Ian Des­mond makes progress as first base­man de­spite his in­jury

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Patrick Saun­ders Patrick Saun­ders is pres­i­dent of the Base­ball Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica: psaun­ders@den­ver­post.com or @psaun­der­sdp

scotts­dale, ariz.» Ian Des­mond’s trans­for­ma­tion has hit a de­tour, not a road­block.

That’s how the Rock­ies’ first base­manin-train­ing is look­ing at things in the af­ter­math of a bro­ken hand that’s ex­pected to keep him off the field for as long as five more weeks.

“I was def­i­nitely mak­ing progress at first,” Des­mond said. “I was get­ting more and more com­fort­able every day. But this is a great op­por­tu­nity. As a po­si­tion player, I never re­ally sat and eval­u­ated first base­men. So now I can go in the dugout and watch how Mark (Reynolds) does it.”

Des­mond talked with the me­dia for the first time Fri­day since he was hit by a pitch Sun­day dur­ing a Cac­tus League game against Cincin­nati. He had surgery Wed­nes­day to re­pair the sec­ond metacarpal in his left hand.

Des­mond, who signed a five-year, $70 mil­lion con­tract to join the Rock­ies in the off­sea­son, has never played first base be­fore, but man­ager Bud Black said Des­mond has made “great progress.”

Des­mond’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a short­stop and out­fielder, along with his ath­leti­cism, leaves Black com­fort­able that Des­mond will soon find his com­fort zone at first. Be­fore the in­jury, there were al­ready signs Des­mond is get­ting there.

On March 7, fac­ing Texas, his for­mer team, Ian Des­mond pulled off a nifty play. He came off the bag to catch an off-tar­get throw and then make a back­handed swipe tag on the Rangers’ Hanser Al­berto. Des­mond made the play with silky smooth­ness, but there was a lot go­ing on.

“Get­ting to the bag, with the right tim­ing, is some­thing I’ve worked on,” Des­mond said. “Tim­ing was def­i­nitely a part of that play. To be able to get in po­si­tion to al­low my­self to jump and then eval­u­ate where the run­ner was. At that point, it be­comes more about sal­vaging the throw.”

Black said Thurs­day that Des­mond could be back play­ing in four to six weeks. Des­mond, who had a plate in­serted in his hand, isn’t sure what the ex­act time­line is, but he vowed to be ready.

“I’m not a doc­tor, I’m just a first base­man who got drilled, try­ing to get back as fast as I can,” he said. “We’ll see. They are go­ing to have to do their thing — X-rays and ev­ery­thing — to make sure things are go­ing ac­cord­ing to plan. But as far as I’m con­cerned, when­ever they say I’m ready, I’ll be ready.”

Ot­tavino’s slider. Late-in­ning re­liever Adam Ot­tavino has not pitched well in his last two Cac­tus League ap­pear­ances. He knows it, and it ticks him off, but he’s con­fi­dent he’ll re­bound.

“I’m work­ing on stuff,” he said, not­ing that his arm feels strong. “I’m try­ing to find bet­ter com­mand with my slider. … I’m a bit off with it right now. And I’m not happy with those walks.”

Over his last 1M in­nings, Ot­tavino has given up three runs while walk­ing four and striking out just one. Black, how­ever, is happy with what he’s seen from Ot­tavino, who projects as a sev­enth- or eighthin­ning stopper and some­time closer.

“His ve­loc­ity is there, the sharp­ness to his break­ing pitches is there, it’s just his com­mand he has to tighten up,” Black said.

Foot­notes. Out­fielder David Dahl, out with a stress re­ac­tion of his sixth rib, is mak­ing progress to­ward re­turn­ing. He had an MRI on Fri­day to see how well the bone is heal­ing. “I think we’re get­ting to the point where David is go­ing to in­crease his ac­tiv­ity,” Black said. …. Right-han­ders Shane Carle, Rayan Gon­za­lez and Zach Jemiloa were op­tioned to Triple-A Al­bu­querque. Gon­za­lez, who left Wed­nes­day’s game with el­bow sore­ness, is fac­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of Tommy John surgery.

The Rock­ies’ Raimel Tapia slides into third for an RBI triple dur­ing the sec­ond in­ning Fri­day night against the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants. Tapia, who drove in Stephen Car­dullo, then scored on Tony Wolters’ sin­gle for a 2-0 lead. Darron Cum­mings, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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