While there were moments in the Colorado Rockies’ 2016 season where it seemed like they could contend for a Wild Card spot, it was still very much a year of rebuilding. With a parade of high-profile prospects being called up from the minors, and with several little-known players stepping up in a big way, they look to have done just that.
On Friday, in our Blake Street’s Youth Movement series, we detailed how Jordan Patterson adapted to his time in the majors. Today, we’ll be looking at Carlos Estévez and how the late great José Fernández inspired him to smile when times got tough in his rookie season as the Rockies’ closer.
The best thing about Carlos Estévez is his smile. It’s beaming and always showing in the clubhouse. Having braces since his rookie ball year in 2013 couldn’t stop him from smiling. It’s how he combats the pressures of being placed in the closers role a month within his major league debut.
“When I was a kid, that’s what I was always taught. When you grow up, baseball is going to be a game played by men, but it’s a kid’s game, so you have to enjoy every day like you’re a kid,” Estévez said. “You come to the field all salty, mad, even because of your performance life is going to be even harder. It’s hard to not be like that, to be happy all the time for me. That’s my thought process.
After the All-Star break, Estévez put balloon animals all over the Rockies clubhouse. Nolan Arenado still has his inflatable lion over his locker. Estevez brightens this clubhouse and he is still one of the youngest people in the pen.
While 2016 had many bright spots for Estévez, he was part of a bullpen that ranked last in the majors with a 5.10 ERA. This is the biggest area to address for the Rockies heading into the offseason. After blowing several saves, Estévez was sent down to Triple A. When he got back, his new locker assignment was next to Chad Qualls. Estévez relished in the reliever’s 12 years of big league experience.
Qualls told him about the time he made it to the World Series in his rookie season and he gave up a homer in his first appearance in that series. Qualls also told him that his best year he had a 2.48 ERA but his record was 2-7. Estévez said hearing these stories helps him keep things in perspective when he faces adversity.
Another person that really inspired Estévez over the past year is the late great Jose Fernandez who tragically passed in a boating accident earlier this month. Estévez got to speak with Fernández for about five minutes while he was warming up and running in the outfield before a game this season. No one could have given Estévez better perspective.
“What I took away from him is what we were talking about: Just enjoy the game 100 percent,” Estevez said. “Like it’s your last day playing. You never know when that’s going to be. He’s the perfect example. You just have to enjoy it. Not everyone has the privileged to be here.”
The Rockies rookies are enjoying their time together here. Through adversity they are leaning on one another to the point where they’ve grown into what will be a foundational core heading into 2017.
This is a part of a week-long series. This is the last story of the series. If you missed any of the other stories, check them out below.