MODESTO — The home clubhouse at John Thurman Field resembled a tailor shop on Monday as players made quick-snip alterations to their hardly custom-fit jerseys.
Yes, that's yet another difference between the big leagues and the California League, where pants and shirts are assigned with the hopes they will fit.
The off-field game is part of professional baseball's learning process, and every one of the 25 Colorado Rockies' properties who will make up the opening day roster of the 2013 Modesto Nuts still have a lot to learn.
"I didn't get to see much of the team because it was put together on Friday," said Lenn Sakata, returning for his second season as Modesto manager.
"We had three guys hurt in the process of getting ready to come here, so we've gone from having pretty much the same lineup they had last year in Asheville to having to tweak things a little bit."
The 140-game on-field learning process for the Nuts formally begins on Thursday in San Bernardino. Modesto will play its first seven games on the road before celebrating its home opener on April 11 against the defending league champions from Lancaster.
Most of the Nuts' players arrived in town on Sunday and moved into apartments or rooms in the homes of host families on Monday before the first of three scheduled workouts at Thurman Field.
At this point of the spring, scouting reports are moot since almost none of these guys have played a single game at the High-A level.
But there are some exciting names on the Nuts' roster, like shortstop Trevor Story, a 20-year-old Texan considered one of the best five-tool shortstop prospects in the minors.
Then there's opening-night starter Tyler Anderson, a lefty who went 12-3 with a 2.47 ERA in his first professional season last year in Asheville.
"Experience-wise, this is a young team with a lot of guys in their first or second full season," Sakata said. "We had the second oldest team in the league last year."
Sakata's 642 wins over a little more than eight seasons are the most in league history, as are his three league titles and five championship series appearances.
His previous teams in San Jose and Bakersfield had the knack of improving as the season progressed, and that certainly was the case last year with a Nuts team that struggled out of the gate to a 4-12 start before winning the second half title and claiming the North Division championship.
"If we ever got off to a start where everybody hit good, pitched good and fielded good, we'd wonder why we were in this league," Sakata said. "Colorado isn't sending 26-year-olds to Modesto just so they can win the league. We have guys here who are supposed to be in this league."
Anderson will be the lone lefty in the starting rotation, which also includes Chris Jensen, Ben Alsup, Daniel Winkler and Tyler Gagnon a Livermore resident.
Story will be a fixture at shortstop, with Nick Gallego (the son of former Modesto A's infielder Mike Gallego) and Jordan Ribera (Fresno State) at second, returning Nut Tim Smalling and Jose Rivera at third and Harold Riggins at first.
"We have some interesting players," Sakata said. "The one thing I do see is that we'll be better defensively. You look at Riggins at first base. He makes plays there every day that I couldn't dream of having anybody make last year."
William Swanner will be backed up at catcher by Ryan Casteel, with Aussie David Kandilas in center, Juan Crousset returning in left and Brian Humphries and Tyler Massey both capable of playing all three outfield positions.
"We don't have a natural center fielder," Sakata said. "I was hoping to get Delta Cleary back, but he impressed a lot of people in spring training, as did Juan Crousset.
"I'm pleased that several guys seemed to get something out of playing here last year."
And he's hoping the same is true for the 2013 season, even if that learning process starts with a pair of scissors.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek