What happens if Stewart starts season on DL?

March 10, 2011 | 9:12 pm | 21  

As MLB.com’s Thomas Harding notes, the chances that Ian Stewart opens the season on the disabled list are increasing as spring training wears on with him out of the Colorado Rockies lineup. So how does that affect the Rockies’ plans for Opening Day?

First, Ty Wigginton becomes the obvious replacement at third base. He’s having a solid spring, hitting .286 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBI. Jonathan Herrera and Jose Lopez could see time at third, too, to allow Wigginton to continue spelling Helton at first base.

Second, it opens a spot on the bench. Jason Giambi and Ryan Spilborghs have two bench spots locked up. Another spot will go to middle infielder who doesn’t win the second base job, likely either Herrera or Lopez. Herrera is a lock to win one of the jobs and Lopez is still a safe bet, but he hasn’t had a very good spring and that could change. If Lopez doesn’t make the cut, that spot probably goes to Eric Young Jr., Hernan Iribarren, or possibly Chris Nelson. A fourth spot will go to a backup catcher. The final spot is Wigginton’s, unless he’s in the starting lineup to start the season.

The extra bench spot opens the door for a number of players:

Jordan Pacheco: He’s a candidate to be the backup catcher but is far more likely to make the team if he can play multiple positions and get regular at-bats. With Wigginton playing third base, Pacheco could see some time at first base a couple times a week.

Cole Garner: With Wigginton playing everyday, the Rockies don’t have a fifth outfielder or an extra right-handed bat off the bench, two roles that Garner, who’s hitting .409 this spring, could fill.

Charlie Blackmon: The only prospect having a better spring is Pacheco and not by much. Like Garner, he would give the Rockies an extra outfielder.

Nelson: He hasn’t played as much as expected this spring, but that could change if Stewart stays out of the lineup much longer.

Young: Somewhat forgotten this spring as he recovers from tibia stress fracture that kept him out much of last season, he’s likely to see game time in the next few days which puts him a similar situation as Stewart. But his speed could still be valuable in limited duty even if he’s 100 percent ready in other areas of his game.

Iribarren: The Rockies are obviously intrigued by Iribarren, who leads the Rockies in at-bats and games this spring. He can play second, third, short and all three outfield positions and would give manager Jim Tracy speed off the bench.

21 Comments »

  • rockymountainhigh | March 10, 2011 | 9:28 pm

    I was disappointed that Stewart hasn’t recovered as quickly. First, it was one week and now it’s two weeks and counting. I still hope Stewart can go by Opening Day, but I don’t mind giving a shot to one of the young guys such as Pacheco and Irrienbarren.

    How can anybody say that EY2 is still in the competition for a roster spot when he hasn’t even played yet?

  • Steve Foster | March 10, 2011 | 9:34 pm

    Young obviously is a long shot, but the injury situation is a little different for him. Stewart’s injury basically brought his spring training to a halt while Young has been building momentum all spring and the Rockies have held him back to be cautious. When he starts playing he’ll be able to play regularly whereas Stewart will probably still see a lot of time off even after he gets back in a game. I don’t think Young will end up winning that spot, but at this point I think there is a slightly better chance that he’s with the Rockies on Opening Day than there is Stewart, so I included him.

  • rockymountainhigh | March 10, 2011 | 9:41 pm

    Makes sense, Steve. I’m gathering all the ITR data before I hit the road tomorrow morning on the way to Scottsdale. Looking forward to watching the competition among longshots to make the team if and when Stewart and/or Cook doesn’t go north with the Rox.

  • gary | March 11, 2011 | 12:27 am

    Sure isn’t helping Stewert get off to the big year we all had hoped for.Has anyone noticed offense problems similar to last year? I only see the box scores,but early losses ROX were seriously outhit! Recently,big innings have come against mostly minor leaguers.Case in point-v.Angels S.KASMIR,we had 5 hits,4 walks,an error on Kasmir,yet only scored ONE RUN IN 3 INNINGS!Sounds like shades of last year all over again.Where the hell did Iribarren come from/ He has had a great spring!

  • Wayne | March 11, 2011 | 6:52 am

    What has happened to Amezega (spelling), who was once with Rox and then had some quality years in Florida? He can play IF and OF. Please help with name spelling, I’m kind of fuzzy this morning.

  • Steve Foster | March 11, 2011 | 9:36 am

    Amezaga has been injured all spring.

  • Dj | March 11, 2011 | 9:59 am

    Pacheco has only had 21 games at AA. Please don’t tell me the Rockies are seriously considering keeping him on the big club.

  • Steve Foster | March 11, 2011 | 10:08 am

    The Rockies are seriously considering it, but it’s not a desperation move. Because the Rockies almost never rush players like this it’s a credit to how mature and advanced Pacheco is in spite of his experience level. Both Carney Lansford and Tom Runnels this week stated that Pacheco is ready for the majors as a hitter. For some guys, that’s the case. Still a long way to go in spring training and Pacheco hasn’t locked up a thing, but he’s in the conversation because he’s earned it based on how well he has played and not because others haven’t played well.

  • Jasper | March 11, 2011 | 10:09 am

    If Stewart is not there and is on the DL, a roster spot opens for a right handed hitter, ruling out Blackmon but giving Nelson, Garner and Pacheco a chance. Iribarren has done well but he is a little guy of the Herrera type, not a big right handed pinch hitter. Personally, I believe it will be either Garner or Nelson, probably Garner. Nelson has been good when played, but he has not had as many at bats as others – don’t know why. I think that Pacheco will start this year at Tulsa as a catcher and infielder, to prime him for a role later this year if needed, and next year for sure. Nelson shows well at second base and will be ready if Lopez goes south. A combination of Herrera and Nelson as second base/utility players looks promising. Should Herrera get hurt, Iribarren might come up. In short, the Rockies have more good depth than the past, for sure.

    Ben Paulsen, a lefty, has also done well as a first base candidate for the future.

    All of the above must be put into the perspective of early spring training where the game outcome is often decided by our prospects and bench depth vs their prosprcts and bench depth. Beginning this next Sunday or Monday, we can get a better grasp on MLB ready prospects and the regulars as the season gets close.

  • ProgMatinee | March 11, 2011 | 10:56 am

    Was the injury that bad, are the Rockies just being cautious?

    If he doesn’t return soon, is this more ammunition in the “lack of passion” aspect people have mentioned for Stewart i nthe past?

  • Julian | March 11, 2011 | 11:03 am

    What’s the contractual status of Iribarren? Can the Rockies send him to Colorado Springs if he doesn’t make the Rockies out of spring training, or does he have a contract that allows him to sign with another team if he doesn’t make the Rockies out of spring training? Do any of the Rockies on minor league contracts have contracts that permit them to leave the team if they don’t make the Rockies out of spring training (Maine?)

  • Rocky | March 11, 2011 | 12:00 pm

    I was thinking the same thing about Stewart. Did he come to spring training out of shape? Is this a factor in his ability to re-cover from the injury?

    I’m still hopeful that with Lansford in the mix, that Stewart will finally realize his potential.

    3 weeks to go to opening pitch…

  • Steve Foster | March 11, 2011 | 12:01 pm

    A little bit of both, Prog. Turned out to be more serious than initially thought, but the Rockies are being cautious because they’d rather have Stewart miss a couple weeks at the start of the season than aggravate the injury and miss a couple months.

    Iribarren is signed to a minor-league deal and can play at the Springs. Don’t know whether he has an opt-out or not, but I suspect he does not. Some others do. Maine has a June 1, opt out. Giambi has one, too, but he’s likely to make the team. Honestly not sure about all the others but a good rule of thumb is that a player with a lot of major-league experience generally has some sort of opt-out. Guys like Iribarren who are still fighting to crack the majors and stay there generally don’t.

  • Steve Foster | March 11, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    The issue with Stewart is not his condition when he reported but the severity of the injury. There has been no suggestion that he was out of shape. Rockies are just being cautious.

  • Mike Raysfan | March 11, 2011 | 12:21 pm

    I thought the best question Alanna asked coach Runnels was about being the guy doing the tv interview.

    Based on that interview, there was little doubt how the Rockies feel about Pacheco. What I find curious is the speculation that he will be playing other positions besides catching. I have not heard any of that from the Rockies. True enough, he did play some 1st base during the AFL but I thought the purpose behind that was to get him some at bats. If there was also purpose in giving him some time honing 1st base skills then I would assume they would have continued that process during ST. If he doesn’t make the team then I guess things will become clearer wherever he ends up.

    I for one have high hopes for Stewart. I really hope he can have a breakout season and prove to eveyone what he is capable of. I think he does have the potential to be the #5 guy the Rockies are expecting. On an everyday basis, not just once or twice a week.

  • Julian | March 11, 2011 | 12:44 pm

    Mike Raysfan,

    I think that Pacheco has to play multiple positions (cather, 1B, 3B) to be able to get enough at bats because at some point Rosario is going to get the bulk of the starts at catcher. The Rockies need to figure out how to get both of these guys on the field at the same time. (A problem for the future is figuring out how to get Rosario, Pacheco, Paulsen, and Arenado on the field all at the same time.) If I’m Ianetta, I’m renting a home in Denver and not buying one.

  • Mike Raysfan | March 11, 2011 | 3:16 pm

    You very well could be right Julian. I have no clue. I know there are plenty of others that believe as you do.

    In interviews, in the story Jack wrote, in other stories, the talk seems to focus on making Pacheco a better catcher. They talk about getting his mechanics behind the plate smoother, faster, and accurate.

    Unless I’m missing something I haven’t heard speculation or even a rumor from anyone within the Rockies about moving him back to the infield. Fan speculation yes.

    So far, to the best of my knowledge, all his ST time has been behind the plate. I just don’t see him making the team and playing any other position than catcher. That’s why at this point I’m more apt to believe he doesn’t make the team and goes to say AA. If there is a plan for him to transition to a multi role player, I think it would happen then.

    Time will tell

  • Julian | March 11, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    Mike Raysfan,

    I think that you’re right that all of Pacheco’s time in the field thus far in spring training has been at catcher. What I wonder is how much work Pacheco would need to be able to play 3B or 1B in the major leagues, given that he came up as an infielder. My assumption is that if he is going to be a super utility guy in the major leagues (catcher, 1B, 3B) then he probably needs the most work at the catcher part of that trio, so that’s why he’s spending so much time there. Of course, I’m kind of making all of this up as my own supposition as to how he will ultimately be used in the major leagues given who else is in the system. I’m not sure that the Rockies have said how he will ultimately be used at the major league level.

  • Doctor_Christopher | March 11, 2011 | 11:45 pm

    I think the Pacheco situation is naturally interesting. We are all waiting for Rosario to arrive at some point in the future or Chris I to make his claim to catcher for the next five years. But then along comes Pacheco. Is he really doing as well at catcher as we hear? If so, does he become a real option there? The silly thing about the MLB is not using the 2nd catcher as a PH or other option because, what if he gets hurt (winning or losing one game seems to dominate thinking at times). If Pacheco is a real alternative there (not like Wiggy, an “emergancy” catcher), then the bench of the Rocks, which I think can be a real strength, becomes dangerous. He seems to hit real well. Can he really play the field at 1B, 3B and C? If so, combined with Wiggy, and if he gets at least 350 ABs (ruining his development so he can sit at Coors makes no sense), then the Stewart injury (and I think they have to think long-term with Ian, not rush him back) becomes a blessing. If the Rocks have Ryan, Wiggy, Lopez (who has to prove that 2009 was not the aboration) or Herrera on the bench along with Giambi becomes the most dangerous bench to support a solid starting 8. At least we have alternatives. We are not talking about guys who either do not belong as talents or are over the hill. Maybe in the LT both the Cook and Stewart injuries serves this team (being as they happened in spring training rather than during the season) and set us up for 162. At least that is what my positive viewpoint sees.

  • progmatinee | March 12, 2011 | 7:17 am

    I really really hope Chris Iannetta does something this year so that either 1)we can trade Iannetta for something of value or 2)we can retain Chris and trade 1 of either Pacheco or Rosario for something of value.

    If Chris continues to play so poorly that his value causes him to walk at the end of his contract as not even a Type B that is really going to stink.

  • Doctor_Christopher | March 12, 2011 | 9:17 pm

    progmatinee, I think you are dead on. If Chris I ends up being so abysmal that he walks at the end of his contract and he is not even a Type B, it will mean the Rocks wasted a lot of money and likely that he ended up sinking the 2011 season. Chris has it in him…but as is true of about 60% of major league players…does he let it come out.

    I was listening to Tracy on KOA the other day and he pointed out that catcher, especially in the NL, is a weak spot for a lot of teams. If Chris hits .260 with 20 or so (+ or minus 5) homers, and calls a good game, he becomes an all-star and this team is in the playoffs. If he hits .200 with a .280 or so OBP with only 10 hrs and calls a bad game and cannot throw out Ryan Howard on the bases, well, we are sunk.

    I like Chris I, the question remains, does he become the linchpin in this team (like Veritek became so for the BoSox in 2004), or does he become the blackhole that swallos 2011? Glad its him and not me… lots of pressure on what appears to be nice guy who I will cheer for all season.

    BTW, I made a lot last year of having a Spanish speaking-Latin-cultered catcher back there. Was I being “racist” or over-estimating that feature? Or can a starting rotation that is at 3/5 Latino work well wtih Chris (he is Ubaldo’s personal catcher at this point). I believe any catcher with skill can catch a guy from Mars, so I regret focusing on this last year, but Chris’s skill in this department may do a lot to end a myth that seems to have a lot of cache around the league.