Colorado Rockies: Connor Joe continues to impress in leadoff role
By Duane DaPron
Note: This is another installment of a series highlighting the progress of outfielder-first baseman Connor Joe, who is making his presence known in his first season at the Major League level for the Colorado Rockies in his third stint on the active roster. Through action on Sunday, the native of San Diego and favorite of Rockies fans was hitting .285 with an OPS of .827 and has reached base safely in 24 of 26 games as a starter.
After Raimel Tapia, Colorado’s regular leadoff hitter, was placed on the 10-day Injured List Tuesday with a right big toe strain, Joe assumed leadoff duties for all six games of the Rox recent road trip to Houston and San Francisco that ended Sunday.
After going 1-for-8 with a walk and a strikeout in a pair of losses to the Astros, Joe and the Rox moved on for a four-game series with the Giants.
In a 7-0 loss in the series opener with San Francisco on Thursday night, Joe went 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts before coming up clutch in Game 2 one night later.
With Colorado trailing 5-2 and one out in the ninth inning, Joe slammed his sixth home run of the season — and his career — with a two-run shot to left field off Giants closer and former Rockie Jake McGee.
While the Rox would end up losing the contest, 5-4, Connor Joe’s performance was lauded by Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black in his comments to media following the contest Friday.
“He is showing really good Major League at-bats against Major League pitching,” Black said. “I think that’s the thing that sticks out to me and the coaching staff and his teammates. He doesn’t have a lot of Major League at-bats. He’s getting them now. Prior to this year, he has been a Minor League player most of his career. There is a big difference, like we have talked about, between Major League pitching and Minor League pitching. He is showing us right now, in a relatively small sample size of 150 at-bats or so, that he is taking good, quality at-bats.”
Added Black: “He is on pitches. He is swinging at strikes, taking balls. The swing is crisp. There is bat speed through the zone. He is trying to make a statement, simple as that.”
Besides the strides he has made in his limited time in the Majors, Black noted that Joe contributes to the team in more ways than just as a hitter.
“He is working his butt off at first base,” the manager said. “He is working his butt off in the outfield. Every now and then, he catches a bullpen. He is our emergency catcher. He caught a little bit in college.
“So,” added Black, “he is doing everything possible to stay and prove that he is a Major League player. But the at-bats are showing up as quality. That is what we like.”
For his part, Joe credited teammate Yonathan Daza with being instrumental in his ninth-inning homer against the Giants, which at the time, was his third round-tripper in five games.
“I was lucky,” he said. “Daza had a great at-bat in front of me. Allowed me to see a lot of pitches from McGee. I was ready to hit the fastball. I got one. Put a good swing on it and hit a homer.”
Joe realizes his recent success is the result of a variety of factors.
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“I have been working really hard,” he said. “The staff has been great with me in giving me everything — the approach I am (going) with. Unfortunate circumstances with Tapia. I am grateful to get the opportunities and to have a little bit of success.”
In Game 3 against the Giants, Joe was hitless in four at bats with a walk and a strikeout in a 4-1 Colorado victory — the team’s only win against the Giants and only win on the six-game road swing.
Starting in left field, Joe ended the road trip Sunday afternoon with a pair of singles in four at-bats. His second hit of the day — a single to right field — came with two out in the seventh inning and the Rockies trailing 3-2. On the play, Elias Díaz tried to score from second base but was thrown out at home with what would have been the game-tying run.
Defensively, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Joe was charged with an error when he and center fielder Garrett Hampson miscommunicated on a fly ball off the bat of the Giants’ Kris Bryant. The two-base error ignited a two-run inning for San Francisco on the way to a series-clinching 5-2 Giants win.
For the series, Joe finished 4-for-16 (.250) with a home run, a pair of RBI, two walks, and three strikeouts. Since his most recent recall from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 20, Joe was slashing .308/.352/.631 entering action Sunday. He has three doubles, six homers, and 18 RBI in 20 games since his recall.
Rox Pile will continue to keep you updated in our Getting to Know Connor Joe installments for the remainder of the 2021 season.