Colorado Rockies spring training notebook: C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols, Greg Bird’s injuries

On Monday morning, newly signed Colorado Rockies first basemen Greg Bird and C.J. Cron met with the media via Zoom, including Rox Pile. Here are some of the highlights from the conversations.

What’s the C.J. Cron-Albert Pujols connection? Meanwhile, Greg Bird looking to put injuries in the past. Both are key parts of two first basemen looking for fresh starts with the Colorado Rockies.

Learning from a legend

In his early career with the Los Angeles Angels, Cron, the 17th overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, learned about playing first base at the Major League level from future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. When he debuted in 2014 with the Angels, Cron debuted at first base, going 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI in a 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers.

Cron would see action at first base in 36 games that season while serving as the team’s designated hitter in 38 contests. It set the tone for Cron’s early designation as a DH, one that was waned in recent years. With Minnesota in 2019, Cron played first base in 117 games and never served as the team’s DH. Last season in a small sample size in Detroit, Cron was the first baseman in 13 of his 17 outings.

This season, with the DH not coming back to the National League, Cron is looking to secure time at first base, competing with Josh Fuentes and Greg Bird for the spot. But he’ll bring with him the lessons he learned from Pujols as a young member of the Angels.

“When you’re a young guy and you come up playing behind a guy named Albert Pujols, the opportunity isn’t going to be there 100 percent on the defensive side of the ball,” Cron smiled. “Albert’s a great guy. He helped me a lot, but he played first base so it’s as simple as that. I think that reputation as a DH started right when I debuted.”

Staying positive

For Bird, a series of injuries have kept him from staying on the field consistently since his MLB debut with the New York Yankees back in August of 2015. In the time since then, he’s played in just 186 games.

However, the Denver-area native is looking for a fresh start with the Rockies and a chance to put all of those injuries behind him.

“There’s a frustration point for sure. I think it’s more about just putting it behind you and moving on,” Bird said. “Obviously, at times, that’s hard to do. But you just have to. That’s just it. That’s how you deal with adversity. That’s how you overcome adversity. That’s how you defeat that.

“It’s been an interesting ride to say the least. A lot of highs and a lot of lows, and there are lessons to be learned in that. Things you take away and things you use going forward. Things that you learned that you might not have thought would help you in baseball help you a lot. You have to fall back on the positive things.”

Bird knows that, to earn a spot on the roster, he’ll not only have to stay healthy, but also battle Cron and others for playing time. That means a strong start in spring is imperative.

“It’s the big leagues. Everyone is competitive,” Bird said. “That’s how it should be. I think that makes everyone better. And that’s the focus, getting better every day.”