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Nolan Arenado chuckled at the idea of ever taking the field every day for the Colorado Rockies and playing all 162 games.
In theory, it's possible. The reality of being the third baseman for the Rockies is something else.
“I played 160 one year. That was way too hard in Denver,” he said.
Still, Arenado is bucking a trend while developing into one of the premier players in the National League. Rather than making sure he's getting days of rest built into his schedule, Arenado almost refuses to step out of the lineup. Arenado has played at least 157 games in each of the past three seasons. Only two position players league-wide — Eric Hosmer and Joey Votto — have played more games than the 476 total regular-season games for Arenado during those three seasons.
It's a point of pride for the Rockies' young star, who turns 27 next month and finished fourth in the MVP voting last season. And he's doing it playing half the season at elevation, where it's more difficult for the body to fully recover.
“You look around the league, you shouldn't have guys leading the league in at-bats or games played who play in Denver. It shouldn't happen,” Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon said.
It's hard to be better than Arenado was in 2017. He had a career-best .309 batting average. He reached the 130 RBIs plateau for the third straight season and clubbed another 37 home runs. His OPS was also a career-best .959. If anything, what Arenado accomplished in 2017 validated his previous two seasons when he burst on the scene with back-to-back 40 home run seasons for the Rockies.
Over the past three seasons, Arenado is hitting a combined .297 with 120 home runs and 393 RBIs.
During this three-year run, Arenado has figured out how to keep himself in the lineup. He learned from watching former teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the latter of whom he said recently he would like to see back in Colorado this season, and how they prepped for the season. Arenado figured out sitting in the ice bath wouldn't be enough and added additional recovery methods — massage, acupuncture — to his routine.
“I'm a big believer that if you're on the field long enough the numbers will be there in the end,” Arenado said. “I just try and focus on taking care of myself and being ready to go every day. I never like days off. I have a guilty conscience, to be honest with you. I feel guilty when I take days and stuff like that. I never want to. When I take a day I feel guilty I'm letting someone down and I don't want to be doing that.”
While Arenado may feel guilty about sitting a day, Colorado manager Bud Black said the fatigue is something his staff watches closely.
“He's proven the durability and he's sort of built to play,” Black said. “Some players are truly built to play and wired mentally to handle that. He's one of those players. Do we keep an eye on all our guys? Absolutely, especially where we play. But he's shown that ability to stay fresh, to stay in a good spot physically and mentally to play every day so I think the continued usage will probably be very similar to what it's been.”
One of the ways Arenado stays fresh is his affinity for Wiffle ball. Arenado plays it regularly with his family in Southern California during the offseason. He's even special-ordered bats from the manufacturer that he uses for the family games.
Arenado joked that maybe in his next contract — he's due to be a free agent after the 2019 season — he may put in a request for a Wiffle ball field at his house.
“You go back to your childhood a little bit. When we were kids that's what we did. We still love it now to this day,” Arenado said. “It brings you back to home. That's what we do when we're home. It's a routine we've always had. We play Wiffle ball with our boys. That's what we do.”
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