Rockies players like what they hear about Black

Colorado's new manager well respected around Majors

Rockies players like what they hear about Black

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On an 81-degree Monday, about 20 players -- Major Leaguers and prospects alike -- gathered at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to take the "off" out of the offseason. Pushed by the belief that even brighter times are coming for the Rockies, they lifted and ran, as they will most weekdays until Spring Training begins.

But shortstop Trevor Story said Monday was a little more special when, between exercises, they peeked at the television at the coverage of Bud Black being introduced at Coors Field as the seventh manager in club history.

Black excited to be Rockies' new skipper

"We saw the news on MLB Network -- it's pretty exciting to see the move that we made," Story said. "I've never met him. I know he's very well respected throughout the game. That's cool to see. I'm excited to meet him, talk to him and get this thing rolling.

The Rockies have had six straight sub-.500 finishes, including 75-87 in 2016. Walt Weiss, the manager the last four years, stepped down at the end of his contract.

Justice: Black perfect for Rox club on the rise

But as shown by the scene at the Rockies' training facility Monday, this is not a dispirited group looking to be led from out of the wilderness. Black, who managed the Padres from 2007 until June 2015 and was National League Manager of the Year in 2010, inherits an offense that led the NL in batting average (.275), runs (845), hits (1,544), doubles (318) and slugging percentage (.457), and a pitching staff that posted the Rockies' lowest starter ERA (4.79) since 2013.

Story set an NL record for a rookie shortstop with 27 home runs before suffering a season-ending left thumb injury on July 30.

"At the end of the year we got to say bye to Walt," Story said. "I didn't know for sure. I love Walt and loved playing for him, but that's something -- we control what we can. We just go fight behind the guy that's leading us."

Ringolsby: Black hiring puts Rox on right track

No one on the club has played for Black, who was pitching coach with the Angels before becoming the Padres' manager. For a team that has been struggling with pitching throughout its 24-season history, in large part because of the odd effect of playing at 5,280 feet above sea level, going to Black -- who pitched in the Majors from 1981-95 -- represents a fresh strategy.

Black excited to manage Rockies

"I've heard he's a players' manager," said third baseman Nolan Arenado, following the news while on a vacation. "A lot of people respect him. He lets players go about their business -- there were a lot of things I've heard around the baseball community. I don't know him, but the people I've asked about him said you will want to go hard for him. So I'll see that firsthand."

Now the Rockies have a three-headed approach to pitching, with Black, plus pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes returning from Weiss' staff (along with third-base coach Stu Cole).

"When the article came out on the select few managers that were possibly going to get the job, I started looking into it, and I like Bud Black," Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis said. "He's got some pitching experience that will definitely be of use for us as a staff.

"You get to pick everybody's brain. Everybody's a little bit different. He's got a lot of experience, not only managing, but pitching in the game. He pitched for about 15 years. It's exciting, especially with a young staff like we have."

Bridich on Rox hiring Bud Black

Black won't have to look far to find his pitchers. Bettis was joined Monday by fellow rotation member Tyler Chatwood and rotation hopefuls Jeff Hoffman and Eddie Butler. Jon Gray and reliever/starter Chris Rusin will be in any day.

Catcher Tony Wolters, who grew up in the San Diego area while Black led the Padres, said Black is walking into a fertile atmosphere. Players established text groups and FaceTime conversations not long after the season ended to discuss offseason preparations, Wolters said.

"We're keeping in contact; we're a family," Wolters said. "We came this close this year. We feel like we should have won 20, 25, 30 more games than we [did]. There were games once, twice a week where we were like, 'Man, we should've [won].' We win one or two more games every month, we're going to be where we need to be.

"I went to some Padres games and he was managing, so that was kind of cool. And I've heard nothing but good, and better, things about him. Our team is very excited, and we're blessed to get him."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.