SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nolan Arenado owns four Gold Gloves, two All-Star game appearances, a World Baseball Classic championship -- and remains a ghost in the playoffs.
In four seasons, he has averaged 67 extra base hits, and two wow defensive plays per week, but he operates with anonymity incongruous to his stature. No postseason hurts.
The Rockies boast a record 72 games under .500 in Arenado's career. This spring carries a different vibe.
"There’s excitement around here, which is nice. It hasn’t been like that for the last couple of years. Everyone was kind of wondering what’s going to happen," Arenado told Denver7 on Sunday after batting practice. "This year we feel like we can do something special."
The optimism begins with pitching. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez echoed Arenado's sentiments, believing this season can feature the first meaningful games in September since 2010. The arrival of manager Bud Black -- the first ex-pitcher to lead the club -- and a rebuilt bullpen provides the rudder for hope. Last season, the Rockies fizzled away leads with alarming regularity. Closer Greg Holland and setupmen Mike Dunn and Adam Ottavino supply versatility and swing-and-miss stuff.
"We like our options," said manager Bud Black.
Dynamic arms are welcomed with open arms for a team that has for too long whiffed on significance. Though only 25, Arenado ranks as one of the Rockies' longest-tenured players. He can help guide younger players, and admitted his World Baseball Classic experience provided valuable lessons.
"Those are the most intense games I have every played in," said Arenado, who homered on Sunday in the same week he won the WBC title with team USA. "We have 162 games. Those were pressure games and pressure situations. I don’t think the environment is ever going to be like that. I can talk to them about that. Staying calm and don’t worry. I learned that."
Because the Rockies dissolved over the final two months last year, finishing 75-87, Arenado's excellence nearly faded into obscurity. He finished fifth in the National League MVP voting after batting .294 with 41 home runs, 133 RBIs and a .362 on-base percentage in 160 games.
"I have to continue to find ways to get better, find ways to become a better hitter. Find ways to become a better defensive player. I want to have better at-bats against better pitching. Those are just the little things I think about," Arenado said. "I try not to do too much, though. That’s what will help me stay consistent. Ultimately, I have to stay with who I am."
It's been good enough to place Arenado in the conversation among the game's elite. This year, for the first time in his career, his team might join him.
"There’s some different faces, we have a solidified rotation. We have some battles going on, but we are going to have a legit five that we feel confident with. I think in years past we were always like, ‘we have to try some people out in different positions.’ Now we are going for it with what what we have," Arenado said. "People are committed."