MLB

Rockies’ C.J. Cron is healthy, ready to stake claim at first base

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In December 2018, Daniel Murphy signed a two-year, $24 million free-agent deal to become the Rockies’ first baseman.

That didn’t go so well.

Now the Rockies — who did not sign a single big-league free agent this offseason — are trying the economy approach. They signed veterans C.J. Cron, 31, and Greg Bird, 28, to minor league deals in hopes they can play their way onto the team during spring training.

More than once, manager Bud Black has praised Colorado’s decision to sign Cron, who has shown power in his right-handed bat throughout his career.

Cron hit 30 home runs with Tampa in 2018 and 25 with Minnesota ’19, despite being slowed by a right thumb injury much of the season. Last year with Detroit, however, was a lost season. He hit four home runs in 52 plate appearances before he injured his left knee fielding a grounder and had season-ending surgery to repair his knee cap.

“The Rockies gave me a chance to be an everyday player and I’m super pumped for the opportunity,” Cron said Monday. “The knee is good. I have been clear for a month-and-a-half now. Up until then it was all rehab, but since then it’s been normal offseason workouts. I’m 100% ready to go.”

This will be the first time Cron, who broke into the majors with the Angels, has played in the National League, meaning he’ll have to prove he’s more than a designated hitter if he’s going to win the job.

“When you’re a young player and you come up playing behind a guy named Albert Pujols, the opportunity isn’t quite going to be there on the defensive side of the ball,” Cron said. “Albert’s a great guy. He helped me a lot, but he played first base, and it’s as simple as that. I’ve been playing OK defense over there for a little while now.”

With the Twins, Cron played first in 117 games and was not used as a DH. In his 17 games with the Tiger last season, Cron played first in 13 games. So he’s not a novice with a first baseman’s glove.

Cardinals’ culture. Former Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is quickly adapting to his new team. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arenado spoke about how it felt like he was joining a winning culture in St. Louis after being traded to the Cardinals.

“I want to be a part of a group like this,” Arenado told the Post-Dispatch. “The expectations are high. The fans’ expectations are to get there, to the playoffs. It seems like here, ‘We’re the Cardinals. We should always be there.’ I like that. That’s a cool feeling to be a part of.”

He added: “It’s the culture. You can tell there are certain things that they do every day or guys do every day that’s different. I didn’t know. I know people work hard where I’ve been before. But the way they go about it here is a little different. There are a lot of coaches around. There are a lot of trainers around. It’s a different vibe than what I’ve ever seen.”

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