Rockies stepped up to the plate for catchers
The team’s confidence kept it from chasing free agents.
scottsdale, ariz. » With spring training in its last gasps, the Rockies stopped to look around thisweek. Their season- opening pitching rotation probably will be the youngest in the 25- year history of the franchise. And the entire battery will be young. So the Rockies wondered aloud whether now is the time to find a veteran catcher. The answer came quickly. “Among the guys who have become available,” manager Bud Black said, “there is not a big gap of talent between who we have and who we might get.”
The Rockies on Tuesday reached agreement on a minor- league deal with veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan, who was cut by the Phillies on Monday. The Rockies acquired him for depth. If he makes the team this year, he will be paid $ 1.25 million.
Hanigan is an insurance policy. For now, the Rockies will move forward with three inexperienced catchers, starting with 24year- oldTonyWolters. Dustin Garneau, 29, will be his backup until Tom Murphy, a 26year- old slugger, returns next month froma broken hand.
The Rockies not only went young on the mound, they went young for the full 60 feet, 6 inches.
“We feel good about these guys,” Black said of the catchers. “What they’ve shown this spring, with their receiving ability, the
Rockies 10, Padres 5 At Peoria Sports Complex peoria, ariz. » Trevor Story’s dive-’ n’- roll play stole the show Thursday afternoon in the Rockies’ 10- 5 victory over San Diego. The shortstop dived for Yangervis Solarte’s hot shot up the middle, gloved it, rolled over and simultaneously— and blindly— flipped the ball to second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who completed the spectacublocking, working with our pitchers and knowing our pitchers, knowing what I expect, it is a situation that is very important to us.”
Derek Norris, an all- star catcher with theAthletics in 2014, was released twoweeks ago by theNationals. On the surface, he seemed to be a perfect fit for the Rockies, a team with a green catching corps and injury issues. And he was a catcher for Black with the Padres in 2015.
ButNorris ended up with the Rays; he signed a $ 1.2 million contract with incentives last week. Those incentives are for bigleague time, and the Rockies apparently didn’t want to make promises. They are all in on their youngsters.
“I don’t have very much major- league experience, in the veteran sense. But I have workedwith all these guys,” Garneau said, glancing at the row of starting pitcher lockers in theRockies’ clubhouse at Salt River Fields. “I’ve caught them a lot in the minor leagues and a few in the majors. I have a a good feel for what they can do. We have a good rapport.”
At spring training, Black often has pulled aside his battery for instruction. Aformer pitcher and pitching coach, Black said he knows the importance of a pitchercatcher relationship. He has lar double play to end the first inning.
“It was unbelievable. He’s a stud athlete, huh?” Rockies starting pitcher Tyler Anderson said of Story. “He made a great play even getting to the ball, and then to have the wherewithal to stay with it? Unreal. Then DJ made the quick throw. That’s a fun infield we have.”
Added manager Bud Black: “I sort of wish that had been
The Rockies seem headed toward having the youngest pitching rotation in their 25- year history, but the entire battery will be young, too. Three inexperienced catchers will help shepherd those pitchers from behind the plate: Catcher, age Games AB Avg. OPS Tony Wolters, 24 71 205 .259 .723 Dustin Garneau, 29 46 138 .196 .584 Tom Murphy, 26 32 79 .266 .949 Note: Career stats; OPS ( on- base plus slugging percentage). personally shepherded those bonds at spring training.
Last week in Goodyear, Ariz., 22- year- old righthander Antonio Senzatela walked to the Rockies’ dugout after an error- marred fifth inning that pushed Senzatela to the ropes. Black stopped him at the bottom of the steps and during the regular season. We’d see that running for decades. What a great play that was.” Hits: LeMahieu, the defending National League batting champion, hiked his spring average to .344 with three hits and two RBIs. ... Stephen Cardullo, still hoping to make the 25- man roster, went 2for- 4 and is hitting .379. ... Lefty reliever Mike Dunn pitched a scoreless eighth. huddled with Garneau.
“He’s watching. He’s not inmy ear, but he’s definitely watching,” Garneau said of Black. “He’s making sure you’re doing the right thing, staying on the same page. Between innings, he’s coming down, talking to me, talking to pitchers. If there’s one pitch called, he’s asking why. He’s very in tune with the pitching game.”
Black, in a sense, is a surrogate catcher among catchers with little experience. Wolters made the Rockies’ season- opening roster last year in a surprise, only three months after they converted him from amiddle infielder to catcher. He played in 71 games, 59 behind the plate. Garneau played in 24 games last year, Murphy 21. None received as much field time as 32- year- old veteran Nick Hundley.
The Rockies let Hundley go in free agency, turning instead to their youthful trio. So while it seemed Norris might be a good fit, theRockiesweren’t looking for another Hundley when they already had one.
“Their relationship will translate into good pitching performances,” Black said of his catchers’ familiarity with a young pitching staff led by right- hander Jon Gray, 25. “Bringing a new fellow in, there would be a learning curvewith that fella, to get acclimated towhat we do on the pitching side and with our pitchers.”
Rockies shortstop Trevor Story makes an acrobatic toss to second baseman DJ LeMahieu, starting a sensational double play in the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Padres. “What a great play,” manager Bud Black said. Darron Cummings, AP
In this image from Fox Sports, Rockies and San Diego Padres players, along with the home plate umpire, can bee seen hitting the ground during Thursday’s game when a swarm of bees that had been clumped near the backstop took off across the field. Fox Sports via Twitter