SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — David Dahl, in a constant quest to keep some meat on his bones, was sipping a protein shake Monday morning in the Rockies' clubhouse at Salt River Fields.
"Sometimes I'm just not hungry for breakfast, but I need to keep doing this. It's a long season. I want to get ready for it," said Dahl, who weighed 193 pounds playing for Double-A Hartford at the start of the 2016 season but was down to 175 when he finished the year with the Rockies. "It's a long season, a long summer, so I want to get ready for it."
Dahl, 22, figures to play an integral part in the Rockies' plans to challenge Los Angeles and San Francisco in the National League West. Exactly what role that will be is unclear.
Despite his impressive big-league splash last season, Dahl must beat out veteran Gerardo Parra for the starting job in left field. That might surprise those who watched Parra struggle in his first season with Rockies. He missed 46 games because of a sprained left ankle and finished with career lows in batting average (.253) and on-base percentage (.271) after signing a three-year, $27.5 million contract. Dahl, meanwhile, hit .315 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs through 63 games.
"The kid is talented," said All-Star right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who then began an impromptu scouting report. "He's very similar to myself when I was young, I see that. I think he has the desire of being a great player, which is good.
"That smooth swing is what impressed me right away. It's a nice easy swing with some power, and he can control the barrel pretty well too. So he can hit for average and power. Plus, he's got good speed. I think it's even better than what people think. He knows how to steal bases, he knows how to run bases. You don't see that very often, which is why I think he's such a special player."
Still, the company line is that Dahl and Parra are dueling to be the starter.
"It's early in spring; we'll let them play," new manager Bud Black said. "Dahl proved last year that, in a smaller sample size, that he was productive. The guy can run, he's got some power, can hit for average, a very good defender. He's got a skill set that's exciting.
"Parra has proven at the big-league level that he has been a productive player. Last year, he wasn't at the top of his game. But with the pride factor, I'm sure he wants to prove to everyone the player that he can be."
Dahl said what you'd expect a rookie to say about the situation.
"I'm not trying not to really think about it too much," he said. "I want to go out and get a good feel for things this spring and try to help the team in whatever role they want me."
Dahl can be used anywhere in the outfield. He played primarily left field last season, though he did make five starts in center and one in right.
"I really do feel comfortable in any of those positions."
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