Lyles looks good in Rockies' Cactus League opener

Righty delivers two scoreless innings; top prospect Gray hits 97 mph in sharp outing

Lyles looks good in Rockies' Cactus League opener

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the Cactus League opener for both teams, D-backs catching prospect Peter O'Brien went 2-for-3 with an RBI in a 6-2 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon in front of 6,780 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

D-backs starter Rubby De La Rosa, who is battling for a rotation spot, tossed an impressive two shutout innings on his 26th birthday. The right-hander, acquired from the Red Sox in the Wade Miley deal, allowed one hit and struck out two.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Gray brings heat in scoreless Spring Training debut

Prospect Gray brings heat in scoreless Spring Training debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After a year of learning how to pitch without top-end velocity, Rockies right-hander Jon Gray enjoyed bringing the heat Wednesday.

Gray threw scoreless third and fourth innings against the D-backs in the Cactus League opener. But the talk of the day was one pitch -- a strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt on a 97 mph, 1-2 fastball to end the third.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dickerson firmly believes he'll become great hitter

Rockies outfielder says he's constantly thinking about ways to improve at the plate

Dickerson firmly believes he'll become great hitter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson uses the word "great" without timidity. That's not as common as one would think. Once someone understands what the g-word means in baseball, a sport built on failure, there is a tendency to wipe the word from the ol' vocabulary.

Dickerson hit .312 last year in 478 plate appearances -- just under the threshold to be listed among the league leaders (he would've been fourth, seven points behind teammate and National League batting champion Justin Morneau). He also led the Rockies with 24 home runs and finished with a .567 slugging percentage (six triples, 27 doubles).

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blackmon talks fireball gif, other topics on Chatting Cage

Rockies outfielder also discusses tense conclusion of '14 Spring Training

Blackmon talks fireball gif, other topics on Chatting Cage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before fashioning one of baseball's hottest starts in April and May and before being chosen by peers to the National League All-Star Game in July, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon was nervous about even making the team last year.

Blackmon hit .236 with seven strikeouts in 55 at-bats last spring, and the stats didn't offer evidence to back manager Walt Weiss' faith in him as the team's leadoff hitter. But, answering a question during his appearance in the Edward Jones Chatting Cage on Wednesday, Blackmon said the tense end of 2014 camp wound up his favorite Spring Training memory.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Butler out to make strong second impression

Rockies righty set for spring debut, over shoulder issue that hindered him in first callup

Prospect Butler out to make strong second impression

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This time, right-hander Eddie Butler plans to be healthy and effective when the Rockies call his name.

Butler's throwing shoulder wasn't right, and he knew it, when the Rockies summoned him to the Majors from Double-A Tulsa last June. Butler went to the disabled list immediately after his debut because of a rotator cuff strain. He didn't return until the final week of the season, when he made two starts.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Improving bullpen performance is Topic 'A' for Rockies

Improving bullpen performance is Topic 'A' for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Last season's stat sheet offers the Rockies' bullpen an easy scapegoat. Starters threw just 905 1/3 innings, the lowest total in the Majors. That left relievers having to eat 525 2/3 innings, the third-highest amount in MLB. But these are the type of numbers that Rockies right-handed bullpen sage LaTroy Hawkins throws right out of the window.

"There is truth to that, but we've got to have the mindset of no excuses," Hawkins said. "Our team wasn't as bad as our bullpen. It's tough when the offense is putting in five or six runs a night and we have the lead in the seventh, eighth and ninth, and we -- I say we -- give it up. We have to do a better job as a unit. I don't care how many innings we have to log."

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

For Rockies, developing versatility key part of approach

For Rockies, developing versatility key part of approach

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the Rockies' world, a player may need to move around to move up.

Rockies shortstop prospect Trevor Story started Tuesday's intrasquad game at second base, and later moved to third. Switch-hitting prospect Rosell Herrera has played 438 Minor League games, with all his defensive appearances at shortstop or third base. But he started in center field Tuesday. Story split last season between Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa, and Herrera spent the year at Modesto. But by increasing versatility, both could make themselves Major League options by year's end.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rosario shows athleticism in work at first base

Rosario shows athleticism in work at first base

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Playing first base under game conditions went fine for the Rockies' Wilin Rosario on Tuesday.

Rosario, a catcher who could increase his playing time by being adequate at first base, made two error-saving plays in one inning. On a pickoff move from pitcher John Lannan, Rosario leaped over baserunner Matt McBride to keep the ball from sailing into foul ground. He also made a nice pickup of a pickoff attempt from catcher Michael McKenry.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ynoa comes out swinging in Rox intrasquad action

Ynoa comes out swinging in Rox intrasquad action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Switch-hitting utility man Rafael Ynoa homered and made a diving play at third base in Tuesday's Rockies intrasquad game. The performance continued a habit of capitalizing on chances since joining the team last year.

Ynoa, 27, was in the Dodgers' system from 2006-13 without a callup. After joining the Rockies last winter and producing at Triple-A Colorado Springs (.297, .356 OBP), Ynoa parlayed his Major League debut into a .343 average with six doubles and a triple in 19 games.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weiss: Tulo, CarGo ahead of schedule

Weiss: Tulo, CarGo ahead of schedule

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The comebacks of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from season-ending surgeries in 2014 have accelerated to the point that both could be in Cactus League games sooner than expected.

Both players ran the bases Monday morning before rain began falling and the Rockies were forced inside for workouts.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

LeMahieu made speed a focus during offseason

Gold Glove winner hopes to be more of a menace on base in 2015

LeMahieu made speed a focus during offseason

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu's offseason work on his speed already is showing dividends.

"We were doing sprints early in the offseason and by February I was much, much faster," LeMahieu said. "We'll see how that translates, but I accomplished my goal."

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weiss not too concerned over setting Rockies lineup

Manager knows he has plenty of strong options from top to bottom

Weiss not too concerned over setting Rockies lineup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss doesn't see the big deal in setting a lineup. But that may have to do with his options.

For all their faults last season, the Rockies led the National League in runs and batting average despite missing Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado for large chunks of time. With the stars healthy (only Cuddyer, who signed with the Mets, is gone), and Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs and Charlie Blackmon coming off strong years, Weiss believes he doesn't have to lock into one lineup.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chacin feels good after facing Rockies hitters

Chacin feels good after facing Rockies hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin's health was intact, even if his sharpness came late, on Saturday while facing hitters for 38 pitches.

Chacin said on Sunday that he wasn't feeling pain and could continue his preparation with an eye toward being on the Opening Day roster.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weiss sets pitching plan for Cactus openers

Weiss sets pitching plan for Cactus openers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss announced that right-hander Jordan Lyles will start against the D-backs in Wednesday's Cactus League opener at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Other schedule starters this week are righty Jhoulys Chacin on Thursday against the D-backs, righty Kyle Kendrick on Friday vs. the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium, and lefty Jorge De La Rosa on Saturday at home against the Cubs.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies add ground-ball pitching to combat Coors Field

Additions of Hale, Kendrick boost pitching staff

Rockies add ground-ball pitching to combat Coors Field

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- New Rockies pitcher David Hale was initially nervous after learning he was traded to Colorado this offseason.

His reservations were understandable. Hale was leaving behind the pitcher-friendly confines of Turner Field in Atlanta to pitch in a hitter's paradise at Coors Field.

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Ari Kaye is a graduate student in the journalism masters program at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

D-backs, Rockies unveil newly renovated Lehi Field

D-backs, Rockies unveil newly renovated Lehi Field

MESA, Ariz. -- When Deanna Scabby was a young infielder, the lights at Lehi Ballfield were so dim that families would park their cars around the outside of the field and shine headlights at home plate so games could continue after dark.

On Sunday, Scabby stood before members of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and her fellow Lehi District Council Representatives as a field dedication took place for the newly renovated diamond located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

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Josh Rawitch is the senior vice president of communications for the D-backs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Axford seeks career comeback in Colorado

Rockies add veteran closer in effort to improve struggling 'pen

Axford seeks career comeback in Colorado

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The stats of the Rockies' bullpen last year didn't match the talents of the team's pitchers. In right-hander John Axford, they added a veteran who knows there is happiness on the other side.

Axford, who turns 32 on April 1, led the National League in saves with 46 for a 2011 Brewers team that went to the League Championship Series. But in 2012 he was part of a 'pen that led the league in blown saves.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bergman finds extra motivation as Rox add rotation depth

Weiss impressed by veteran's return from broken hand last season

Bergman finds extra motivation as Rox add rotation depth

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Christian Bergman chose to improve his pitches this winter, not sharpen a chip on his shoulder.

Bergman overcame the obscurity of being a 24th-round pick out of University of California, Irvine in 2010 by excelling at every level and breaking into the Majors last season. Bergman went 3-5 with a 5.93 ERA in 10 starts in a debut season interrupted for two months by a broken left hand.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies 'very encouraged' by Tulowitzki, Gonzalez in camp

Weiss says pair won't be rushed to see game action in return from injuries

Rockies 'very encouraged' by Tulowitzki, Gonzalez in camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's just two days, but any two with Rockies stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez on the field without pain are good ones.

Manager Walt Weiss said Tulowitzki, who had a torn hip labrum repaired last August, and Gonzalez, who had left knee surgery in the same month, will begin running the bases next week -- earlier than later, if all goes well.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies' Foster takes personal approach

New pitching coach made offseason visits to players to get to know Colorado's staff

Rockies' Foster takes personal approach

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies lefty relief pitcher Rex Brothers had quite a bit to fix this offseason, after an ineffective 2014. So he was happy that new pitching coach Steve Foster wanted to start the process this winter by visiting him for dinner at his Tennessee home.

The day after dining with Foster and Rockies peak performance coordinator Andy McKay, Brothers and his younger sibling, Colorado righty prospect Hunter Brothers, pitched in front of the new coach. Would there be a magic tip to make his 5.59 ERA form of 2014 go away and his 1.74 ERA dominance in 2013 return?

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lyles believes time off last year can help in '15

Rockies right-hander learned new pitch while injured, refined it in offseason

Lyles believes time off last year can help in '15

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles hopes his unlucky break last year propels him forward this year.

Lyles was 5-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts last year when he suffered a broken left hand while covering the plate after a wild pitch. During the time off, Lyles abandoned his old circle changeup -- a pitch he used maybe once a game -- for a split-finger change that could become more of a weapon this year.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies leaders to take questions from fans on Monday

Rockies leaders to take questions from fans on Monday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies began full-squad workouts on Friday, but how is the team really looking? Rockies fans have a chance to find out, with answers coming from the club's leadership on Monday at noon MT during a special Tweet 20.

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Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

Outfielder, who played for six teams, is not ready to coach

Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

JUPITER, Fla. -- Juan Pierre, the catalyst of the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team and one of the most prolific base-stealers of his generation, has announced his retirement. The 37-year-old speedster is walking away from the game after an impressive 14-year career.

Pierre, who lives in south Florida, is now a self-proclaimed "stay-at-home dad." He also isn't ready to accept a coaching position at this point.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bettis sets sights on starting rotation with Rockies

After struggling out of the 'pen, right-hander hopes to find groove in camp

Bettis sets sights on starting rotation with Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis won a bullpen job last spring by striking out 11 and yielding just one run and four hits in 10 innings, but the success didn't carry to the regular season (0-2, 9.12 ERA in 21 games).

But late in the year, the Rockies converted Bettis to starter -- his job before the club plucked him from Double-A Tulsa in 2013, where he had fanned 68 in 63 innings over 12 starts. Last season Bettis was up and down between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs all year. At the end of the season he went 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in five Triple-A starts. This spring, he is competing for a rotation spot or to be an option for an in-season callup.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tulo to bring Children's Hospital patients to Spring Training

Tulo to bring Children's Hospital patients to Spring Training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will underwrite an all-expense paid trip to Spring Training for more than 20 patients of Children's Hospital Colorado's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. The group will be in camp March 6-8, the hospital announced in a press release.

For many of the patients, it will be the first trip away from home without their parents, so the trip is not just a vacation, but a welcome chance for independence. Medical caregivers will be present when needed, but the children will be mostly in the company of peers and have the opportunity for friendship and support.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Gray shows off highly touted velocity

Right-hander has worked on stamina to endure professional rigors

Prospect Gray shows off highly touted velocity

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A sly smile adorned the face of Rockies right-handed pitching prospect Jon Gray on Thursday morning. Gray would be facing hitters for the first time in Spring Training, meaning it would be his first chance to show the velocity that led the club to pick him third overall in 2013.

Gray attended big league camp last spring, but the fastball, which at times reached triple-digit mph at Oklahoma, didn't come with him. During the regular season, Gray managed a solid Double-A season (10-5, 3.91 ERA) despite diminishing fastball speed -- low to mid 90s, rather than mid to upper 90s, with an occasional 100 -- because of shoulder fatigue.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dickerson striving for more plate discipline

Rockies outfielder must find way to maintain aggressiveness

Dickerson striving for more plate discipline

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson is confident he can hit pitches that aren't even strikes. But can he improve his discipline without losing his natural aggressiveness?

Dickerson hit .312 with a .364 on-base percentage, a team-high 24 home runs and 76 RBIs in 131 games last season. Part of his appeal is the ability to do damage to pitches outside the strike zone. For example, according to Pitch f/X data, on pitches between the belt and knees inside but not in the strike zone, Dickerson was 7-for-31 (.225). However, the hits included two home runs and three doubles. Another homer came on a pitch high and inside.

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Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Rockies embracing Coors Field advantage

Rockies embracing Coors Field advantage

SCOTTSDALE -- The Rockies are embracing Coors Field.

"I've talked to our guys," said manager Walt Weiss. "We've got the best home-field advantage in baseball. I don't know if there is a close second. Teams feel vulnerable when they come to our place. We need to take advantage of that."

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Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.