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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —The Rockies haven’t reached the playoffs since 2009, creating a sense of urgency as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki enters his eighth season with Colorado. Team owner Dick Monfort has indicated he wants to keep Tulowitzki and all-star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez together for the long haul. He said he can fit them into the 2017 projected payroll of $114.5 million, when they will make a combined $40 million.
However, if the Rockies continue finishing last in the National League West, as they’ve done the past two seasons, the question of whether they should trade one of their stars will linger.
Tulowitzki, Colorado’s longest-tenured player, realizes that he’s approaching a crossroads in his Rockies career.
“I know that (Monfort) wants to win as badly as anybody. It’s a big year for decision-making. That’s just me being a baseball fan and guessing how it could work out,” Tulowitzki said. “I just want to forget about all that stuff and get back to winning. That’s all that’s important.”
Tulowitzki’s career has offered stark contrasts. As a rookie, he helped guide the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. Then came a playoff appearance in 2009. Colorado contended until the final two weeks of the 2010 season. Since then, the Rockies are 64 games under .500, and Tulowitzki’s inability to stay healthy — he has averaged only 105 games the past three seasons — has contributed to the poor records, weighing heavily on the three-time all-star.
“The losing has taken a toll on me. I’d be lying if I said otherwise,” Tulowitzki said. “To have success so early in my career, you get spoiled by it. People reminded me when it was happening how difficult it is to win at this level. But to go absent for a few years in a row, it’s been really tough. You know that your career is not too long. If I look at my career right now, it’s possible that I am halfway done. It goes by fast. You try to enjoy it. But the best way and only way to enjoy it is to win.”
Tulo’s time to step up
The Rockies are counting on Tulowitzki to produce and provide leadership. Monfort and assistant general manager Bill Geivett have said they would like the shortstop to assume a larger role as a leader with Todd Helton retired.
“We’d expect Tulo to step up. That’s how we look at it. It’s a great opportunity for him. It’s a perfect time in his career,” Geivett said. “He has played in a World Series. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s the guy. But there’s an awful lot of leadership on the team.”
Tulo understands the responsibility but has learned that he can’t please everyone.
“I have been here the longest out of anyone in a Rockies uniform. At the same time, I am not Todd Helton. I am who I am. What I do is good enough. I just have to be myself and encourage these young guys and maintain a solid work ethic,” Tulowitzki said. “I have to stay on the field. I want that more than anything. Some things you can’t control. But I know I have done everything to prepare.”
There will be those who want Tulo- witzki to be more vocal. He believes it should happen organically.
“I play with passion. I don’t need to force that. When I do, it might be too overbearing for some people,” Tulowitzki said. “Last year, I learned a lot about myself. I found a comfort zone. I went about my business and gave it all I had when I stepped on the field.”
Tulowitzki enjoyed a productive offseason. He spent more time working out than visiting a physical therapist. His left leg — which had scar tissue removed from the groin area, costing him the final four months of the 2012 season — is stronger. A year ago in spring training, he was unsure about running the bases and taking groundballs at full speed. He’s already jogging and making off-balance throws without hesitation, leaving him with two specific goals this season.
“My focus is on being really good mentally and getting the guys to realize how important winning is,” Tulowitzki said. “Nothing else matters if we don’t win.”
High ranking when healthy
This winter, MLB Network’s stats machine “The Shredder” ranked Tulowitzki as baseball’s best shortstop. Tulo and Gonzalez are considered National League MVP candidates if they can avoid the disabled list. From 2009-13, the Rockies were 231-211 when they appeared in the same game, compared with 155-213 when neither played, according to Stats Inc.
The .523 winning percentage when they play projects to 85 victories over an 162-game season. But they played in the same game only 81 times last year.
“I get tired of hearing it all the time. It’s the first thing anyone says whether it’s a friend or family member: ‘Stay healthy.’ Trust me, I would love to,” Tulowitizki said. “It’s all we both want.”
Will it be enough? Even when Tulo- witzki and Gonzalez stayed on the field in 2010, the Rockies missed the postseason. Tulo believes this year’s team is poised to improve, citing the veterans acquired in the offseason.
“We added winning players like LaTroy (Hawkins), (Justin) Morneau and others. It’s a good mix,” Tulowitzki said. “And we have young players, like Nolan (Arenado) and DJ (LeMahieu), who are a year older and will only continue to get better.”
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Tulo was the missing piece as a kid, nearly winning the NL rookie of the year award as the Rockies snapped a playoff drought that started after 1995. Seven seasons removed from that magical run, Tulowitzki knows this could be his last shot to help the Rockies reach the posteason.
“It’s huge. I am very driven to have it happen here again,” Tulowitzki said. “That’s the reason you put the work in. It’s why you come to the field. There have been things said in the past that I care only about myself at times. In this game, you have to care. If everyone cares about doing well, you have a pretty good player, and that makes a good team. So, yeah, I care. Losing gets old. All I want is for us to win. Now more than ever.”
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has taken the reverse approach. He lives in Las Vegas during the offseason to avoid the spotlight. He’s tucked away in a suburb where he can focus and train without interruption.
This winter has been rewarding on a number of levels, he said.
“I am healthy and going through a normal offseason. I have to do some maintenance stuff that I will always have because of my groin and quad injuries. But this has been a really good offseason,” Tulowitzki said in a phone interview.
The contrasts from a year ago are striking. Fifteen months ago, he had just 60 percent strength in his left leg after June groin surgery. He spent more time in physical therapy than working out.
“I just want my play to do the talking. I am prepared and I have put in the work. Hopefully they can watch and see that,” said Tulowitzki, who batted .312 and had 52 extra-base hits in 126 games last season, missing 25 games because of a broken right rib.
Of course, his offseason would not have been complete without a connection to trade rumors. The Cardinals pursued Tulowitzki in November. They made sense, given their ability to satisfy the Rockies’ demands for young pitchers and position players, and absorb the contract. But talks never reached the serious stage — with the Rockies coming off a 74-win season, any trade would have had to fill multiple needs — and St. Louis moved on, signing free agent Jhonny Peralta. Tulo was aware of the rumors, but chose not to worry about a hypothetical situation.
With the start of spring training only three weeks away for position players, Tulo is encouraged by what the front office did this winter. The Rockies added starting pitchers Brett Anderson and Franklin Morales, relief pitchers Boone Logan and LaTroy Hawkins, first baseman Justin Morneau and outfielder Drew Stubbs, who’s expected to train with Tulo for a few weeks before reporting to Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I think we he had a great offseason. We picked up some baseball guys, if you know what I mean. Guys who show up each day wanting to win,” Tulo said. “We should be better. Our pitching should be improved, and we have more depth.”
Rockies manager says shortstop showed he could handle role in ’13
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki earned a reputation as a prodigious team leader when the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007. But that team had several veterans who had been through enough ups and downs to be the team’s main compass, and Tulowitzki has spent the years since buffeted by older pros such as Todd Helton and Jason Giambi.
Now with Helton retired and Giambi heading into his second season with the Indians, Tulowitzki, 29, enters 2014 as the senior player in terms of games played in a Rockies uniform. Manager Walt Weiss believes Tulowitzki has developed the skills it takes for the difficult task — being the physical and inspirational leader of a team full of players with different personalities and skills.
“I think the time is right for Tulowitzki,” Weiss said. “I think it’s somewhat of a perfect storm at this point in his career. I think he’s seven years in, and he’s ready for that. With Todd leaving at this time, I think, like I said, it’s all lined up for Tulowitzki to take on more of a role that way. And he did that last year. I thought he took great strides in that area last year.”
Part of leading for Tulowitzki, a three-time All-Star Game participant, is avoiding injury. The team went from contender to one headed for last in the National League West after he suffered a rib cage injury last season, and leg injuries had been issues in the past.
“It’s tough when you get hurt, and he’s had to deal with that stuff; that wears on you mentally,” Weiss added. “But I thought he really stepped up last year as a leader and was a great encourager to some of our young guys, and that’s going to be needed again.”
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez aren’t going anywhere this winter. Rockies owner Dick Monfort said Wednesday he does not intend to trade either all-star.
“The plan is to keep them. Next year, yes. And my plan is to always keep them,” Monfort said. “Is that the smartest thing in the world to do? I don’t know. But for our fans I think it’s the best thing to do.”
In a wide-ranging interview at Coors Field, Monfort addressed the team’s front-office structure, a planned player payroll increase to between $90 million and $95 million next year and his desire to add a starting pitcher and big bat to a team that has had three straight losing seasons.
Despite consecutive last-place finishes, Monfort said he will not alter the structure that has assistant general manager Bill Geivett in charge of day-to-day major-league operations and reporting to Dan O’Dowd, who is in charge of the Rockies’ player development but is also the boss of the front office.
“I really don’t think either one has done a poor job,” Monfort said.
The owner talked specifically about the Rockies’ finances and said he expects the player payroll to expand by about $9 million for 2014 from the estimated $83.7 million this past season.
Monfort hopes that will enable the Rockies to bring in a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, as well as a power-hitting outfielder who possibly could play first base too.
He disagreed with those who contend he doesn’t have a passion to bring winning baseball to Colorado.
“I want to win at everything, even checkers,” Monfort said, adding that a realistic goal is getting the Rockies into the playoffs “a couple of times every five years.”
The immediate plan to get the Rockies out of the National League West basement and into the postseason revolves around Tulowitzki, their all-star shortstop, and Gonzalez, their all-star left fielder.
“I love those two guys,” Monfort said. “And if they ever get on a tear … In Tampa Bay, every once in a while, Evan Longoria just carries them and we have two guys who can carry a team.”
Monfort said Geivett will continue to operate the day-to-day business of the major-league team, while O’Dowd will oversee the minor-league operations and player development.
He doesn’t believe the unusual front-office setup creates confusion for teams trying to make deals with the Rockies.
“It’s not that we have two GMs, it’s that they just switched roles,” Monfort said. “I think most teams have someone who is focused just on the major-league team. I think there is no normal GM role, it changes for every team.”
All major-league clubs will receive $54 million in national TV revenue next season. It amounts to a $27 million bump in new money, Monfort said, a large chunk of which already is earmarked.
After mandatory payments to Major League Baseball’s line of credit and to MLB’s central fund, and without home games against the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, Monfort said it leaves the Rockies “where we could stretch up to about $91 million, and maybe even go up to $95 million” on player payroll. He said the Rockies had revenue of about $162 million this year and the “rule of thumb” for player payroll is about 50 percent of revenue.
The Rockies haven’t reached the playoffs since 2009 and have appeared in only one World Series, getting that far in 2007. Still, Monfort believes the Rockies have enough money, as well as the business model, to compete.
“I would say if Oakland, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh can win, there’s no reason we can’t,” Monfort said.
The offseason promises speculation and improved health for Troy Tulowitzki.
He knows there will be trade rumors connected to his name — especially as long as the Cardinals, and perhaps Yankees, need an everyday shortstop. While the team’s season has not gone as hoped, the two-time all-star has avoided leg problems that ruined 2012.
He missed 25 games with a fracture of his fifth right rib. But the groin injury, other than a strain in May that cost him a few games, never proved to be an issue.
“My offseason will be different. I will be going into this feeling better than I ever have,” Tulo witzki said. “All last (offseason), I was meeting with the physical therapist every day. My focus was on getting in the lineup on opening day. My focus this winter will be on getting better.”
Tulowitzki said his rib injury has healed. He still feels it sometimes, but it doesn’t affect his swing or his range defensively. Tulowitzki entered Wednesday batting .313 with 22 home runs, 48 extra-base hits, and 73 RBIs. He has committed seven errors in 536 chances, leaving him a contender for his third gold glove, though he will face tough competition from the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons.
Tulowitzki turns 29 next month and has $134 million remaining on his contract. Even with a stint on the disabled list, he ranks second among all shortstops in home runs to Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy.
“It gives me confidence the way my leg has responded. It has days where it’s sore, but that’s part of it,” Tulowitzki said. “I am looking forward to improving.”
PHILADELPHIA — If one asks Troy Tulowitzki about his success in the second half of seasons, he will say that’s just baseball.
“I don’t see it as a grind,” Tulowitzki said. “I guess when you have as many injuries as I have had, you understand how great it is just to play. I love this game, I love to play it, and that’s something I’ve learned the older I’ve gotten.”
Tulowitzki has begun to find the groove that has made him one of the game’s most feared hitters. Over his seven-game hit streak entering Wednesday night’s game against the Phillies, Tulowitzki hit .407 (11-for-27) with home runs in back-to-back games against Philadelphia. That marked the fifth time he hit home runs in back-to-back games this year and 25th in his career.
“It’s baseball,” Tulowitzki said. “Sometimes you’re comfortable, and sometimes you’re off. A couple weeks ago I was off a little bit. It comes and goes. As you get older you understand that a little better.”
Tulowitzki extended his hitting streak with a single in the first inning Wednesday.
As part of its new biennial induction process, Long Beach State will add nine new members into the Long Beach State Athletics Hall of Fame on November 12 at the Long Beach Convention Center. The decorated group of athletes and coaches including Major League Baseball All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, late football coaching legend George Allen, current Virginia Tech men’s basketball head coach Seth Greenberg and the 1989 College World Series baseball team.
“We’re very proud to announce this outstanding class of inductees for the Long Beach State Hall of Fame,” said Long Beach State Athletic Director Vic Cegles in the official press release. The Long Beach State Athletics Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1986 and includes more than 175 members. The 2013 Hall of Fame induction class also includes former student-athletes Cassie Azevedo, Alexis Crimes, Patty Gasso, Jason Hinkin, and Shawn Wilbourn.
“The accomplishments and achievements of this group truly represent the best in what Long Beach State Athletics has to offer,” added Cegles.
On top of the marquee is one of the most famous Long Beach coaches and a Pro Football Hall of Fame member. George Allen came to Long Beach State in 1990, coaching the 49ers for one memorable and final season after 12 years in the NFL. Under Allen’s direction, the 49ers posted a perfect 6-0 record at home and won their final three games in that season before his untimely death during that offseason. George Allen Field, the home of Long Beach State women’s soccer, was dedicated in his honor in August of 1991.
Tulowitzki, a three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, headlines the players to be inducted. He starting for three-years at shortstop for the Dirtbags, hitting .310 with 20 home runs, and was named first-team All-Big West as a sophomore and as a junior before being selected as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. Tulowitzki was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2007 and is a two-time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger as one of the best shortstops in professional baseball.
Speaking of Dirtbags, the class will also include the second team ever honored in Long Beach State Hall of Fame history. The 1989 Long Beach State baseball team is linked with every team to follow as the original “Dirtbags.” Under first-year head coach Dave Snow, the “Dirtbags” got their nickname from dusty practice uniforms and gritty play that helped them win a school-record 50 games and advanced the 1989 College World Series, the first Long Beach State team to go to Omaha.
The second head coach being inducted, Greenburg, led the 49ers to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in his six years while he posted a 105-70 record and still ranks second all-time in career coaching victories at Long Beach State behind only Jerry Tarkanian. Greenberg also won the 1995-96 Big West regular-season title, and coached the last two 49ers to play in the NBA in Luscious Harris and Byron Russell.
The football heritage will also be honored with the induction of former defensive back Shawn Wilbourn. In 1990 as a senior, he was an All-Big West selection after he led the 49ers with 96 tackles while adding an interception, a forced fumble and four fumble recoveries. Wilbourn was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and he also set a Long Beach State school record in the decathlon that stood until 2006 and is still the third-highest mark in school history.
Back to the dugout, 2012 NFCA Hall of Fame Inductee Patty Gasso, playing under her maiden name Patty Froelich with the 49ers, was a softball standout in the team’s early years during the 1983 and 1984 seasons. Moving into coaching, Gasso spent four seasons at Long Beach City College before taking the head coaching job at Oklahoma, where she has posted a 1032-338-3 overall record, reaching the Women’s College World Series eight times and winning two national championships in 2000 and just this last summer with a 2013 team that played for its state after devastating tornados.
From track and field, Jason Hinkin is one of the most successful individual athletes in Long Beach State history. A five-time All-American in the pole vault, Hinkin was the last 49er to win an individual national championship, earning the honor with a school-record 18’ 6.5” performance. Hinkin also still holds the school record in the outdoor pole vault, clearing 18’ 7.5”, and was a two-time Big West Champion in the event.
The 49ers will also induct Cassie Azevedo, the highest-scoring women’s water polo player in the program’s history. With 209 goals in her career, Azevedo is the school record holder and led the 49ers in goals in both 2005 and 2006. She was also a three-time All-American, a four-time All-MPSF selection and helped the 49ers reach the No. 3 ranking during the 2005 campaign.
Finally representing women’s volleyball will be four-time All-American Alexis Crimes. The 2006 Big West Player of the Year, Crimes was one of the most productive hitters in school history, ranking third all-time in career kills with 1,756 behind only Tara Cross and Danielle Scott, also Hall Of Fame members. Crimes hit .364 in her career as a dominant middle blocker and has continued her career playing with USA Volleyball and internationally.
For more information on tickets and the Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, please contact the 49er Athletic Department at (562) 985-7976.
It appears shortshop Troy Tulowitzki will return from injury in time to play in the All-Star Game. But will it be in time to save the Rockies’ season? Colorado’s record was an ugly 9-16 in 25 games Tulo missed with a cracked rib. But as the team opens a critical National League West series against the Dodgers, Colorado stood only 3.5 games out of first place in the division.
Can Colorado still win this thing? Pains me to say it, but I think the West has been won. Not by Arizona, which currently resides atop the division. The prohibitive favorite is Los Angeles, because in a mediocre division, the Dodgers boast the best hitter (Yasiel Puig) and best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw). Listen to Peter Burns and I argue it out here.
What do you think? Has Tulowitzki returned in time to rescue the dream of Colorado in the playoffs?
PHOENIX — For a team with a losing record and rebounding from a 98-loss season, the Rockies still have plenty of star power.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez became just the third and fourth Rockies players voted to start the All-Star Game for the National League when the final ballots were announced Saturday. It’s the first time the Rockies have a had two players voted as starters. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer was chosen as a reserve.
Tulowitzki (5,408,860 million votes) easily bested San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford at shortstop, never relenting a large lead he gained early in the process. Tulowitzki started in the 2011 as an injury replacement in Phoenix. Gonzalez is making his second consecutive all-star appearance, finishing second in the vote with 4,212,904. Gonzalez will be flanked by the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran and Washington’s Bryce Harper.
Gonzalez started a year ago when Tony La Russa chose him to lead off and serve as the designated hitter in Kansas City.
The only previous Rockies voted to start by the fans were Dante Bichette (1996), Larry Walker (1997-98-99) and Todd Helton (2001-02-03).
Though on the disabled list with a fractured right rib, Tulowitzki has not ruled out playing in the All-Star Game. He will take batting practice again Saturday and could begin a rehab assignment, possibly with Triple-A Colorado Springs, as soon as Monday. Without a setback, Tulowitzki is targeting Thursday to rejoin the Rockies’ roster for the Dodgers series, leaving him in position to bolster a struggling lineup and to participate in the Midsummer Classic.
The Rockies entered Saturday night 7-13 since Tulowitzki was hurt diving for a groundball June 13. He is batting .347 with 16 home runs and a .413 on-base percentage. Tulo, a two-time Gold Glove winner, has committed just one error in 58 games.
“It’s hard to think that he could play much better,” manager Walt Weiss said before Tulowitzki landed on the disabled list.
Despite a recent slump, Gonzalez ranks among the league leaders in several categories. He entered Saturday leading the NL with 23 home runs and ranked fourth with 62 RBIs.
“It’s an honor to go,” said Gonzalez, who plans to bring many family members and friends to the game at Citi Field on July 16.
Cuddyer, who made his second All-Star Game, has been the Rockies’ most consistent performer. He posted a baseball-best 27-game hitting streak this season, setting a Rockies’ franchise record. Cuddyer entered Saturday batting .342 with 15 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .396 on-base percentage.
Left-hander Rex Brothers, who temporarily closed games while Rafael Betancourt was sidelined with a leg injury, had a strong case as well. The reliever entered Saturday with a 1.02 ERA, had not allowed a run on the road this season and had limited opponents to a .200 average. However, the NL team went heavy with starting pitchers. Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig is one of five players on the MLB.com Last Man Vote.
The NL starters are:
1B: Joey Votto, Reds
2B: Brandon Phillips, Reds
SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
3B: David Wright, Mets
C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
OF: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
OF: Bryce Harper, Nationals
DENVER — Troy Tulowitzki strolled through the clubhouse Thursday afternoon with a bat in each hand.
It was a welcome sign for Walt Weiss and Co., as the Rockies shortstop took batting practice before Thursday’s series finale against the Dodgers for the first time since he broke a right rib three weeks ago. Tulowitzki said he has not ruled out returning before the July 16 All-Star Game, but emphasized that he will not rush the recovery process.
“There could be three or four days where I feel great and say, ‘Hey, let’s go on the rehab assignment,’” Tulowitzki said. “It could be another week or two where, ‘Hey, now this thing feels good,’ after the [All-Star] break. I just don’t know.”
Weiss said he would not hold Tulowitzki back if he does feel ready before the All-Star break. The skipper looked on as his star slugger took a few swings and agreed everything went smoothly in the latest step in the rehab process.
“I’m all for that, if he’s good to go before the break,” Weiss said. “We’re not going to hold our breath to that, but if that were the case, that would be great.”
Despite taking what he called “very easy swings” on the field, Tulowitzki still smoked a few balls over the left-field wall. It was just a taste of competitive baseball but enough for him showed more than just a hint of excitement to have a bat back in his hands.
“I came away very happy about it — it’s not like I had to stop and say, ‘It’s too much pain,’” he said. ” … Now it’s all about getting treatment and taking steps in the right direction.”
Weiss said Tulowitki will join them on an upcoming 10-game road trip, which includes series against three National League West teams. He will be re-evaluated each day on the trip, his workouts and activity increased accordingly.
Tulowitki, who injured the rib diving for a ground ball, has been fielding grounders before the game for several days. He said he has fieldd without discomfort but did feel tightness when swinging.
“Defensively, I’m fine,” said Tulowitzki, who was in the midst of an MVP-type season with a .347 average, 16 homers and 51 RBIs through 61 games. “Right now I can throw the ball and field the ball, it’s just all in the swing. I’ll know. Once the ball has a little extra carry and there’s less pain, it should be ready.”
Despite missing the last three weeks, Tulowitzki still held a comfortable lead in the All-Star voting among shortstops and said he probably will attend the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field if he wins the fan vote, even he is not fit to play.