ATLANTA — Bud Black called over Carlos Gonzalez to the middle of the dugout for a look-see. What is that painted on his bat?
“Let me see your bat, bro,” the Rockies manager said to his right fielder Friday before the Rockies took batting practice at SunTrust Park. Emblazoned on the barrel of his 31.5 ounce bat was Gonzalez’s face in full color.
“That’s a three-hit night,” Black said. “I hope he hits you in the face. Right?”
“I’m aiming for the nose,” Gonzalez said, pointing to the sweet spot.
The Rockies on Friday kicked off a weekend of lackadaisical equipment regulations as Major League Baseball redesigned the uniforms, let players where mix-and-match socks, put nicknames on their backs. Even paint their bats.
Several Rockies used a red-white-and-blue bat. Pitcher Chad Bettis wore rainbow socks. The Rockies wore V-neck two-tone tops with the purple faded toward something like lavender.
Trevor Story changed the name on his uniform to “Joe” because, as a minor-leaguer in camp two years ago, first baseman Mark Reynolds did not learn Story’s real name, so he called him Joe. Reynolds’s jersey said “Sheriff.”
Black used an anti-nickname. “Harry” was printed on his jersey.
“Even though it’s my real name, I’m gonna use it as my nickname,” Black said. “It’s sorta fun.”
MLB brainstormed the idea to allow the players some fun outside their routine. They also did it to promote the game with kids, a kind of anti-authoritarian nod in the opposite direction or other leagues. Some fans and players have tagged he NFL, for instance, as the “No Fun League.
“We gotta keep those kids involved in baseball,” Black said. “Because there are kids out there playing other sports. Don’t get me wrong. I like lacrosse, I like soccer. I like other spring sports. I like football and basketball. But let’s get some ballplayers.”
Desmond in action. Outfielder Ian Desmond (strained right calf) went 1-for-2 at the plate Thursday in his first rehab game with Triple-A Albuquerque.
“The at-bats were good,” Black said. “He came out of it fine. A good first step for Desi. It’s good news. He’s just got to get his stamina back and feel confident about the calf.”
More noteworthy, perhaps, was Desmond’s position. He played first base. On Friday, in his second game, he played left field. After a rest Saturday, Desmond will play shortstop Sunday for the Isotopes. The Rockies are solidifying a plan to use Desmond as a utility player around the field on his return.
Hoffman troubled. Right-handed rookie Jeff Hoffman, after he was sent down from the Rockies on Aug. 18, started Thursday for Albuquerque and it did not go well. He gave up six runs on four hits and two walks after recording just two outs. He was pulled in the first inning.
Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (11-8, 3.71 ERA) at Braves LHP Sean Newcomb (2-7, 4.13), Saturday 5:10 p.m., AT&T SportsNet, 630-AM
In his past two starts since a minor hamstring injury put him on the disabled list, Freeland has allowed five earned runs in 11 2/3 innings for a 3.86 ERA. Both of those starts came at Coors Field, where he has been significantly better this season (3.30 ERA vs. 4.22 on the road). Saturday’s start will be the Denver native’s 12th away from Colorado. But the last time he faced the Braves, on Aug. 15, he gave up three runs on four hits over six innings, with five strikeouts and two walks. Atlanta’s Newcomb gave up solo homers to Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story in his last start against the Rox, and the Braves won 4-3.
Sunday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (5-3, 4.54) at Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-9, 4.95), 11:35 a.m., AT&T SportsNet
Monday: Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-11, 6.11) at Rockies RHP Antonio Senzatela (10-4, 4.52), 6:40 p.m., AT&T SportsNet
Tuesday: Tigers TBA at Rockies RHP German Marquez (10-5, 4.18), 6:40 p.m., AT&T SportsNet