Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado knows the difference between routine and superstition.
Arenado enters Monday night's opener of a two-and-two, home-and-home Interleague series with the Rangers with a 24-game hit streak, second in Rockies history only to Michael Cuddyer's 27-game run last season. The Monday and Tuesday games will be at Coors Field. The teams will play at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Wednesday and Thursday.
Called up at the end of April last year, Arenado hit .267 -- and became the first National League rookie to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award -- with little knowledge of his opponents and without full knowledge of his swing or how to handle the lengthy season.
Now, Arenado, who turned 23 three weeks ago, prepares for games like a veteran. He has taken to a physical maintenance plan that is more fitting of a veteran who has had bumps and bruises. It's something energetic young players like Arenado often take for granted. Arenado began building his routine in Spring Training and it has held.
Arenado has started all 33 games this season, and he has shown no signs of wear. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who has learned the hard way with frequent leg muscle injuries, has counseled Arenado on the need to not take his youth for granted.
"I've been taking care of my body," said Arenado, who is hitting .311 overall and .351 during the streak. "I've been making sure I'm rolling out -- the massage stuff, making sure I'm getting treatment on all of my body and my back -- and working out. I want to make sure I come in ready to go.
"It's something I've learned from Tulo. You have to take care of your body if you want to play every day, especially in this altitude."
Streaks sometimes spark superstition, which can be harmless but also can be distracting. Arenado stays away from that type of thinking.
"I don't put too much into that stuff -- just do my job and hit the ball hard," he said. "I'm not like, 'I've got to wear these batting gloves.' I use whatever I want. That's about it. As for my routine, I pray every day. I pray before games. That helps me out."
Rangers: Welcome to the Majors --- and Coors Field
The Rangers are ready to introduce their two youngest starters to the perils of pitching in Coors Field when Martin Perez and Robbie Ross take the mound Monday and Tuesday.
This will be the Rangers first trip to Coors Field since a three-game series in 2006 when their starters were John Koronka, Robinson Tejeda and Vicente Padilla. The Rangers lost two of three on that trip and are 4-7 overall at Coors since Interleague play began. Rangers pitchers have a 6.20 ERA in those 11 games.
"I know it is a hitters' park but I just need to do my job and continue to pitch good," Perez said. "The ballpark is not what makes the difference. It's your mind and how you think. Conviction is the key."
The good thing is Perez and Ross are in the top five in the American League in ground ball to fly ball ratio. That will serve them well in Coors if they can keep getting ground balls.
"It's a hitters' park but so is Arlington if you think about it," Ross said. "You know the ball is always going to fly so you've got to pitch and get ground balls."
Perez is trying to bounce back after his first loss of the season. Perez, who was the Rangers Player of the Month for April, had thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings before allowing eight runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Athletics on Monday.
"I was throwing strikes but I wasn't throwing them where I wanted them. It was not like how I normally throw. I've got to be more focused and attack hitters and throw my kind of strikes."
Rockies: Cuddyer beginning to turn corner
Michael Cuddyer, the defending National League batting champion, hasn't played since suffering a left hamstring strain on April 17 and his timetable can't be set until he can run comfortably. But after doing exercises under water Sunday morning, Cuddyer said he is finally making progress.
"We're not quite 'Sweatin' to the Oldies,' but today is the best I've felt since I got hurt," Cuddyer said. "I'm going to hopefully feel better and continue to progress. I'll progress as it continues to feel better."
Cuddyer noted that last season the Rockies performed well until a spate of injuries just before midseason. This year, the Rockies have started strong despite injuries. Joining Cuddyer on the 15-day disabled list in the last few days were utility infielder Josh Rutledge and catcher Wilin Rosario because of a flu that is racing through the clubhouse. Starting pitchers Brett Anderson (broken left index finger) and Tyler Chatwood (right flexor tendon strain) also are on the DL.
The Rockies have thrived because of an offense that is topping the Majors in many categories. But Cuddyer said there's also a confidence that didn't exist last season, when the Rockies won just 74 games.
"It is belief -- you've got to believe you're a winning team," Cuddyer said. "It starts with that, first and foremost. You can have all the talent and put up the best numbers. But if you don't believe you're going to win, you're going to find a way to lose.
"We did win [last year] until we got hurt, and we weren't able to overcome that. Now, we see early this year we've been hurt and we've been able to overcome it. That is going to continue to make us believe, as well."
• Rangers pitchers have hit .136 since the introduction of Interleague play in 1997, fourth best by an American League team. Their slugging percentage is .186, the second best, and their nine doubles are the most. Bobby Witt hit the team's only home run, and the first by an AL pitcher in Interleague play, against the Dodgers in 1997.
But the only offensive stat manager Ron Washington cares about is sacrifice bunts. Rangers pitchers have 20 sacrifice bunts in Interleague play, the fifth most by an AL team.
"We just want our pitchers to get our bunts down and move runners when they can," Washington said. "That's all we are looking for."