Stephen Head signed out of tryout camp

March 7, 2011 | 3:29 pm  

The Colorado Rockies signed Stephen Head, 27, out of their annual invitation-only tryout camp. He will try to revive his career as a left-handed pitcher and, if nothing else, joins the organization with some curious history while making the conversion to the mound.

Head went to Hillcrest Christian High School in Jackson, Miss., and the University of Mississippi where his teammate at both places was Rockies outfielder Seth Smith. The Rockies drafted Smith, 28, in the second round in 2004. One year later, the Indians drafted Head in the second round.

Head, a first baseman-outfielder and like Smith a left-handed hitter, reached Triple-A with the Indians in 2009, hitting .246/.291/.368 in 280 at-bats for Columbus with six homers and 31 RBI. He spent last season with Southern Illinois in the independent Frontier League and hit .265/.345/.451 with 13 homers and 68 RBI in 366 at-bats. Head also made two relief appearances, going 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA.

In 497 minor league games in the Indians organization, Head hit .263/.324/.425 with 60 homers, 285 RBI, 119 walks and 310 strikeouts in 1,893 at-bats.

In his three seasons at Mississippi, Head pitched as well as played first base. In 60 games, including 19 starts, Head went 17-7 with 26 saves and a 2.31 ERA in 210 innings. Area scout Damon Iannelli, who signed Smith, recommended Head for the tryout camp.

Head was the only one of about 35 players signed out of the tryout camp on March 4. He showed average velocity with the potential for plus velocity, once he gets on a throwing program and comes under the tutelage of Rockies instructors. It was that potential of a left-hander with plus velocity that led to Head being signed. Head will likely go to extended spring training to continue his throwing program and conversion to pitching and then be sent to low Class A Asheville.

In other minor league news, family health matters forced reliever Ricky Testa to retire. The Rockies drafted Testa, who turns 24 on April 8, in the 18th round in 2009 out of Lamar University. He spent last season at short-season Class A Tri-City where he went 2-2 with a 2.40 in 29 games. In 48 1/3 innings, Testa had six walks and 51 strikeouts. The Rockies would have learned this season whether Testa’s stuff would play at higher levels, and they will welcome him back if circumstances enable him to return.