He's Back: Arenado Homers in 1st AB After Suspension

Nolan Arenado didn't waste any time delivering a quick reminder of just how big an impact he can have on a game.

After six days away from the Rockies -- between a five-game suspension for his part in an April 11 bench-clearing with the Padres and Thursday's day off -- Arenado came up in the bottom of the first inning Friday night and drove a two-run home run to right field, giving the Rockies an early 3-2 lead.

Arenado said before the game it was good to be back with his teammates, and the home run, only his second of the season, said all that needed to be said about how happy the Rockies were to see him again.

Yes, the Rockies did win three of five games during his suspension -- splitting two games in Washington and taking two of three in Pittsburgh. That, however, did not disguise the value of Arenado, who is a month less than five years of big-league service time. He has won five Gold Gloves for defensive excellence, and three Silver Slugger Awards for offense. Those awards are voted on by coaches and managers.

"His presence makes a difference," said manager Bud Black. 

Besides, the success on the road did not mask the offense challenges faced by a Rockies lineup that is last in the NL in batting average and runs scored.

The team hit .170 with a .241 on-base percentage in the five games without Arenado.

"Maybe swings and misses a little too much, but it's cold," Arenado said. "It's not easy to play in that weather, in those conditions. I don't know if I would have done anything, either, in those conditions, but they battled, they did the best they could and found a way to win. It was good starting pitching, our bullpen did a good job and our defense is really good. That's how you win ballgames."

Arenado has gotten off to what for him is a slow start. He went into Friday's game hitting .288, and had only one home run and six RBI in the 14 games before his suspension.

That played a role in Arenado's decision to spend three days in the middle of his suspension at the Rockies spring training headquarters in Scottsdale, taking part in extended spring training with young prospects who are waiting for short-season leagues to begin in late June.

Arenado said he had 17 at-bats against live pitching, and while the pitching isn't as refined as big-league pitchers, "they are throwing 94, 95 miles per hour," he said.

Besides, Arenado's focus was not on who he was hitting against, but rather the approach he took into the at-bats, working to get his offensive approach back in order.

"I had a couple of things I wanted to work on, probably won't share them -- just kind of personal things," he said. "But I feel good. I feel fresh. I don't like missing games but I had to do it. I'm trying to look at the positives."

He, however, did feel old when he celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday with the youthful participants in extended spring training.

"There were a couple of guys there that were like 16 or 17," Arenado said.  "That was a little weird. I felt really old, especially with my birthday, getting older.

"It was cool talking to them, cool being around young kids. It kind of gives you a little bit more energy, to be honest with you. They're younger, a little bit more bouncy and wanted to do more stuff. It was fun."

The real fun, however, was in the first inning Friday night, driving that pitch from Hendricks out to right field.

Tracy RingolsbyComment