Fifth starter trumps second base in Rockies battles
The competition for the job as the Colorado Rockies’ starting second baseman has narrowed considerably since the start of spring training, while the fight for a job in the starting rotation appears to just be getting started. Where the battles for spots on the Rockies roster stand:
While second base looked as if it was going to be the fiercest competition in the spring, that designation now appears to be going to the role as fifth starter. is reportedly making progress in his efforts to get back on schedule preparing for Opening Day, but he has a razor thin margin for error at this point. He not only needs to prove that he’s healthy but that he’s ready. was considered the favorite to step in for Cook, but that was before he allowed eight hits and four earned runs in three innings on Tuesday. Paulino is still a slight favorite, but the door remains open for and others, including and perhaps , who pitched three solid innings Monday before falling apart in his fourth inning of work. John Maine has yet to pitch in a spring game; he has been relegated instead to intrasquad games as the Rockies bring him along slowly but in terms of the amount of work he’s put in against hitters this spring, he’s still ahead of Cook. With Cook, Paulino and Rogers at the front of the competition, the job remains open to whomever can claim it either through health or performance.
The competition opened as a four-man battle between , , and ., with Lopez as a prohibitive favorite. Young hasn’t yet played a spring game as the Rockies ease him back from a tibia stress fracture that cost him much of last season. Nelson, meanwhile, is hitting .154 in eight spring games and while nothing is yet decided, he appears to be on the sidelines of a competition that has likely narrowed to Herrera and Lopez. , a 26-year-old infielder/outfielder signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason, has played himself into the picture by hitting .313 in 10 games, but he, too, is on the sidelines watching Lopez and Herrera and more likely to compete for a utility job if a spot on the bench opens up.
Herrera has had one of the best springs among Rockies hitters — only catchercould reasonably claim to have had a better spring — hitting .333 in seven games and all but locking up a role on the team. Lopez is hitting .235. They could yet end up splitting the job, but if one or the other wins the full-time job, it has a significant impact on the Rockies lineup. if Herrera ends up as the everyday second baseman, he will settle in to the No. 2 spot in the order. Lopez would most likely bat sixth or seventh. Young, meanwhile, is expected to start playing in games sometimes in the next week, but will have to make up ground quickly.
The standout among catchers this springs has clearly been Pacheco, who has hit. 500 with a home run and seven RBI, the most among Rockies hitters. The team continues to look at Double-A Tulsa as a likely destination where Pacheco can play everyday and continue to develop as an all-around player. But he has emerged as a real competitor for the role and his ability to play the infield makes him potentially more than just a backup catcher. But assuming the Rockies stick with their plan for Pacheco the backup catching job remains a competition between , who leads the remaining candidates in at-bats and is hitting .375; , who homered Tuesday; , who started Tuesday; and Chad Moeller has has played sparingly. Morales remains the favorite for the job, but how the Rockies use Pacheco in the next few days will be interesting.
Five bullpen spots — , , , and — were essentially locked coming in to spring training, and nothing much has changed although Reynolds’ grip has loosened somewhat after compiling at 12.00 ERA in three spring appearances. entered the spring a heavy favorite for a sixth spot because he is out of options, and he has strengthened his hold with three scoreless outings. If Reynolds or Morales loses his hold on a spot, has emerged as the fallback option after a rough start for .
As for the final spot, it will depend largely on what happens with the starting rotation. If Paulino doesn’t claim a spot in the rotation, he’s likely to end up with the final spot in the bullpen. If he ends up in the rotation or loses out on a job entirely, the final bullpen spot now looks like a competition between Rogers, who is also a strong candidate for the rotation; Mortensen, who has been solid and is also a candidate for the rotation; and two pitchers who have yet to allow a run in three appearances each,and .