MESA, ARIZ. — Committed to a back-to-basics philosophy, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle has run a demanding camp at a time when training in Tucson has become increasingly difficult.
With 12 days until the season opener, Hurdle’s emphasis on fundamentals appears to be working — the Rockies have won 10 of their past 17 games — but it has come at a cost. There has been only one off day this spring, and players have had to adjust to a more taxing schedule.
“We have tried to piggyback players, where they will play long stints one day and short the next day,” Hurdle said. “We aren’t trying to rip anybody up. We wanted to increase the innings and at-bats, and we’ve done that. The players have handled it professionally. There’s no whining.”
As one of only two teams remaining in Tucson, along with Arizona, the Rockies’ increased travel to the Phoenix area has affected health (more stiff backs) and the evaluation of pitchers, further increasing the likelihood that the franchise will move by 2011.
Ideally, the Rockies’ spring training site would be a year-round facility, possibly housing a rookie league team, O’Dowd said. That ambition takes a backseat to the current situation: creating a better major-league team in an imperfect environment.
“It has been a physically hard camp. You have to stay after it and hope you have a club that’s fundamentally sound and mentally tough,” O’Dowd said. “It is a grind. But I think Clint and (bench coach Jim) Tracy have done a good job of balancing it.”