Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Keeler: Rockies players “trust” slugger Kris Bryant, even after recent comments. But will Denver fans?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If Kris Bryant put his bat on the ball as quickly as he put a foot in his mouth, there’s no story. No shock, no clean-up, no counter, no spin.

But give the Rockies’ slugger credit for this much. Almost as soon as it was presumed he’d thrown his teammates under a slew of metaphorical buses, Bryant ran out in the middle of traffic, on his own, to try and mitigate the roadkill.

“Before I had to navigate it, he walked through that (office) door,” skipper Bud Black told me, nodding at the pathway to his desk inside the Rockies’ swanky spring training HQ at Salt River Fields. “He goes, ‘Hey, I want to talk about this article.’”

You know the one. You’ve seen it. But back on March 1, Black still hadn’t. In the most buzz-worthy — and cringe-worthy — nugget to emerge from Rockies camp, Bryant told The Athletic late last month that he didn’t “do as much research into (Colorado’s) prospects as I could.” The $182-million man intimated he was in a rush to get to spring training, to get back to a team and to his routine, in the winter of ’21-22.

“He basically contradicted (to me) how the story portrayed some of his quotes,” Black recalled. “So right then, I knew, ‘Hey, listen, he’s standing up to this.’ And he wanted to address the team. Which he did.

“So from that point on, to me, it was over. He stood up, he handled it, addressed the team. From that point, I knew that there wasn’t any navigation to be done. Because he handled it as a pro and as a teammate.”

When I approached those teammates, they shrugged. New season. Old news.

“I trust Kris,” Rockies ace German Marquez told me over the weekend.

“I don’t want to get too deep in this conversation, but I’ve thrown to that guy. He’s going to be good. He’s going to do it well. (He’s) an amazing guy. And we’ve always got his back as teammates.”

What did he say, specifically?

“He talked about everything,” Marquez replied, reaching into his locker stall for a glove. “(And it) stays inside the clubhouse.”

It takes two sides to screw up a contract, and the warranty on this one expired ages ago. Bryant didn’t do his homework. Neither did the Rockies, who convinced themselves they were buying Arenado Lite and got a corner bat on the wrong side of 30 with back problems.

Sorry. Fewer back problems.

“I changed the workout routine in the offseason a little bit,” Bryant told me Friday. “I’ve added a little bit more equipment for my back and just (worked on) lengthening my spine and things like that, that I think (can) carry over into the season.”

He tagged a Glute-Ham Developer onto the regimen — a small, versatile little toy with footpads that are designed to strengthen core posterior chain muscles in the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. So far, so good: Bryant launched his third home run of the Cactus League season on Saturday afternoon, a rainbow that landed just right of the batter’s eye in center and gave the Rockies a 2-0 lead against the Oakland/Vegas/Salt Lake/Sacramento/Jenny Cavnar Athletics.

“Everybody has these things, and I just never had used it,” Bryant said. “It’s just really about creating length in my spine and building up the muscles around it to take on longer seasons and stuff like that. So it feels good. I feel good. I feel like every day in spring has gotten a little bit better each day. So that’s good. That’s great. I’m excited about that.”

As we talked, I noticed there was only one open chair free in the small interview room across the hall from the Rockies’ clubhouse. Bryant offered it up to the heathen media, and happily.

“No, no, I’m good,” Colorado slugger said. “I feel more comfortable standing while I talk.”

Nice guy. The nicest. Puppies are born with more enmity than Bryant, one of baseball’s gentle giants.

Speaking softly is fine. But when you’re due to make $28 million this season and $27 million in 2025, it also requires carrying a big stick. Catcher Elias Diaz and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar posted higher slugging percentages last summer than Bryant’s .367.

“My teammates know how I feel about them and they know how much belief I have in them,” Bryant said. “And that’s just the world nowadays. People read things and they form however they want to see things. And that’s OK. I mean, I do the same thing when I read things.”

If there’s upside, if there’s hope, it’s that the broken finger from last summer’s healed up. Thanks to inserts, irritation from 2022’s plantar fasciitis has largely subsided. And while playing a 32-year-old with back and foot issues in Coors Field’s gap-happy, cavernous corners seems fraught with risk, Bryant offered a counter-argument of his own Saturday in the sixth inning with a nice sliding catch.

“I’ve seen so many people in this game — I don’t want to say change, but, you know, certain fame gets to people, and (so does) money,” Bryant said. “I’m proud to say that I’ve really treated people the right way, with respect, the fans with respect. And at the end of the day, you’re never going to remember what someone told you. But you’re always going to remember how they made you feel.”

Rockies fans don’t feel great, my man.

“Like I said, I worry about everything,” Black offered. “That’s what we do, right? But I also know, ultimately, Kris’ forthcoming actions and interviews and performance will speak louder than, and I think will eventually trump, what came out of that article.”

Bryant is an open book, honest to a fault. The big guy said he wasn’t misquoted when he noted that he hadn’t done his due diligence researching the Rockies’ organization two years ago. He stressed that was in the context of what he knew of Colorado relative to the Cubs’ organization, the one that drafted him. Still, PR 101 says the more emotional the rebuttal, the faster the pushback, the closer the original content came to cutting real bone.

Even if you want to interpret No. 23’s initial ruminations as a back-door, genteel flare to get me off this ship, what GM with half a cerebrum would take that contract on without a rebound first? The only way out of the mire, for all parties, is for Bryant’s bat to do most of the talking from here on out.

“I wouldn’t change a thing that has happened (since 2022), honestly,” he said. “Maybe earlier on in my career, like 2015? Yeah. There’s some things I wish I might have done a little differently. But up to this point, I’m super proud of not just accomplishing things on the field, but just who I am as a person and my beliefs.”

He smiled. We shook hands. Dude’s a nice guy on a team of nice guys, stuck in the meanest, cruelest, most cutthroat division in baseball, pushing a boulder uphill. The sad truth about nice guys in this game, even ones who’ll stop a bus for a brother, is that the standings almost never lie.

Want more Rockies news? Sign up for the Rockies Insider to get all our MLB analysis.

Popular Articles