DENVER — The start of his first major-league experience in Denver was not going well for Bud Black. As the starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants on May 12, 1993, Black was tasked with facing the free-swinging expansion Rockies in front of 50,105 fans at Mile High Stadium, folks who were viewing big-league baseball as a new Christmas present they had just unwrapped.

Those fans roared as Eric Young laced a line drive to the wall and motored to third base for a leadoff triple. They yelled as Joe Girardi shot a single to right field, scoring Young. By the time a balk moved Girardi to second base and a walk put Jerald Clark on first, the rowdy scene more resembled a nightmare for Black, a left-hander.

What happened next could serve as a window into what Black hopes to teach the Rockies as he begins his first spring training as the team’s manager this week.

After a sacrifice fly by Charlie Hayes scored Girardi, Black had had enough. Black, 35 at the time, retired 21 of the next 22 batters he faced en route to one of the best outings in the closing stage of his pitching career.

When Black recalled his first — and only — major-league game as a starting pitcher in Denver, it was the opening sequence he thought of first. But it was his approach amid the onslaught, one that produced success on that warm day nearly 24 years ago, that may provide a window into how Black will try to help the Rockies reach the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“Accepting a good pitch that results in, whether it’s a broken-bat hit or a good swing where a guy makes good contact, that’s part of pitching,” Black said. “Same thing on the hitting side. If you’re a hitter who hits the ball consistently on the nose and you line out, you’re hitting the ball hard, making outs. So much of this game is about the mental component and being able to hang in there and have the resiliency in your makeup to overcome that.”

The Rockies will assemble in Scottsdale, Ariz., to begin the journey of the franchise’s 25th season, armed with optimism created by incremental improvements made a season ago. Colorado was in the race for a playoff berth in early August before fading down the stretch. Even during that slide, though, the players consistently voiced hope for what was coming next.

“We’re optimistic every year, but this year I think you can feel it just that much more,” said Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino. “We’re moving forward and we’re taking steps that way, so we’re very excited.”

A young and talented lineup gets the addition of free-agent acquisition Ian Desmond to play first base, and shortstop Trevor Story will return from a thumb injury that cost him the last two months of a sparkling rookie season. A starting rotation that includes Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood, all of whom had impressive stretches in 2016, has a chance to be one of the best in more than two decades of baseball in LoDo.

The bullpen, the powder keg that ignited Colorado’s late-season collapse last summer, will have a new look. In retooling their stable of relievers, the Rockies signed left-hander Mike Dunn and right-hander Greg Holland, a 2014 postseason star for the Kansas City Royals. Holland is returning from Tommy John surgery but could be a big acquisition if he can approach his form of a few seasons ago.

Then there is Black, who pitched that one major-league game in Denver before managing dozens more at Coors Field during nine seasons guiding the San Diego Padres. Much of the optimism that seems to permeate through the Rockies — some of which is the “hope springs eternal” nature of spring training — also is connected to a new era that will begin when Black, now 59, conducts his first workout.

The first task at spring training for the Rockies’ new manager, Black said, is to establish connections with his new players. Black views himself as a builder of relationships, traits that were at least partly aided in their development by working with veteran managers Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon, among others.

“This will be a spring where I get to know my players and my players will get to know me, and we’ll be bringing some new ideas and new thoughts into our system,” Black said. “The message to the players is: ‘You guys are a good team. I’m going to bring some things in that I believe in. The coaches and I are going to bring in some systems we think can help us. But you guys are ready to make a charge here in our division and throughout the league.’ “

Gray, the Rockies’ hard-throwing ace right-hander, peppered his new manager’s phone when he found out last fall that Black would be the team’s new leader. Research revealed a promising confidant. For a talented, young pitcher plying his craft at the fun house that Coors Field can be, Gray has anticipated the growth he believes he will experience with Black.

“For me, personally, it’s easier to buy in to something when your coach has been through the same spot you’re going through,” Gray said. “I think a lot of guys will buy in to that like I will. It makes it a lot easier to understand. The first time I talked to him, I felt like I had known him for a long time. He’s just that kind of guy. He’s easily relatable. He’s easy to talk to, and that’s a good thing to have.”

It’s the connection that he builds with pitchers, and the success that results in those connections, that could go a long way toward determining the success Black finds with the Rockies, both this season and in the future. It’s part of why general manager Jeff Bridich sought out Black after Walt Weiss resigned after his fourth season as the team’s manager.

While Black may possess an intimate knowledge about the craft of pitching that his predecessors with the Rockies didn’t have, his biggest contribution with the pitching staff will be more in helping to cultivate an attacking, short-memory mind-set than altering mechanics.

Black said he used to pick the brain of Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux when it came to creating that game plan, and it’s a lesson in his time as a manager that sticks out above many of the others that have soaked in during a 37-year career in the major leagues.

“The trick is, if you’re a starting pitcher and you’re going to throw a hundred pitches, the goal is to throw a hundred good ones,” Black said. “I used to talk to Maddux about this all the time. His goal and ultimate challenge was to throw a perfect pitch 110 times. Now, he probably came as close as anybody to achieving that. You’re not going to do it. The good pitchers throw pitches where they want to with the right action and the good location, maybe 70, 75, 80 times a game, and that would be a great game. So that’s the trick, is to try to really throw a pitch, as intended, every time you throw.”

On the mound in front of a rowdy crowd nearly 24 years ago, the pitches Black intended were battered around the ballpark during a first inning that still stands out in his mind. But he kept throwing those pitches that day and walked off the mound a winner.

It’s time to find out if he can do the same for the Rockies.

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