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Nolan Arenado was, he admitted, a bit more nervous than usual.
The Cardinals’ star third-baseman is always amped up and super-focused before a game, but Thursday was different. He was returning to play at Coors Field for the first time since the Rockies traded him to St. Louis on Feb. 1, ending a two-year soap opera.
Despite a rift that developed between Arenado and the Rockies’ front office and ownership, the Rockies prepared a pregame highlight video of Arenado’s illustrious eight-year career in Colorado. It was played on the giant video scoreboard.
“I’m excited to see it, but a little nervous … but it will be good,” the third baseman said. “I really appreciate what this organization did for me and my family. And obviously, I’m very happy that I got to play here.”
Still, there are many Rockies fans who believe Arenado forced his way out of Colorado just two years after signing an eight-year, $260 million contract prior to the 2019 season. Arenado was hopeful the fans at Coors Field would cheer him but he was prepared for a few boos, too.
“I get it, I left,” he said. “They aren’t too happy with how it came down. … I understand I won’t be applauded by everyone.”
Arenado, a five-time all-star and one of the best players in Colorado history, won eight Gold Gloves and four Platinum Gloves with the Rockies. He’s proud of what he did wearing purple.
Welcome back, 2️⃣8️⃣! pic.twitter.com/tMq7GWcEUd
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) July 2, 2021
“I really feel like I can look at my past and have really no regrets when it comes to what I did here,” he said. “I feel like I did some great things.”
The ugly, public rift that developed between Arenado and former general manager Jeff Bridich after the 2019 season was the spark to Arenado’s departure. Bridich resigned as the general manager in late April and was replaced on an interim basis by Bill Schmidt, Colorado’s longtime director of scouting.
Asked if things might have turned out differently had Bridich left while Arenado was still playing for the Rockies, Arenado dodged the question, saying: “I don’t know what the plan would have been, regardless. They could easily want to trade me still or I would have stayed. I don’t know how it would have really turned out.”
Arenado, who used to live in LoDo near Coors Field and often walked to work, said it was “definitely weird” going to the team hotel and taking the bus to the ballpark.
Wednesday night, Arenado had dinner with Rockies shortstop Trevor Story at a sushi restaurant. And Arenado said he would make nice with many of his former Rockies teammates, at least until the first pitch.
“So there won’t be a whole lot of hugging and all that,” he said. “We’re trying to win a ballgame. And you know, Charlie (Blackmon) is not a huggable person. Really, if you think about it, he’s kind of intense, too.
“I got the handshakes out of the way with Story last night. And then today, it’s about business.”
Freeland on track. Lefty Kyle Freeland, scheduled to start on Saturday, threw a bullpen session Thursday and tested his right hamstring, which cramped up during his last start. If all goes well during his fielding workout Friday, he should be able to make his scheduled start.
Gomber update. Lefty starter Austin Gomber, suffering from left forearm tightness, threw his first bullpen since going on the 10-day injured list June 20. The tentative plan is for Gomber to throw another bullpen session and then make a minor league rehab start before he rejoins the Rockies. That means he won’t return to their rotation until after the all-star break.
Cardinals RHP Johan Oviedo (0-4, 5.23) at Rockies RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-5, 5.81)
6:10 p.m. Friday, Coors Field
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM
González has pitched relatively well as the club’s “sixth starter.” He’s currently filling in for lefty Austin Gomber, who’s on the injured list with a strained forearm. Gonzalez is coming off a loss at Milwaukee where he pitched five innings, allowing just one run on three hits. Still, the road-challenged Rockies lost, 5-0. The Cardinals beat up Gonzalez at St. Louis on May 8, scoring seven runs in four innings. He’s 1-2 with an 8.16 ERA in three career starts vs. the Cardinals. Oviedo, 23, will be facing the Rockies for the first time. He’s coming off a tough outing vs. the Pirates, allowing five runs on six hits and four walks across four innings. He struck out five. He’s averaging 5.2 walks per nine innings, which is a major factor in his lack of success.
Trending: Entering Thursday’s game, the Rockies had gone 15-4 at Coors Field since May 21, the best home record in the majors over that span. Their overall .636 winning percentage (28-16) is the seventh-best in the majors.
At issue: Ryan McMahon entered Wednesday in a 2-for-19 slump with 10 strikeouts over his last six games since returning to the lineup after missing two games due to forearm soreness. His slump could put a damper on his chances to make the All-Star Game.
Saturday: Cardinals LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.60) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (1-2, 6.54), 7:10 p.m., ATTRM
Sunday: Cardinals RHP Carlos Martínez (4-9, 6.38) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (7-6, 3.62), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM