DENVER — The organizational upheaval that led to the departure of manager Jim Tracy could turn out to be a valuable lesson for the Rockies’ young overall roster, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said on Monday.
Tulowitzki was one of several veterans who missed significant time with injury — he didn’t play after May 30 due to a groin issue that required surgery. The Rockies finished with the worst record in their 20 seasons (64-98) while playing much of the year with a rookie-dominated lineup.
Tracy said repeatedly he liked the idea of combining that youth with the veterans expected to return healthy in 2013, but he left Sunday after discussions about the club’s direction. Many young players flourished with regular playing time. But to maintain a spot in the future, the wins have to come, Tulowitzki said.
“We have a lot of good young players, and hopefully we’ll all get together for whoever the next manager is and start winning,” said Tulowitzki, who played in just 47 games and hit .287 with eight home runs and 27 RBIs. “When you don’t win, people’s jobs are going to be on the line. Some of these guys have never had to deal with that. Now they know that performance is very important.”
Like other Rockies, Tulowitzki, considered a team leader, was surprised at Tracy’s resignation. He also was saddened.
“He meant a great deal to me, and he’s someone that I will always call when I need help, someone I will listen to, someone I’ll remain close to,” said Tulowitzki. “He was always honest, and he let the players go out and play. He didn’t have an ego or anything, he just wanted the job done the way it’s supposed to be done. He’s just a good guy. He cares about more than just baseball. He cares about your family and everything going on.”
Tulowitzki, who turns 28 on Wednesday, is a two-time All-Star who is under contract until 2020. His contract status and forceful personality mean he is looked at as more than just another player on the roster. But Tulowitzki said he will not attempt to wield influence with the front office in the managerial search.
“My job as a player is to get ready for next season and worry about playing and the players, and let the other stuff play its was way out,” Tulowitzki said. “I’ll just come ready to play come Spring Training.
“I feel good, although I’m not totally healthy, or else I would have come back before the end of the season. This is the first time in my career that I did the smart thing and work on getting myself healthy. In the past, I pushed it, and it ended up backfiring on me.”
The Rockies underwent much rethinking last season. It showed in changes the handling of pitchers and in front office structure. The club also is looking at ways to deal with playing at altitude and find an advantage in it. Within the clubhouse, veteran players said the team did the best it could to avoid becoming distracted by all of the change.
Tulowitzki said improvement, no matter who the new manager is, or what the policies are, depends on players doing their jobs.
“I think we need to stop worrying about all that, take the field and play the game, no matter what the pitch count is, no matter what we do with our pitching, no matter what happens at Coors Field,” said Tulowitzki, who is planning to invite several teammates to Las Vegas to work out with him this offseason. “We need to go out and play, stop making excuses.”