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News » 2009 Rockies Home Opener Tulo's spring swing Shortstop taking mature approach

2009 Rockies Home Opener Tulo's spring swing Shortstop taking mature approach

2009 Rockies Home Opener Tulo's spring swing Shortstop taking mature approach
The black Maserati GT didn't make it to Tucson for spring training this year. Troy Tulowitzki drove a 1968 Camaro instead.

It was fitting for a shortstop who, like his team, has gone from celebrity to humility to old school in the space of one year. In a back-to-basics spring, Tulowitzki rolled up his sleeves, growing as a clubhouse leader and maturing as a hitter.

The Rockies open their home season today at Coors Field, the first chance for a sellout crowd to see the purple-and-white wrapped Baseball gift left under the tree. Of all the things that have gone right in the first week - the performance of pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, taking a series from the Diamondbacks for the first time since 2007 - perhaps none is as encouraging for Rockies fans as Tulowitzki's start.

"You could see it happening over the last few weeks in games and in batting practice," teammate Garrett Atkins said. "He's in a good place right now."

When Tulowitzki steps in for the first time against Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels today, he will carry a .300 average. That number includes two statistics that hint at the type of season he's capable of producing. He has walked three times, all in Wednesday's win. He's never walked three times in a game in pro ball, or Little League for that matter. He has also blasted two home runs. Last season, he didn't hit his second home run until June 29.

"He looks relaxed and confident," center fielder Ryan Spilborghs said.

As Tulo goes, often the Rockies follow. In 2007, he had the greatest rookie season by a shortstop, helping Colorado to its first-ever World Series. Last year, he hit .263 and missed significant time because of injuries.

"I really believe it has made me better," Tulowitzki said of his humbling season. "A lot of young players will go through something like that and never come out of it."

Unlike last April, when he was red-lining from the first swing, Tulowitzki is riding comfortably in third gear. This is no accident. Working relentlessly with hitting instructor Don Baylor during the spring, Tulowitzki made a critical adjustment in his offensive approach. In mid-March, even as his average sank, he worked on driving the ball back up the middle and to the opposite field. In batting practice, 90 percent of his hits are still going that way.

By waiting a fraction of a second longer, it has left him in a better position to react to what he sees. Both his home runs, for instance, came on hanging breaking balls.

"It's about going up there and not trying to do too much," Tulowitzki said. "I am letting the game come to me instead of trying to hit a home run every at-bat or get two hits in one at-bat, things that are impossible."

Baylor, in his first season working with Tulo, has been impressed. He has repeatedly referred to Tulowitzki as an all-star player.

"The thing I told him in the spring is that you are going to have 700 plate appearances. Don't worry about the numbers," Baylor said. "You have to trust yourself."

That part has been made easier by improved health. Tulowitzki suffered a torn left quadriceps last season. Now, he's stronger than ever, due in part to winter workouts that focused on improving his agility.

Any doubt about his health was removed when Tulowitzki went into the hole against the Diamondbacks earlier this week, showing more range than Verizon as he threw across his body and still nearly got the runner.

"It would have been better if he was out," Tulowitzki said.

Tulowitzki quickly steers any conversation about him to his team. The Rockies have started well, showing off a dynamic offense and a surprisingly strong rotation. Today, they get to show off the new look to their old support group.

"They are going to be out in force. It's nice to come back here after playing well," Tulo-

witzki said. "I favor Denver fans because they favor me. When you are winning, it's one of the best places to play."

Troy E. Renck: 303-954-1301 or


Springing forward

It's early, but Troy Tulowitzki is looking much more like his 2007 self through three games. A look at his April showing a year ago and his start this year.

Year ....Gms ....AB ....Avg. ....HR ....RBIs....

2008 ....26 ....105 .....152 ....1 ....11....

2009 ....3 ....10 .....300 ....2 ....2....

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 11, 2009

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