Walt Weiss didn't become Rockies manager to babysit or conduct science experiments. He created absolutes in how baseball should be played, and repeated a simple message to his players: compete. A curious outgrowth of his mantra, which began the first day of full-squad workouts at spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., was the clarity it provided players. "We have a direction," said veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer. "When you talk about last year, that was a different team. We have a veteran team, with guys who have been there, done that. The young guys feed off that. And we are learning to turn the page. We feel like we have a chance to win every game." Last year, the challenge on a nightly basis was to avoid embarrassment. The Rockies lost 98 games, and their way, a team more notable for its ever-changing philosophies and MRIs than RBIs. It's not that the Rockies now are in first place in the National League West, a jarring development by any measure. Teams get hot. It will happen to nearly everyone this season, though probably not to the Astros. It's how the Rockies have reached this perch that's more impressive. The schedule hasn't exactly been set up for them. The Rockies have played more road games than home games, never a blueprint for success. But they have gone 8-8 in visiting ballparks. They took a kick to the shins from the Giants, and staggered through Phoenix like a giraffe on ice skates.