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C.J. Cron wallops a pair of home runs while Elehuris Montero and Ezequiel Tovar usher in new era on Opening Day

Patrick Lyons Avatar
March 31, 2023

Welcome to a new era in Colorado Rockies baseball. 

At first, it was Vinny Castilla and Walt Weiss for four seasons together on the left side of the infield, ushering in the first postseason in 1995 for the expansion franchise. Three years of Troy Tulowitzki and Garrett Atkins brought two playoff berths, including the team’s only World Series appearance in 2007. And it wasn’t that long ago that Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story teammed for five campaigns and took the Rockies to consecutive postseasons.

On Thursday, Colorado debuted the latest duo they hope can bring the club back to October baseball: Elehuris Montero and Ezequiel Tovar.

At age 21, Tovar became the youngest player in team history to start for the Rockies on Opening Day. Not since Nolan Arenado in 2014 at age-22 has a third baseman started game one of the season for Colorado as young as 24-year-old Montero.

The duo combined for three of the Rockies 17 hits on Opening Day during a 7-2 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. 

The biggest contributor to the victory was first baseman C.J. Cron. He batted cleanup and started his third consecutive Opening Day, becoming the first to do so at the position since Todd Helton retired following the 2013 season.

Cron lashed an RBI-single in the first inning to give Colorado a 1-0 lead before giving his team another lead in the fifth with his first home run of the season. In the seventh, Cron homered again and was followed by Montero who hit a 391 ft long ball for his first of the year. 

Mar 30, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Elehuris Montero (44) gestures while rounding the bases after hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Together, Cron and Montero became the first Rockies to go back-to-back on Opening Day since Story and Carlos González in 2016. (Also: Troy Tulowtizki and Chris Iannetta in 2009) joining Vinny Castilla (1998) and Trevor Story (2016) as the only players in franchise history with a pair of homers on Opening Day.

When the game ended in a crisp two hours and 56 minutes, the 33-year-old had four hits — three for extra-bases — and record-tying five runs batted in (also: Castilla, 1998).

Mar 30, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron (25) is congratulated by third base coach Warren Schaeffer (34) after hitting a three-run home run during the fifth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 17 base hits were more than any road game in all of 2022. It was also the first time since 1900 that a team had recorded 17+ hits and struck out 17+ times during a nine-inning game. Every player in the starting lineup recorded a base hit, and veterans Charlie Blackmon and Kris Bryant each had three base hits.

On the mound, Germán Márquez was making his third Opening Day, setting the franchise mark after he and nine others were tied with two. He managed to scatter five hits during his six innings of work, allowing two earned runs while walking none and striking out five.

Sans Daniel Bard, Colorado’s bullpen of Dinelson Lamet, Justin Lawrence and Jake Bird kept San Diego scoreless for the final three frames. Lawrence struck out all three batters he faced: Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth. 

The win gave the Rockies a perfect 3-0 record against the Padres on Opening Day. Colorado has three more at Petco Park then travel north for a quick two-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday and Tuesday night before coming back to Denver for the home opener at Coors Field on Thursday, April 6.

Diamond Details

Colorado made some roster moves before the game, placing Daniel Bard on the 15-day Injured List and activating Jake Bird. 

Bard discussed the reasoning for his IL stint was a bout with anxiety. “Mental health stuff – it’s affected me a little bit on the field, a little bit off the field,” Bard told Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “It’s not all the time. Most of the time, I’m great and feel pretty normal. It’s just something that came on a few weeks ago, mostly, that I noticed was starting to have an effect on my ability to do my job.”

Bard struggled during his second outing with Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. He faced four batters and didn’t retire a single one on his way to walking two, throwing two wild pitches, giving up a single and hitting one batter, José Altuve, who will miss several weeks with a fractured thumb.

While Bard is with the team in San Diego, recent free agent acquisition Jurickson Profar was not. Signed to a one-year $7.75 million deal on March 21, Profar had difficulty getting into the US from his native Curaçao. He arrived earlier this week and has been playing minor league games at the team’s Spring Training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Until he arrives, Colorado will have to deal with 25 players on their 26-man roster.

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