Stolen bases a part of GJ Rockies’ playbook
For Grand Junction Rockies outfielder Denzel Richardson, there is no steal sign.
There’s a don’t-steal sign, and a please-oh-please-don’t-run-us-out-of-this-inning sign.
But the majority of the time, Richardson has a green light, as do many of his teammates.
The Rockies stole 33 bases during the first nine games this season, tops in the Pioneer League by 16 steals. Six of those stolen bases belong to Richardson, a league-high total that eclipses Great Falls’ team total.
Four of the top five base stealers in the Pioneer League are from Grand Junction, and that’s completely by design.
What look’s like reckless base running from the stands is manager Anthony Sanders and developmental supervisor Tony Diaz teaching players to run the bases without fear. To Sanders, it prompts players to stretch singles into doubles, doubles into triples. It also allows the Rockies to gain an extra base when the opposing defense is sloppy.
The strategy hasn’t come completely without cost. Grand Junction has been caught stealing more times than half of the Pioneer League has successfully stolen a base. Henry Garcia, who is built more like a power-hitting first baseman than a slender speedster, has been caught stealing once, and he also was thrown out trying for an extra base in the Rockies’ exhibition game against the Denver Generals.
A handful of base running blunders is not out of the norm for players new to professional baseball, and the success rate when Grand Junction tries to steal a base is 70 percent.
Those are good odds for Richardson.
“They’ll tell me when to not go,” Richardson said. “But for the most part, they want me to take that extra base. They want all of us to use our speed and be aggressive. I like playing that way.”
At 7-3, the Grand Junction Rockies sit atop the South Division standings.
They were hitting .307 entering Wednesday night’s game, with a 3-1 record on the road.
But at this point in the season, Sanders said records don’t matter.
“We’re still getting to know everyone,” he said. “I’m more concerned about seeing the talent these guys have and making sure everybody has a chance out there than I am with wins and losses.”
Around the league
Missoula Osprey right-hander Carlos Hernandez has re-established himself as a potential ace in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system.
After a stellar 2012 in the Dominican Summer League, where he finished with 1.68 ERA in 14 starts, the native of the Dominican Republic saw his ERA balloon to more than 5 during his first year in America with Missoula in 2013.
This year, Hernandez is off to a hot start. Only 20 years old, Hernandez is the only pitcher in the Pioneer League to not allow an earned run in multiple starts. During two starts spanning 10 1/3 innings, Hernandez has picked up one win, struck out 14 batters and walked only two.
The Grand Junction Rockies will soon be searching for a new assistant general manager. Mike Ruvolo, who held the position for three years, announced Monday he accepted a financial analyst position with Oracle in Broomfield.
“Extremely sad because I love the @GJRockies and it will be hard to leave,” Ruvolo said on his Twitter account.