STORY MAY BE THE PLAYER TO PUT ROCK­IES IN CON­TENTION

2007 Rock­ies had Troy Tu­low­itzki; 2017 could fea­ture Trevor Story

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

Trevor Story — the short­stop who is brim­ming with con­fi­dence as he en­ters his sec­ond big-league sea­son — could be the key to the Rock­ies’ suc­cess.

scotts­dale, ariz.» Trevor Story lis­tens pa­tiently to ques­tions about him­self. He takes time to an­swer, but is care­ful not to re­veal too much, care­ful not to sound like a brag­gart. Still, it’s clear that the Rock­ies’ young short­stop is stuffed with con­fi­dence as he en­ters his sec­ond ma­jor-league sea­son.

“I have put in a lot of work to be­come a good short­stop, and I think I’m go­ing to get even bet­ter,” Story said. “It’s all base­ball for me, all of the time. If you ask my fam­ily or my girl­friend, they get tired of me study­ing and work­ing out all the time. But that’s what I like to do. I like to find ways to get bet­ter.”

If that sounds like some­thing Troy Tu­low­itzki would say, you’re right.

“Tulo was like that and he taught me a lot, so that’s where I picked some of it up,” said Story, who, as an up-and-com­ing mi­nor-lea­guer used to work out dur­ing the off­sea­son at “Camp Tulo” in Las Ve­gas.

Af­ter six con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons, the Rock­ies be­lieve they are ready to emerge from the wilder­ness of me­di­ocrity and earn a play­off berth. To do that, they likely will need Story to pick up where he left off last year — when he mashed 27 home runs in just 97 games be­fore his dream rookie sea­son was cut short by a torn lig­a­ment in his left thumb.

Story, a chis­eled 6-foot-2 and 217

pounds, doesn’t have to be­come the next Tu­low­itzki, the great­est short­stop in fran­chise his­tory, but he is out to prove that 2016 was not a rookie aber­ra­tion.

It was 10 years ago, when the Rock­ies pulled off the miracle of Rock­to­ber and ad­vanced to the World Se­ries, that Tu­low­itzki be­came an im­me­di­ate star. The “Tulo Chant” re­ver­ber­ated through­out LoDo. He was a 6-3 and brash 22-year-old rookie who hit for power and made bal­letic jumps from deep in the hole while fir­ing the ball across the di­a­mond. He hit .291, blasted 24 homers and drove in 99 runs.

Ryan Spil­borghs, a for­mer Rock­ies out­fielder who played with Tu­low­itzki and now works as a Rock­ies an­a­lyst for Root Sports, said he “ab­so­lutely loves” Story’s size, ath­leti­cism and makeup, but he doesn’t like com­par­ing Story with Tu­low­itzki.

“I think it’s re­ally un­fair to put Tulo and Trevor in the same cat­e­gory,” said Spil­borghs, who re­mains close to Tu­low­itzki. “When Tulo’s ca­reer is done, he’ll have the best field­ing per­cent­age in the his­tory of short­stops. So, le­git­i­mately, Tulo’s prob­a­bly the best field­ing short­stop to prob­a­bly ever play, which is just a re­mark­able state­ment to make.

“And I think of­fen­sively, Tulo could fin­ish up with close to 300 home runs. All of that makes him a bor­der­line Hall of Famer, in my opin­ion.”

Tu­low­itzki, whom the Rock­ies traded in July 2015, now plays for Toronto, a World Se­ries con­tender.

The Rock­ies, and Story, still have a lot to prove. De­spite a stu­pen­dous start in which he hit 21 homers be­fore the all-star break, tied for most all time by a Na­tional League rookie (Dave King­man, 1972; and Al­bert Pu­jols, 2001), Story still has to es­tab­lish him­self for an en­tire sea­son. His team­mates are con­fi­dent he will.

“I think the way Trevor played last year, and the way he works so hard at his game, tells you he can,” sec­ond base­man DJ LeMahieu said. “I mean, there are a lot of records he would have bro­ken if he’d stayed healthy.”

First-year Rock­ies man­ager Bud Black an­tic­i­pates big things from his short­stop.

“When I first took this job, I had heard a lot about him, and all of that been val­i­dated,” Black said. “Tal­ented. I like the de­fense. I like the bat. I like the arm. There is a lot to like, but he’s still grow­ing as a player and there are things he will con­tinue to im­prove on.”

One of the things Story is striv­ing to do is cut down on his high num­ber of strike­outs. He whiffed on 31.3 per­cent of his at-bats last year, sec­ond among Na­tional League play­ers with 400 or more plate ap­pear­ances. De­pend­ing on whom you talk to, that’s ei­ther a ma­jor flaw or a mi­nor con­cern.

“The game and en­vi­ron­ment of base­ball has changed, so in my view, the strike­out doesn’t mat­ter as much to the play­ers now,” Spil­borghs said. “I think play­ers go in and try to get their best swing off. I would take my shot with Trevor mak­ing three swings rather than one good swing and then try­ing to put the ball in play.

“I do think you’re go­ing to see im­prove­ment with Trevor, as he gets to know the league, but I don’t think he’s ever go­ing to get be­low 25 per­cent on strike­outs.”

Black would like to see Story put the ball in play more.

“I can see a lit­tle bit of the ex­pan­sion of the strike zone, and that’s where the strike­outs come,” Black said. “So he’s got to scale back and get just a lit­tle bit bet­ter strike­out recog­ni­tion. But it doesn’t hap­pen overnight. But once that starts hap­pen­ing, it will make Trevor even more dan­ger­ous. Pitch­ers don’t want to walk guys, par­tic­u­larly with our lineup, so the pitch­ers will start to have to bring balls back over (the plate). Trevor has shown he can make pitch­ers pay for mis­takes.”

Story’s py­rotech­nics at the plate a year ago over­shad­owed his de­fense, but he com­mit­ted only 10 er­rors in 442 to­tal chances and his 4.72 range fac­tor would have topped all Na­tional League short­stops if he had enough chances.

“He’s ex­tremely ath­letic,” LeMahieu said. “He has a can­non for an arm and he gets to balls you don’t think he can get to. It’s hard to com­pare him to Tulo, but I think his de­fense gets over­looked a lit­tle bit. He’s spe­cial out there.”

Ask Story about com­par­isons to Tu­low­itzki and he arches an eye­brow. “I don’t like to do that,” he said. “I just want to be­come the best I can be.”

For the Rock­ies, that will be good enough.

“He’s ex­tremely ath­letic. He has a can­non for an arm and he gets to balls you don’t think he can get to. It’s hard to com­pare him to Tulo, but I think his de­fense gets over­looked a lit­tle bit. He’s spe­cial out there.” Rock­ies sec­ond base­man DJ LeMahieu, on short­stop Trevor Story

David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Trevor Story was on a power trip last year, when he hit 27 homers in just 97 games as a rookie short­stop with the Rock­ies.

Michael Reaves, The Den­ver Post

No. 27 on the Rock­ies’ ros­ter, short­stop Trevor Story, had a ter­rific rookie sea­son last year. He hit 27 homers and drove in 72 runs in just 97 games.

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