Next on Bridich’s to-do list: im­prov­ing bullpen

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders Pa­trick Saun­ders: psaun­ders@den­ver­ or @psaun­der­sdp

na­tional har­bor, md» The winter meet­ings ended Thurs­day morn­ing as gen­eral man­agers and their en­tourages scram­bled to catch flights home, but that doesn’t mean the busi­ness of base­ball is done.

Es­pe­cially not for the Rockies. Gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich said he ex­pects the hot stove to stay hot the next two weeks.

“We can be ac­tive; I hope we are,” Bridich said. “There are still things we can do to im­prove our team.”

Top­ping the to-do list is im­prov­ing the bullpen, which was the worst in the ma­jor leagues this year with a 5.13 ERA. Bridich said he and his staff have “looked at just about ev­ery free-agent re­liever.”

Among can­di­dates the Rockies are known to have tar­geted are left-han­der Mike Dunn and right-handed sidearmer Brad Ziegler.

“There is a still a lot of work left, but we def­i­nitely have leads and we have ideas,” Bridich said. “We cer­tainly made con­tacts with teams and with agents. For the most part, we were run­ning on par­al­lel cour­ses at these meet­ings in terms of meet­ing our needs as far as first base and the bullpen.”

The Rockies met their first need, agree­ing in prin­ci­ple Wed­nes­day with free agent Ian Desmond on a five-year, $70 mil­lion deal to play first base. The con­tract isn’t of­fi­cial yet, but Desmond is ex­pected to be signed early next week.

Dunn is in the bullpen mix in part be­cause he was the eighth-in­ning setup man for for­mer Mi­ami man­ager Mike Red­mond, who re­cently was hired as the Rockies’ bench coach un­der new man­ager Bud Black.

“With (Dunn) be­ing in the Na­tional League, we’ve seen him a num­ber of times and there’s some level of fa­mil­iar­ity there,” Bridich said. “And he’s still avail­able. He’s some­body, to a cer­tain de­gree, we’re pay­ing at­ten­tion to.”

Ziegler, 37, pitched six sea­sons with Arizona, so the Rockies are fa­mil­iar with him too. He is 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA and two saves in 20 games at Coors Field.

“He’s cer­tainly a good pitcher, and with how many times we’ve seen him and faced him, we feel like we know him real well,” Bridich said. “The way he op­er­ates, the un­con­ven­tional can re­ally work for him, and it doesn’t mat­ter where he pitches. I un­der­stand why his name keeps pop­ping up.”

Draft day.

The winter meet­ings closed af­ter the Rule 5 draft, with the Rockies los­ing one player and gain­ing one.

In­fielder Josh Rut­ledge, re­cently signed by the Rockies to a mi­nor-league con­tract, was se­lected by Bos­ton in the ma­jor-league phase of the draft.

In the mi­nor-league phase of the draft, Colorado se­lected catcher An­thony Bem­boom from Dou­ble-A Arkansas, a Los An­ge­les An­gels af­fil­i­ate.

Rockies as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Jon Weil said Bem­boom can help de­velop pitch­ers at the Triple-A level. Bem­boom, 26, played in 72 games with Dou­ble-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake City this year, bat­ting .222 over­all with 11 dou­bles, three triples, one home run and 14 RBIs.

Praise for Black.

Colorado’s new man­aged re­ceived a glow­ing en­dorse­ment from An­gels man­ager Mike Scios­cia, whom Black served un­der as pitch­ing coach when the An­gels won the 2002 World Se­ries.

“His base­ball in­tel­li­gence is off the charts,” Scios­cia said. “He’s re­ally a bright guy, but he’s got peo­ple skills that just are very rare to see in, not only a man­ager, but in peo­ple that you meet. He gen­uinely cares about peo­ple. He un­der­stands peo­ple.”

But, Scios­cia con­tin­ued, Black is tough and will be a good fit with the Rockies.

“All those at­tributes I talked about are dwarfed by Buddy’s com­pet­i­tive na­ture,” Scios­cia said. “He wants to win. He wants to achieve. He wants to suc­ceed.

“You’ll no­tice a dif­fer­ence. You’ll no­tice a dif­fer­ence through­out spring train­ing. You’ll no­tice a dif­fer­ence around the club­house. These play­ers will feed off that and will play at the level they should.”

Mike Dunn, the eighth-in­ning setup man for Mi­ami last sea­son, is one free agent the Rockies have shown in­ter­est in. Mitchell Leff, Getty Im­ages

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