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The Rockies

Associated Press

 

A certain Rockies player struck it rich this spring: leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon.

 

All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado didn’t fare too badly, either, with his eight year contract worth $260 million. Blackmon profits through the Rockies’ experiment to bat Arenado in the No. 2 spot — a plan that could spill into the regular season.

 

That means even more juicy pitches for Blackmon in what has become a loaded lineup with the addition of Daniel Murphy. After back-to-back postseason appearances, the Rockies are setting their sights even higher this season—the first NL West title in franchise history.

 

“We have a lot of guys who can hit and do a lot of things,” said Blackmon, whose team hit a franchise-low.256 in 2018 and smacked 210 homers (fifth most).

 

“Nolan can really hurt you, but there’s not one place you can hide in the lineup. Or one place you can say, ‘All right, if I get through here, then I’m OK.’ It’s a long lineup, and everyone can hurt you.”

 

Arenado, who turns 28 on April 16, was on track to be eligible for free agency after this season. But he liked what he saw in this team and wanted to stay. He’s coming off a season in which he hit an NL-leading 38 homers.

 

What’s more, manager Bud Black had his contract extended through the 2022 season.

 

“We have a great group,” said Arenado, whose deal includes a provision that allows him to opt out after three years and become a free agent. “I really believe we can win. I wouldn’t make this decision if I didn’t believe that.”

 

The Rockies brought in Murphy to play first base, which means Ian Desmond will move to center, with Blackmon switching to right field and David Dahl taking over in left. It could be a breakout season for Dahl, who’s being mentored by Arenado.

 

“We’re pretty similar. We both work hard,” said Dahl, whose team lost to the Dodgers in a tiebreaker game last season to decide the NL West champion. “I might be more laid back than him. I think our personalities rub off on each other.”

 

The Rockies boast a young starting staff led by hard-throwing righty German Marquez and hometown lefty Kyle Freeland. Jon Gray tries to recover his electric stuff after a season in which he went 12-9 with a 5.12 ERA and was left off the postseason roster. He’s been working on his slider with solid results. His fastball is coming around too.

 

“I know what I’ve got to do now,” Gray said. “I feel good about that.”

 

New faces: Sure, he’s new this season, but Rockies fans are familiar with Mark Reynolds. The non-roster invitee played first base for the Rockies in 2016 and ’17, hitting 44 homers and batting .274. He figures to make the team and spell Murphy at first base.

 

State of the bullpen: With Adam Ottavino leaving for the Yankees, the Rockies need a reliever to pitch the eighth . The spot could go to Scott Oberg or Seunghwan Oh. Waiting in the ninth will be Wade Davis, who led the NL with a team-record 43 saves. The Rockies need bounce-back seasons by Jake McGee (2-4, 6.49) and Bryan Shaw(4-6, 5.93).

 

Up the middle: Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Pat Valaika could platoon to fill the hole at second base after DJ LeMahieu signed with the Yankees. Trevor Story is coming off an All-Star season at shortstop, hitting .291 with 37 homers.

 

Photo: Nolan Arenado, who signed an eight-year contract, could move up and bat second.

 

CHRIS CARLSON/AP