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News » Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-28

Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-28

Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-28
--C Chris Iannetta returned to Cactus League play March 24 following three weeks with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He went 6-for-13 in the WBC, but manager Clint Hurdle felt Iannetta had nowhere near the number of at-bats he should have at this point in the spring and plans to play him in minor league games as well as Cactus League games.

While Iannetta said the WBC needs to be compressed and there was too much down time between games for Team USA, he was able to point to some positives regarding his individual situation, primarily the result of facing pitchers from Latin American countries.

"When I left, I was a little jumpy at the plate," Iannetta said. "Then when I started facing those guys who throw a little more off-speed, I slowed myself down and feel a little better now. It was a good thing."

--INF Jeff Baker, who is out of options, could be traded to a team needing a utility man. Baker can play third base, second base and first base and the corner outfield spots, and he can hit for power. The 27-year-old has never gotten to play much with the Rockies (299 at-bats last year, up from 144 in 2007), and he might not make the Opening Day roster. Baker represents a trade piece for the Rockies, who might prefer what Baker can bring in the way of pitching, particularly if he doesn't make the roster as a bench player and could be lost to another club on a waiver claim. A team needing a right-handed-hitting bat on the bench might pursue Baker, who has drawn interest from the Phillies, Astros and Pirates.

The Rockies would also like to move backup C Yorvit Torrealba, which won't be easy since he's owed $4 million this year. Torrealba was shopped during the winter, before the Rockies signed veteran backup C Sal Fasano, who is very good at calling a game and working with pitchers and would fit nicely as the backup for considerably less money than Torrealba.

--The competition for the fifth starter came down to LHPs Franklin Morales and Greg Smith after RHP Greg Reynolds was optioned to Class AAA Colorado Springs. Morales was ahead as of March 27, although the Rockies won't need a fifth starter until April 21. On March 24, Smith made his first appearance in a Cactus League game since March 3. He had been scratched from three starts while suffering from flu-like symptoms before finally pitching March 18 in a minor league game.

Reynolds, the second overall pick in the 2006 draft, was 1-0 with a 5.54 spring ERA through March 27. Manager Clint Hurdle said Reynolds, "made improvement from last year. But we needed to go with the guys we feel are in a more competitive spot." Reynolds had two tours with the Rockies in 2008 and went 2-8 with an 8.13 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).

--SS Troy Tulowitzki took a bus ride of nearly three hours from Tucson to Surprise, Ariz., but didn't play March 21 against the Rangers because he felt tightness in his back. He said he would have played had it been the regular season. Regardless, Tulowitzki then rested before returning March 24 in a minor league game in Tucson against some Diamondbacks minor-leaguers and going 2-for-5 with a homer, double and two RBIs.

--INF/OF Ian Stewart began taking grounders at second base on March 23. He played that position in his first tour with the Rockies last season. Third base is his natural position, and this spring he has worked in left field. Stewart is a left-handed hitter with top-shelf power. Having him play second is a way for manager Clint Hurdle to get Stewart the volume of at-bats he would need to justify keeping him on the roster rather than sending him back to Class AAA Colorado Springs, where at this point he has little to prove.

--CF Dexter Fowler, responding to the assistance of hitting coach Don Baylor, overcame a slow start and had a chance to make the team. He began the spring 3-for-20 with 10 strikeouts but then had 13 hits in his next 34 at-bats (.382) with four strikeouts.

The switch-hitting Fowler, who has never played at Class AAA and last year went 4-for-26 in 13 September games with the Rockies, came to camp bigger and stronger but was not making enough contact and not making enough hard contact when he was putting his bat on the ball.

Fowler, a superb center fielder who turned 23 on March 22, didn't begin switch-hitting until 2004 after signing that August with the Rockies. He used a split-hand grip batting left-handed, something Baylor recalled former Tigers INF Dick McAuliffe using in the 1960s and 1970s. Baylor felt the grip caused Fowler to hit weak groundballs against major league pitchers, and he got him to scrap the grip. The result is much harder contact for Fowler hitting left-handed.

If Fowler makes the team, it would come at the expense of OF Scott Podsednik, a left-handed hitting veteran who other than Spilborghs and Fowler is the only Colorado outfielder who can play center field. Podsednik, who signed a minor league contract, has an April 3 out date in his deal and can ask for his release if he's not on the big-league roster by then.

BY THE NUMBERS: 305 -- Groundball outs induced by RHP Aaron Cook last year, which was second in the majors and behind only Arizona's Brandon Webb (319).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not a factor for either of us. We have an organization built on trust. He knows what he has to do as a leader. I know what I have to do as a leader. A handshake from the owner is good enough." -- General manager Dan O'Dowd on the fact that he and manager Clint Hurdle are entering the final year of their contracts.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 28, 2009

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