SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Prospects Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario made positive statements in their quests for what could be one Rockies roster spot -- backup catcher.Pacheco started Saturday's 7-6 victory over the Giants, went 3-for-4 with a run and handled starting pitcher Juan Nicasio's 5 2/3 strong innings with aplomb -- the result of intense work, since he came into pro ball as an infielder.
After entering as a reserve, Rosario knocked a two-out, solo home run off Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth. Rosario's homer to the opposite gap in right-center was his team-leading third of the spring. He is hitting .464 in 13 games, and Pacheco is batting .429 in 14 games.Depending on how the roster breaks, it's possible both could begin the year in the Majors, since Pacheco has played third base, second base and first base.
CarGo learning ins and outs of new swing
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez is naturally quiet. His voice rarely distinguishes itself in the din of the clubhouse. Usually, he's listening to music through his headphones, rather than speaking. But his easy smile is magnetic, so folks sometimes gravitate to his locker.Gonzalez has also been quiet on the field this spring. He has but one home run in 12 games, as he concentrates on hitting the opposite way. But no matter how quiet his actions, his production is beginning to speak louder. After driving in five runs Friday -- not with the long ball but with an opposite-field double and a single -- in a 10-8 Rockies loss to the Cubs, Gonzalez has 12 RBIs in Cactus League play. He has six strikeouts and no walks, but there is a clear sense that his at-bats are experiments.
"It's a different mentality," Gonzalez said. "During the season, you see something close to you, you're going to turn and try to hit it out of the stadium, drive the ball. Right now, my mental approach is to swing the other way, let the ball travel more, use my hands. It's easy for us to pull the ball, try to hit the ball upstairs. But Spring Training is to work on your weaknesses."Gonzalez, 26, knows he can hit balls out of the park, as well as hit for average. He won the National League batting title in 2010 with a .336 average while hitting 34 home runs and driving in 117 runs. Even though he was limited to 127 games in 2011 because of right wrist injuries, Gonzalez hit .295 with 26 homers and 95 RBIs -- a down year only when compared to the previous one. But last year, Gonzalez struggled through the early months and bottomed out in mid-May because his swing became too pull-oriented. His mechanics were so rushed that he gave himself no chance to hit low-and-outside pitches. If he can build an inside-out swing and carry it into the regular season, he can hit the outside pitch and use his natural power to crush the inside pitch. "It's something you don't have to think about," Gonzalez said. Gonzalez's two-run double to left-center with the bases loaded against the Cubs on Friday pleased Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "If he stays focused on that, there's no telling where this can go," Tracy said.
Blake fights clock in effort to return from injury
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies third baseman Casey Blake made some positive strides in his race against time by going 2-for-3 in Friday's game against the Cubs.Blake, 38 and coming off neck surgery, missed a week with trapezius soreness and entered Friday 0-for-14. Blake will need to prove he's healthy and able to produce so that his one-year, $2 million contract becomes guaranteed. The assignment is a difficult one for Blake, who has been allowed to use Spring Training the last several years to simply find his timing. Now he must take care of his health, find his timing and produce positive enough results to satisfy the Rockies. "I'm pretty hard on myself," Blake said. "I know I still have work to do before the end of spring. But as you're working to be able to get a couple of hits is great. You're trying to show them stuff, yet you're trying to get your feel. It's kind of tough. But I can control the things I can control. "In Spring Training, you can get hardened by an at-bat or two. You lay off some pitches, foul a couple of pitches off, grind out an at-bat. Then, all of a sudden, you're recognizing pitches. You just hope you pile up a few at-bats like that, and you're ready to compete." The question is when the Rockies will make that decision. Manager Jim Tracy said the team has to give Blake ample opportunity, yet not risk his health by playing him too much. Tracy did not use Blake on Saturday against the Giants but will use him Sunday against the Reds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "We've got to continue to observe that situation and see as we get several more days down the road what makes the most sense for the Rockies," Tracy said. The decision has a domino effect. If Blake starts at third, that would likely mean Chris Nelson becomes a right-handed utilityman, and the Rockies would have to weigh two hot-hitting prospects -- Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosaro -- for the backup-catcher spot, with the other going to Triple-A Colorado Springs. If Blake is not on the roster, Nelson is in line to start at third and Pacheco could become a utilityman and right-handed bat. Another competitor for backup infield spots is Jonathan Herrera. However, Herrera can be optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs without being exposed to other clubs through waivers. Nelson is out of options.
Victory brings mixed bag for bullpen candidates
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies relievers Esmil Rogers and Josh Roenicke, prime candidates for bullpen spots, were both tested during Saturday's 7-6 victory over the Giants. Each gave up a run, but manager Jim Tracy felt Roenicke handled his assignment slightly better.With one on and one out in the seventh, Rogers worked Brock Bond into a grounder to third baseman Brandon Wood, who threw for the force at second, but second baseman Brendan Harris' relay was not in time for a double play. Having lost the opportunity to escape the inning, Rogers gave up RBI doubles to Hector Sanchez and Carter Jurica, which tied the game, before striking out Chris Stewart. Tracy said the double play should have been turned, but he wondered about Rogers. "He threw the double-play ball and it doesn't get turned," Tracy said. "I'm hopeful that it wasn't a loss of focus, where pitches get thrown but you're still thinking about a double-play ball. That can't happen." Roenicke gave up a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth. But after Ryan Lollis' two-out bloop single fell in short left to drive in the run -- the first off Roenicke this spring -- Roenicke struck out Bond swinging. "Today, his command wasn't quite where it's been for much of the spring, but what you'd like to see in a reliever is he managed to step up and put the inning down, and we still had the lead," Tracy said. The bullpen could include both, depending on how Tracy structures the pitching staff.
Rockies outfield candidate Charlie Blackmon, scratched the last two days because of a sore right big toe, is unlikely to play Sunday against the Reds, manager Jim Tracy said Saturday."It's a day-to-day type thing," Tracy said. Outfielder Tyler Colvin, a candidate to make the roster as a left-handed bat, has moved solidly ahead of Blackmon in the race for a roster spot. Colvin's statement Saturday was a 2-for-5 performance that brought his spring average to .400. One of the hits was a deft RBI single to the open shortstop hole on a hit-and-run in the third inning. Lefty reliever Rex Brothers entered with one out in the sixth, gave up a single and a double but escaped the inning with a Juan Perez fly ball. It was the first time Brothers has worked consecutive days. Brothers gave up an unearned run against the Cubs on Friday.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.