Opportunity awaits Gonzalez

Rockies outfielders Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez sit atop prop prospect lists. This year, Fowler generally occupies a higher rung than Gonzalez, partly because Gonzales had a much more meaningful run in the Majors last season. The Athletics used Gonzalez regularly for part of last season. Fowler received merely a few September at-bats.

But when it comes to making the Rockies’ roster out of Spring Training, experience is a benefit, not a curse.

Fowler is widely assumed to be headed to Triple-A Colorado Springs to begin the season. Gonzalez has an option left, and the Rockies have already declared their three outfielders atop the depth chart — Seth Smith in left, Ryan Spilborghs in center and Brad Hawpe in right. But manager Clint Hurdle is entering the season wanting to give Gonzalez every opportunity to impress him this spring.

“There won’t be a nurturing, coddling, holding his hand through it, like a Rule 5 guy you might go get and try and protect through the season,” Hurdle said. “He’s got some experience. He needs to play. There’s got to be reps. There’s got to be at-bats available.

“There’s that fine line, whether it’s 400 Minor League at-bats versus 300 [in the Majors]. I don’t know. If the numbers are workable, he can add a significant value to our club, whether it be playing a couple of outfield positions as a left-handed bat with some speed.”

Translated, the Rockies feel they’ll be at their best if Gonzalez is pushing Smith and Spilborghs for their starting jobs.

Right-handed hitting Matt Murton and left-handed hitters Daniel Ortmeier and Scott Podsednik are in the mix for backup outfield jobs, as well. Third baseman Ian Stewart will get a look in left field, utility man Jeff Baker has some experience in the outfield, and second baseman Clint Barmes is capable of going to the outfield. Hurdle sees him as only an emergency outfielder, but he said some in the organization believe Barmes could handle extended duty out there.

– As part of the execution emphasis, the Rockies are rating every hitting drill and posting the scores. There are 10 rounds based on hitting tasks — various bunts, driving in a runner from third, hit-and-run. Each exercise is given assigned a maximum point total. A score of 38 through nine rounds is considered perfect, then three is a bonus base-hit round. Sunday, for example, Gonzalez, shotstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Edwin Bellorin had the highest individual scores. Also, the team is divided into three groups, and the total number of points for each group is kept. Players are crowding in front of the whiteboard in the clubhosue to see their scores.

– The Rockies are planning an intrasquad game on Tuesday morning. They open their Cactus League schedule Wednesday at Hi Corbett Field against the D-backs.

– The early part of Sunday’s workout was devoted to a spirited “ragball” tournament. They used a machine to shoot beanbag-like balls at a pitcher completing a windup. Right-handed prospect Jhoulys Chacin won his group. Video coordinator Brian Jones won the contest involving staff members.

Manager Clint Hurdle had injury concerns, but signed off on the exercise in the name of team cohesiveness.

“There have been a number of things the guys have had a lot of fun with,” Hurdle said. “That might be at the top of the list right now.

– Left-handed veteran reliever Alan Embree left camp after Saturday’s workout to take care of a personal matter, and will be back in “a couple of days,” Hurdle said Sunday.

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