|Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki eager to avoid sophomore slump|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 March 2008 12:06|
Although he had an impressive rookie season, the Colorado Rockies shortstop always picks his idol, Yankees star Derek Jeter, when he participates in random mock drafts on the computer.
``I'm biased toward Jeter,'' said Tulowitzki, who selects teams just for fun. ``There was a thing on AOL saying I was being picked before Jeter. That's mind boggling.''
Tulowitzki had a mind-boggling first year in the majors with the bat and the glove.
Now, he's eager to prove there's no such thing as a sophomore slump, at least for him.
``I just go about my business, work hard every day and put myself in the best situation I can to succeed,'' he said.
So far this spring, that approach is working out well for him. Tulowitzki is hitting .286 with a team-leading four home runs.
``He's special,'' said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who doesn't foresee his shortstop hitting a bump in the road this season. ``He's in a good place. He's solid from an offensive standpoint and defensive standpoint. I'm a big fan of giving him the freedom to play and let him write his own story. He's written it pretty well so far.''
It's been a best-seller. Tulowitzki hit .291 with 24 homers last season. What's more, he drove in 99 runs, the most-ever by a major league rookie shortstop, eclipsing the mark of 98 held by Nomar Garciaparra in 1997, while he was with Boston.
Tulowitzki also led all qualifying shortstops in fielding percentage, making just 11 errors in a league-leading 834 total chances.
For all that, he was rewarded by the Rockies with a six-year deal worth $31.5 million in the offseason, the biggest contract ever awarded to a second-year player.
Tulowitzki then rewarded himself by buying a new place in Denver and purchasing a sleek-looking black Maserati, which he drove down to spring training.
``It drives nice,'' said Tulowitzki, who finished a close second to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
He's still surprised the Rockies made such a long-term financial commitment to him. Not that he's arguing.
``It was a nice gesture,'' he said. ``Since day one, the organization has been nothing but great to me.''
With the departure of Kaz Matsui, Tulowitzki will inherit the No. 2 slot in the batting order. He figures to see even better pitches to hit this season with likes of Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe waiting behind him.
But he won't speculate on the type of numbers he'll post this season.
``Individually, I only care about what kind of year I have because if I'm doing good, it means the team is doing good,'' he said. ``But I'm confident and believe in my abilities.''
For as good of offensive season as Tulowitzki turned in, he took more pride in his defensive accomplishments. The slick-fielding Tulowitzki led all shortstops in putouts (262), assists (561) and double plays (114). He also turned in an unassisted triple play against Atlanta, just the 13th in major league history.
``My father stressed defense to me when I was young,'' Tulowitzki said. ``Defense and pitching wins games and since I'm obviously not a pitcher, I take pride in my defense.''
The Colorado pitching staff certainly appreciates his fancy glove work, and ability to cover a lot of ground.
``He's fantastic,'' Rockies lefty Jeff Francis said. ``He makes a lot of the spectacular plays and all the routine plays. He's about as solid as it gets.''
Tulowitzki insisted his life hasn't changed since his breakout season. He runs with the same group of friends, works out just as hard, can still sneak into restaurants unnoticed (but that's rapidly changing) and endures the same amount of good-natured razzing from his teammates.
``I'm still the same guy,'' he said.
Albeit a little wealthier.
Notes: Rookie second baseman Jayson Nix didn't make the trip to play the Chicago Cubs on Thursday due to a stiff lower back. ``It's not too big of deal,'' he said. ``It's just precautionary.'' Nix is in the running for the starting job at second. ... Stu Cole, Bob McLaughlin and Austin O'Shea, all members of the Double-A Tulsa Drillers, were named the winners of the 2008 Mike Coolbaugh Man of the Year award Thursday. The award is given annually to a member of the Rockies' player development staff for their dedication. The award was renamed this year to honor Coolbaugh, a first-base coach for Tulsa who was killed when he was struck by a line drive last summer.