It's a Hit: Catchers Have Been Key Contributors in Rockies Winning 1st Two Games

© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

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It's only two games.

But you know that old quote from Alexander Pope, "Hope springs eternal."

Well, it is spring still (although the Major League regular season has begun), and the Rockies have hope.

They are hoping to win the first NL West title in franchise history.

"All we want to do is play more games than we did last year," said catcher Tony Wolters, referring to the Rockies being swept by the Brewers in three games in the NL Division Series.

And a factor in that will be if the Rockies receive more offensive contributions from the catching duo of Wolters and Chris Iannetta.

Two games into a season is far from a true test, but the Rockies at least can see some promise. Iannetta, in the season opener, and Wolters, in the second game, not only did impressive jobs handling the pitching staff, but both were key contributors to the offense.

Iannetta went 2-for-3 with a run-scoring double that capped off a four-run fourth inning of the Rockies season-opening 6-3 victory over the Marlins in Miami. On Friday, Wolters went 2-for-4, driving in the first run in a four-run ninth that capped off a 6-1 victory. He also singled and scored a run, finishing the day 2-for-4.

A year ago, the Rockies catchers -- Tom Murphy and Drew Butera included -- had the second worst batting average among the NL receiving corps. Only the Diamondbacks catchers were less productive. The Rockies .206 combined average from catchers was 69 points lower than the NL-leading Giants. They also ranked fourth in the NL with 148 strikeouts.

Wolters' .170 average was the third lowest among NL catchers, who appeared in a minimum 50 games, and Ianneta ranked 12th at .224.

Now, with Iannetta turning 36 on April 8, the Rockies are realistic. He has pretty well established his offensive level. He is a career .231 hitter. He hit a career-high .264 in his first tour with the Rockies, in 2008, and two years ago hit .254 for the Diamondbacks, but also appeared in only 89 games and had only 272 at-bats.

The Rockies are looking to ease Iannetta's work load to two or three games a week, but for that to happen they need Wolters to take a leap forward from his struggles at the plate a year ago, when he hit .170. To his credit, Wolters did hit .259 as a rookie with the Rockies in 2016, and followed that up hitting .240 in 2017.

Wolters gets himself in trouble by tinkering with his offensive approach, and the Rockies are stressing to him this season that they want him to have a game-plan at the plate, just like he does behind the plate, and to stick with it. Yes, there will be down times, but they can be minimized with a set approach.

“In general, Tony will tinker quite a bit with a lot of the things that he does,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We’re trying to keep him away from that, keep him more isolated on certain key things that we think are fundamentally sound as far as his swing and his approach, and to stay consistent with that each and every day, and not worry about results if things don’t go his way.

“You have to hang in there a lot of times and fight through things that don’t feel right. Eventually they’ll feel right because they’re the right things to do. That’s the thing with Tony that got away from him last year."

Wolters gets it.

“I’ve got to stick with it,” Wolters said. “My personality is, ‘I need better.’ But I have a routine now. It’s been around 100 days that my routine has been the same every day. And my goal sheet, I write it down every day.

“I’m going to have those [bad] times. Every hitter does. But I feel my routine is pretty ingrained. I only have three things I think about. I write those down every day. There was one time I had to change one of the sayings, the phrase, to make it stick in my head a little bit more. But other than that, it’s the same three.”

It's not like the Rockies are looking for miracles, but they don't want the eighth spot in the lineup to be a black hole.

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