In the first game of the 2022 season, Connor Joe served as the designated hitter for the Colorado Rockies. That honor came after the 29-year-old played in that role just three times during the 2021 campaign in the midst of a campaign where he logged 1.6 bWAR, the seventh-highest of any Rockies player last year.
With the new look of the Colorado Rockies, with Kris Bryant and Randal Grichuk joining the team in the offseason and lining up next to Charlie Blackmon in the Colorado outfield on most days, there will certainly be chances for Joe to make an impact for the Rockies in the field. However, his impact opportunities may come at the plate as much as anywhere else as the 2022 season gets cranked up, although Joe once again flexed his versatility by playing first base on Saturday night.
So how does the mentality change for Connor Joe when he is the designated hitter for the Colorado Rockies versus playing in the field?
Is there a difference in Joe’s preparation on the days when he knows he is only going to be focused on hitting? Joe flashed his well-known smile when he answered the question inside the Rockies clubhouse.
“I know I’m not going to be on my feet all day, right? That’s the only difference physically. But I guess as far as preparation or mindset going into the game, I’d say no.”
So there’s the answer on the physical side, but what about the mental side of staying engaged in a game where Joe knows he won’t be playing on defense (unless there’s a switch of some kind)? Blackmon has said in the past that he doesn’t feel like “a legitimate part of the team” on the day he is the designated hitter. How does Joe balance being a DH versus being a defensive player as well?
“I’m not as engaged say if I was DHing versus playing left field,” Joe said. “I am in the dugout for the whole game. I am watching the game, so I’m like in tune with it. But it’s easy as a DH to get caught up in your at-bats, right? Because you have an at-bat, and then you wait, maybe, who knows, 45 minutes to an hour to your next at-bat. So it’s very easy to get caught up thinking about that last at-bat until your next one, right? Whereas when I’m playing left field, I have an at-bat, good or bad, I’m not thinking about that at-bat. I’m thinking about where does this next throw have to be, who’s running on first base, and stuff like that to keep me locked in. So, when I’m DHing, as much as I can, I watch the game and get immersed in that as opposed to overwhelming myself and constantly thinking about my last at-bat.”
During that time between at-bats as a designated hitter, is Joe tempted to head to the batting cage to get that last at-bat out of his head if it didn’t go the way he wanted?
“There’s a balance, right? I want to stay ready. I want to stay hot for my at-bat. I want my body to be ready for the at-bats. But you can get caught up going into the cage every half-inning and overswinging, right? We have 162 games. How is taking 50 to 100 swings during the game going to help? You could run yourself into the ground.
“I think it’s a fine line. I’m not saying I’ve found that fine line or found the perfect amount between staying loose and overdoing it.”
Expect Joe to rotate through the Colorado players who the designated hitter role in 2022, and expect Joe to get a better feel on that “fine line” as the season goes along as well.