Rain hits, but the important work is done

A hard and chilly rain hit Tucson right around the time the Rockies’ pitchers and catchers were scheduled to end their drills during Saturday morning’s workout. It forced the team to change some plans for post-workout conditioning, but manager Jim Tracy said the baseball work was done.

Tracy is calling on his pitchers to be versatile offensively. Most of the time they’ll be asked to advance runners, with the bunt being the No. 1 weapon. But if pitchers develp the ability to slug-bunt for a base hit in such a situation or hit-and-run, suddenly Tracy can make surprise calls — or at least give the opponent other factors to consider.

“You look at those great Braves clubs with [Greg] Maddux, and [John] Smoltz, and [Tom] Glavine, and, back in the day, [Steve] Avery,” Tracy said. “One of the things you knew, and this goes back to when I was a coach in Montreal, they started and were able to do a lot of things. When they walked to the plate, yes, you knew a bunt was in order and there were times they would do that.

“But you had to be concious about the fact they could possibly do anything. That alone right there eased the opportunity for you to get the job done.”

Jason Marquis, one of baseball’s best offensive pitchers, took his bat and arm to the Nationals this winter after a strong 2009 for the Rockies. But Aaron Cook is such a versatile hitter that former manager Clint Hurdle used him as a pinch-hitter, and Jeff Francis has been more-than respectable at the plate.

At one point, stories of Ubaldo Jimenez’s ineptitude with the bat were sources of comedy, and Jorge De La Rosa wasn’t good, eithre. Now Jimenez is advanced with the bat. De La Rosa won an important game with the Mets last season with a double. Tracy said Jason Hammel, who had been in the American League with the Rays before being traded to the Rockies at the start of the seaso, also improved as last season progressed.

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