By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
For all Trevor Story accomplished in a record rookie season, his biggest takeaway is this: Slide feet first.
A painful lesson and one that ended the Colorado Rockies shortstop’s outstanding season in late July after he tore a ligament in his left thumb trying avoid a tag while reaching for second base .
Before his injury, Story was making headlines for his improbable power surge to start his career, hitting two homers in his major league debut and seven in the opening week. Story just kept on going deep, too — until his injury July 30. After that, he watched his team fall out of contention.
Fully mended, he’s eager to prove his 27 homers in 97 games were no fluke.
“That’s kind of how I always approach each season, with a chip on my shoulder,” the 24-year-old Story said by phone from Scottsdale, Arizona. “I feel like everybody has something to prove, so you can definitely say I have a chip on my shoulder.”
A prized prospect, Story got his chance last year when Jose Reyes missed spring training and was ultimately released by the Rockies after serving a 59-day suspension for violating baseball’s domestic violence policy.
Story made the most of the opportunity, lining two homers off Zack Greinke on opening day. His first week was one of the baseball’s best to begin a career: seven home runs in his first six games, including homers in his first four starts. The Hall of Fame even requested his helmet and batting gloves. Cooperstown also wanted his bat, but he couldn’t part with it.
Just a few of his highlights:
—hit 21 home runs before the All-Star break, joining Dave Kingman (1972) and Albert Pujols (2001) for the most all-time by an NL rookie.
—became the second shortstop to hit two home runs in his major league debut (Bert Campaneris, 1964).
—hit homers in four straight games to start the season, which tied for the longest streak in major league history (Chris Davis, 2013; Nelson Cruz, 2011; Mark McGwire, 1998; Willie Mays, 1971).
—his 10 homers in April tied for the most in major league history for a rookie (Jose Abreu, 2014).
“When I got home and got to be around my family a little bit, they would bring it up,” Story said of all his achievements. “You kind of sit back and reflect back on what happened, reminisce on the good times we had. But it’s pretty short-lived for me in that aspect.”
His season — and that of the Rockies — was transformed on July 30 in New York against the Mets when he tried to slide around a tag on a close play at second base, jamming his thumb into the bag. Story took the field, only to aggravate his thumb when he dove for a grounder.
He was placed on the disabled list Aug. 2 and soon after underwent surgery. The Rockies were 52-52 before he was hurt, and 23-35 the rest of the way.
“It was tough. We were playing so well as a team — the pitching was clicking, the offense was clicking,” said Story, who led all rookies in homers and finished tied in RBIs (72).
New Rockies manager Bud Black can’t wait to have Story in a powerful lineup that also boasts Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond, who’s converting to first base this season.
Black also has a word of caution for Story: Resist comparing this season’s early results to those of year ago.
“If you don’t hit seven homers in the first week not all’s lost, right? That sort of theory,” Black said. “He’s still getting his feet down as a major league player. Just continue to grow and his talent will show up in production. We just need him to play like Trevor Story — play good defense, swing the bat like he’s capable.”
There’s also this: Story throws a roughly 96 mph fastball — he did as a high schooler in Texas — just in case Black ever needs another arm in an emergency.
“Maybe I should mention that?” Story cracked.
To make sure he doesn’t hurt his thumb again, Story will wear one of those “mitt-looking things” — his description — while running the bases so his fingers aren’t exposed.
That, and slide feet first whenever possible.
“Missing those two months was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Story said. “To get back into spring training, compete with those guys again, it’s going to be fun.”
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed from Scottsdale, Arizona.