Entering unfamiliar territory, Arenado starts rehab
Third baseman goes 2-for-4 with a run for Triple-A Colorado Springs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored on Saturday in his first rehab start with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
The 23-year-old, who has been on the disabled list since May 25 with a broken middle finger on his left hand, had a two-run, two-out double in the fourth and singled in the third in Colorado Springs' 6-0 win over the Iowa Cubs. Hitting in the second spot, Arenado grounded out to shortstop in his first at-bat, in the first, and struck out swinging to end the sixth.
As planned, Arenado played just seven innings before being replaced by Drew Garcia. He was happy to be back on the diamond again.
"It felt good, and it was nice to finally get back in action and get the nerves going again," said Arenado, who last year became just the second rookie in Major League history to win the Gold Glove at third base in the 57-year history of the award. "It was fun seeing the ball and putting some swings on it. It was a good day."
Arenado snagged a line drive off the bat of Josh Vitters to end the Cubs' half of the third and handled Vitters' strong grounder for Iowa's third out of the seventh. He showed no ill effects while handling the bat, even on missed swings, and was not forced to slide either time he reached base.
"I didn't get as many [chances at third] as you would like, but I got that last one that was tough, and it was great," said Arenado, who wore a brace on his left hand while on base. "It felt fine and didn't hurt my finger. Even when I hit [the double] to left, there was no pain at all."
Arenado sustained a mallet fracture to his middle left finger while sliding headfirst into second base in the second inning of a 3-2 road loss to the Atlanta Braves on May 23. Before Saturday's game, he said he began throwing and fielding last week and followed that by taking batting practice.
Arenado said he wanted to get roughly 25 at-bats before hopefully rejoining the Colorado Rockies next week.
"I'm over the injury, really, and I'm just worried about getting my timing down," he said before the game. "It doesn't hurt [while] hitting, and fielding -- [the ball] hits against it sometimes fielding, but it's not too bad. I have no fear about my finger anymore, and it feels fine.
"My goal would be to get back to Denver when they get back from a road trip [on July 3], but I've got to take it one day at a time and make sure I'm feeling good," he said. "I don't want to head back there and face [Clayton] Kershaw not knowing how I'm going to feel. I've got to make sure I get back to where I was."
Arenado had a breakout season as a rookie in 2013, batting .267 with 10 home runs, 29 doubles, four triples, 49 runs scored and 52 RBIs in 133 games. He finished seventh in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Arenado played 49 games for the Rockies this season before the injury, hitting .305 with six homers, 17 doubles, 27 runs scored and 28 RBIs.
It has been difficult for Arenado to deal with the injury, especially considering the DL was foreign territory for him.
"It's been really hard and is something I've never done throughout my whole career," said Arenado, who was projected to be the National League's All-Star Game starting third baseman at the time of his injury. "It was different, and I learned a lot about the game, seeing how people handle their business. It was a good learning experience, but I couldn't be happier to be back."
Known for his all-out style of play, Arenado said he would not be hesitant to return to that type of aggressive approach on the diamond.
"I was talking to [Glenallen] Hill about it, and the only way to get back to where I was is if I play hard," he said. "I can't take it easy so that, when I get up [to the Majors], I have to ramp it up and it'll feel like I haven't done that yet. I'm going to play as hard as I can here.
"I can't be tentative down here and then try to go hard up there and get hurt."
One thing he said he would not do any longer, however, is slide headfirst.
"I guess my only fear is making sure I don't dive headfirst," Arenado said. "Every time I get on base, I'm going to have to try and remind myself."
Arenado said the mental aspect of the rehabilitation has been tougher than the physical.
"Physically, I've been feeling find and have been able to work out and do stuff like that," Arenado said. "Mentally, watching the way our team has been playing, it's been hard to watch. It's hard to watch when you're losing and you're just sitting there not being a part of it."
Arenado has already learned to pace himself during his rehab from teammates Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer.
"They've all just told me, 'Hey, make sure you're ready to go and keep working,'" Arenado said.
Neal Reid is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.