their scarce followers from home certainly miss the best third baseman in baseball, and Monfort also must miss the $50 million to be sent to St. Louis.
But Monfort may get $39.5 million back when he trades the contracts of Story and Blackmon sometime this season, leaving the Rockies with no salary higher than $7.8 million German Maquez earns.
Yet, the Rockies are not rebuilding, Bridich claimed in the media Zoom conference flop after the Arenado trade. And Monfort said seriously the Rockies have assembled a contending team.
The other NL West Division teams in the desert are guffawing over the Monfort-Bridich assessments.
The Rockies signed two more free agent first basemen in their never-ending search, traded for an outfielder who already has been sent down and four mysterious players, and fourth starter Austin Gomber, and brought in a couple of other fringe pitchers.
Gomber gave up four solo home runs in his latest start Thursday.
The remodeling Rox will be pretenders.
Which is one of the reasons a rather miniscule group was in attendance at the park. A major cause is the on-going pandemic, which limits gatherings to 2,200, but less than 25% of seats supported patrons. Two tickets must be purchased, costing an outlandish $160. People aren’t traveling from Colorado specifically for the Rockies, and the locals don’t care about the teams. (The Dodgers, the Cubs and the Diamondbacks sold out all their exhibitions).
Rockies fans are agitated that Arenado was dealt. Perhaps a boycott indeed is in effect.
With a victory over the Angels on Thursday and a week to go before the home opener against the Dodgers, the Rockies are tied for last in Major League Baseball, with an earned-run average of 6.11. What else is new?
The hard-Rox life just got worse.
A terrible turn occurred Wednesday when Freeland departed in the third inning with a damaged shoulder. Manager Bud Black said Thursday the positive was Kyle will not require surgery or be out the entire year. But his return date is unknown.
And there’s a gargantuan hole in the batting lineup and at third base.
Nolan is not here in Arizona and won’t be there in Denver.