Noel Cuevas has learned a lot about preparation this season.
The lessons extend from baseball diamonds to coffee shops around the National League. Cuevas, who recently enjoyed his first major league call-up — a three-month stint with the Colorado Rockies — intends to make the knowledge pay off.
For the moment at least, the 26-year-old is an everday outfielder for the Albuquerque Isotopes. He went 2-for-4 in Monday’s 7-2 loss to New Orleans at Isotopes Park.
Albuquerque has been something of a comfort zone for Cuevas. He posted big numbers (.312 batting average with 15 home runs and 79 RBIs) with the Isotopes last season and earned a shot with the Rockies after a strong start in the Duke City this year.
Cuevas had his moments in Denver, too. His key pinch-hit triple helped the Rockies to a 5-4 win over Cincinnati on May 26, and Cuevas socked a three-run homer against Seattle ace James Paxton that sparked a 5-1 Colorado victory July 7.
“Those are probably the highlights so far,” Cuevas said. “Those were two times I could honestly say I helped us win a baseball game.”
When it comes to video highlights, however, Cuevas’ big moment came May 2, when the Rockies sent the rookie outfielder on a coffee run in full uniform. Cuevas was all over national television for his work in bringing a 27-drink order back to Coors Field. He was not prepared for the response.
“I had no idea it was going to be that big,” Cuevas said with a grin. “The customers knew what was going on, so I obviously wasn’t the first guy to do it. Our TV crew did a great job with it, too, and it was actually fun. The team went on a nice run right after that. I was kind of surprised they didn’t make me do it again.”
Discerning between soy milk lattes and cappuccinos may have been the simplest part of Cuevas’ big-league learning curve. Embracing the technological side of baseball proved more challenging.
“The scouting reports and all the video you watch, it’s amazing,” Cuevas said. “You learn who throws what pitch on what counts, where to play defensively for every batter. There are so many different resources and you have to on your toes 100 percent of the time. If you’re not focused for one pitch, it’s gonna cost you.”
Cuevas also had to adapt to a part-time role with limited at-bats. He appeared in 63 games, many as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner, hitting .243 with two homers and eight RBIs.
The sporadic playing time came as no surprise considering the quality of Colorado’s outfield. Isotopes outfielders Raimel Tapia, Mike Tauchman, David Dahl and Jordan Patterson have shuttled between Triple A and the big leagues the past two seasons because of the Rockies’ talent and depth.
“You kind of know you’re not going to get all the playing time you would like,” Cuevas said. “We have guys here in Albuquerque who could play every day for a lot of teams and produce, but you can’t worry about that. We all have the same primary goal and that’s to win. You just have to do what you’re asked.”
Cuevas has gotten consistent playing time since returning to Albuquerque on July 29. He’s gradually regaining his hitting rhythm and blasted his first career grand slam in a win over Round Rock last week.
“I’m just trying to use what I learned in Colorado,” Cuevas said, “and make sure I’m prepared if I get a chance to go back up.”
Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, the Puerto Rico native says he’s taken one positive lesson to heart in 2018.
“Before you actually get to the big leagues, I think you always wonder if you can play there,” Cuevas said. “Now that I’ve done it, there’s no doubt in my mind. I can hit big-league pitching. It’s just about doing all the little things and putting in the work.”