Results tagged ‘ Chris Iannetta ’

Making the team better is bigger than making the team

Spring Training can feel like a lot of time to determine little. Teams spend six weeks figuring out the fifth starter, a bullpen position or two, the last infielder and outfielder, and the backup catcher. If we’re lucky, a position or two in the regular lineup. The media fill the World Wide Web with stories about players who will go largely ignored during the regular season. Of course, nothing is wrong with this. And if one of these backups becomes a star, fans have a chance to remember something about him, or at least they can plug his name into a search engine and find plenty.

But the real issue flies under the radar.

In all this activity, what do the stars and backups alike do that will carry over into the regular season?

Probelm is the important work is hard to measure. Last year’s Rockies best illustrate this issue.

The Rockies were 20-11-1 last spring. The storyline went that moving from Tucson, Ariz., to the new complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., meant more regualrs could play regularly, and it showed in the performance. The party line was more time together meant better fundamental play.

But as the Rockies were careening toward 89 losses, I talked to one veteran player who made a point: Many of those sound, fundamental at-bats — the productive outs, the hit-and-runs, the walks — came from young players who were not even in the big-league radar. When they were in the game, the guys they were just as far from the Majors. All of this made the sparkling record empty.

Manager Jim Tracy is paying special attention to the starters this spring to make sure they’re playing winning baseball, even though the victories don’t count once the regular year begins.

After Saturday’s victory over the Giants, Tracy was every bit as excited about outfielder Tyler Colvin’s hit-and-run that drove in a run as he was about Juan Nicasio’s 5 2/3 innings of positive pitching. After Saturday’s victory over the Giants, he made a point of mentioning Jonathan Herrera’s well-executed hit-and-run that led to a two-run inning and complimented Carlos Gonzalez on an RBI groundout with two strikes. These comments have been common this spring.

The headlines will go to position competitions, but we all can use the reminder that spring is not just about making the team.

It’s about making the team better.

Some notes about today’s game against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium:

– Marco Scutaro, who played shortstop for the Red Sox last season but was acquired by the Rockies to start at second base, will make his first Cactus League start at short today. Scutaro’s ability to move to short is important.

Tracy has vowed not to overuse regular shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Last season, Tulowitzki played in 143 games but that was with him not playing after Sept. 22 with hip soreness. He would have played had the team been in the playoff hunt, but would his production have been compromised? Would he have put himself at risk for further injury?

The 140-game mark sounds smart, but the Rockies need to do that at a normal pace. If they need the National Guard to keep him out of the lineup for a few games in April and May, so be it.

The Rockies have several players capable of playing short in a pinch, but Scutaro represents an experienced alternative with classic shortstop abilities.

– For the second time this spring, Scutaro is batting first and Dexter Fowler is hitting second. They usually are flopped. The first time it happened, Scutaro delivered an RBI double and Fowler had a good game at the plate. Both have spent the spring searching for their swings.

– Regular right fielder Michael Cuddyer is starting at first base today. Tracy had used Cuddyer for eight defensive innings at the position in previous spring games, but Cuddyer must be prepared for more. If Todd Helton’s back becomes an issue, the Rockies could move Cuddyer to first and fill his spot with a backup outfielder.

Here is a look at today’s lineups:

ROCKIES BATTING ORDER

Marco Scutaro, SS

Dexter Fowler, CF

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Jason Giambi, DH

Michael Cuddyer, 1B

Jordan Pacheco, 3B

Wilin Rosario, C

Tyler Colvin, RF

Brandon Wood, 2B

ROCKIES PITCHING

Starter: Drew Pomeranz, LHP

Matt Reynolds, LHP

Edgmer Escalona, RHP

Matt Belisle, RHP

Josh Outman, LHP

Stephen Dodson, RHP

ANGELS BATTING ORDER

Erick Aybar, SS

Howie Kendrick, 2B

Albert Pujols, 1B

Torii Hunter, RF

Vernon Wells, CF

Kendrys Morales, DH

Bobby Abreu, LF

Alberto Callaspo, 3B

Chris Iannetta, C

ANGELS PITCHING

Starter: Garrett Richards, RHP

Jordan Walden, RHP

Hisanori Takahashi, LHP

Rich Thompson, RHP

 

Publication believes age will hurt Rockies’ defense

The Rockies’ decision to go older this year was designed to increase the team’s savvy and improve situational hitting. But will it hurt the defense?

ACTA Sports, publishers of The Fielding Bible – Volume III, seems to think older is not necessarily better with the glove. The publication points to four moves hurting the defense, under its various formulas that rate players in a category called Defensive Runs Saved.

– The publication reported that right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who has signed a Minor League contract with the Red Sox, saved six runs last year and was the main reason the Rockies’ staff was rated best in baseball from a fielding standpoint.

– Mark Ellis, who signed with the Dodgers as a free agent, saved 17 runs last season, and bolstered the defense after arriving in a midseason trade. Marco Scutaro, who played last season for the Red Sox, replaces Ellis.

– The book ranks Michael Cuddyer, a free agent previously with the Twins, as a downgrade from Seth Smith, now with the Athletics, in right field.

– Also, catcher Chris Iannetta, who was traded to the Angels, saved eight runs in what the publication rated as a tremendous defensive year. This year’s publication predicts veteran Ramon Hernandez, who played for the Reds last season, will cost the Rockies four runs.

Overall, The Fielding Bible rated the Rockies fifth overall in the Majors defensively, and is predicting a drop to 14th.

Of course, the Rockies could beg to differ with the publication at two of the positions cited.

– When the Rockies signed Cuddyer, one of the attributes they mentioned was his throwing arm, which they felt was superior to Smith’s and the team has no doubt in Cuddyer’s ability to handle right. Right is roomy at Coors, but Dexter Fowler covers extreme ground in center, and left — where 2010 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner Carlos Gonzalez plays — is considered more challenging than right because of the room that must be covered.

– The Rockies also have confidence in the range of Scutaro. Last season, Scutaro played in 109 games and started 103 at shortstop for the Red Sox. The Rockies want to rest shortstop Troy Tulowitzki more than in the past, and Scutaro’s range makes him a logical option to allow him to do so. The club would have to feel a second baseman with enough range to play short is not a defensive downgrade.

 

Rox getting Angels pitcher Chatwood for Iannetta, close to signing catcher Ramon Hernandez

DENVER — The Rockies are acquiring right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood from the Angels on Wednesday for catcher Chris Iannetta in a deal that increases Colorado’s stable of young pitchers and puts it in position to pursue another veteran catcher.

 

Chatwood, who turns 22 on Dec. 16, went 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA in 27 games, including 25 starts, for the Angels as a rookie last season. A second-round Draft pick of the Angels in 2008 out of Redlands (Calif.) East Valley High School, Chatwood becomes the third highly touted young pitcher the Rockies have acquired since last July.

 

The Rockies received left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who turned 23 on Nov. 22, and right-hander Alex White, 23, from the Indians for former staff ace Ubaldo Jimenez in July just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

 

With Iannetta gone, the Rockies are expected to pursue a veteran catcher to solidify the young pitching staff this season and work in tandem with prospect Wilin Rosario, who showed promise during a September callup. The club is close to signing veteran backstop Ramon Hernandez to a two-year deal, according to Major League sources. Hernandez spent the past three seasons with the Reds.

 

Hernandez, who turns 36 on May 20, hit .282 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs last season in 91 games. A 2003 All-Star Game participant with the Athletics, Hernandez is a .266 hitter with 161 homers and 723 RBIs in 13 seasons with the Athletics, Padres, Orioles and Reds.

 

Chatwood is often compared to veteran standout pitcher Roy Oswalt because he is an undersized (listed at 6-foot) righty with a strong arm. He entered last season ranked by MLB.com as the No. 5 prospect in the Angels’ system. Early-season injuries to Joel Piniero and Scott Kazmir forced the club to call him up in early April after just 6 2/3 Triple-A innings.

 

Chatwood had typical big league growing pains last season, when he finished with 74 strikeouts to 71 walks and gave up 14 home runs. He endured two demotions to Triple-A Salt Lake. But Chatwood possesses a fastball that can reach 96 mph and curveball, and he is developing a cut fastball and a changeup. He could make a major forward step if he improves his command.

 

Iannetta, who turns 29 on April 8, has batted .235 with 63 home runs and 236 RBIs in 458 games over six seasons. A fourth-round pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2004, Iannetta hit .264 in 104 games in 2008, but he struggled the following two years and was demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs each season. Last year, Iannetta regained his big league footing, playing in 112 games and finished with a .238 batting average and .370 on-base percentage, with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs.

 

Stewart not in lineup for opener

Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart was healthy enough to be on the roster for Friday afternoon’s opener against the D-backs, but not healthy enough to start.

Ty Wigginton, signed as a free agent during the offseason, gets the start at third, and Jose Lopez, acquired in a trade with the Mariners, will start at second.

There had been talk of infield utility man Jonathan Herrera, who had an outstanding spring, (.371, four triples) getting the nod, possibly ahead of Lopez, but that was not to be. Herrera will be a versatile hitter off the bench.

Here’s the lineup:

Dexter Fowler, CF

Seth Smith, RF

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Ty Wigginton, 3B

Jose Lopez, 2B

Chris Iannetta, C

Ubaldo Jimenez, P

Rockies get backup backstop

The Rockies acquired backup catcher Jose Morales from the Twins on Thursday for Minor League left-handed pitcher Paul Bargas. Morales will be the primary backup to Chris Iannetta.

Morales, who turns 28 on Feb. 20, has hit .297 in 74 Major League games over three seasons for the Twins, who have star Joe Mauer as their regular catcher and Drew Butera as his primary backup.

By acquiring Morales, the Rockies also bought time for a deep group of catching prospects.

Before Morales arrived, Michael McKenry, who hit .265 in 99 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs and had eight at-bats in six Major League games, was in line for backup duty.
 
Wilin Rosario, who turns 22 on Feb. 23, was playing well at Double-A Tulsa — .285 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs — and had appeared in the Futures Game during All-Star Weekend before suffering a season-ending knee injury. After reconstructive surgery, Rosario is expected to be ready to play early in Spring Training, but the Rockies don’t want to pressure him to move quickly.
 
The Rockies also have Jordan Pacheco, who turns 25 on Jan. 30, is coming off a head-turning offensive season in which he hit a combined .323 at Class-A Modesto and Tulsa, and followed that up with a .317 season in the Arizona Fall League.
 
The Rockies have also signed former Cardinal Matt Pagnozzi for depth.

 

Bargas, 22, a 13th-rpound pick out of Cal-Riverside in 2009, went 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 58 relief appearances at Class A Asheville last season.

 

Rox’s catching list includes Martin, Molina and Paulino

Names are beginning to surface in the Rockies’ search for a complement to catcher Chris Iannetta. The least-name known might end up the best fit.

 

Former All-Star Russell Martin and Bengie Molina, a respected veteran, created buzz. However, Ronny Paulino is more of a true backup. The Rockies have had Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo push Iannetta out of playing time in recent years, and they vowed to give Iannetta a clean shot at the starting job without having to look over his shoulder.

 

Actually, the search for a relief pitcher might be more important to the Rockies’ quest to return to the playoffs. Righties Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier are at the top of the Rox’s shopping list.

 

Jorge Cantu is a utility possibility, and the club will do due diligence on Edwin Encarnacion. There are trade possibilities. Angels catcher-first baseman Mike Napoli and Nationals corner bat Josh Willingham would be high on such a list.

Rockies deal Olivo to Blue Jays for player to be named

DENVER — The Rockies traded catcher Miguel Olivo to the Blue Jays on Thursday night for a player to be named or cash considerations, the Rockies announced.

The deal occurred just before Thursday night’s deadline for picking up Olivo’s 2011 option for $2.5 million. Olivo, 32, hit .269 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs as the Rockies’ No. 1 catcher for much of last season. It was unclear whether the Jays would pick up the option. They could allow him to become a free agent, and receive a pick between the first and second rounds of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

The trade leaves Chris Iannetta, 27, as the lone catcher on the Rockies’ roster with significant Major League experience, although the club is expected to obtain another backstop through free agency or a trade.

Iannetta, an organization product who showed promise in an extended look in 2008 (.264, 18 HRs, 64 RBIs), but has struggled since and has not grabbed the No. 1 job. Last season, after signing a three-year, $8.35 million contract, Iannetta spent part of last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs and finished with a .197 average, nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 61 Major League games.

The Jays also are formulating their catching plans. They picked up a $1.2 million option on Jose Molina and have a top prospect in J.P. Arencibia. John Buck, the Jays’ No. 1 catcher and an All-Star in 2010, is a free agent. Like Olivo, Buck is a Type B free agent.

Rockies still deciding on Olivo

Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said he will take until Thursday’s deadline before deciding whether to pick up catcher Miguel Olivo’s $2.5 million option for 2011. Even if he decides, the Rockies still have to determine whether Olivo, Chris Iannetta or a combination of both are solid enough to handle catching duties. Do the Rockies seek a trade or free agency? That’s one of this winter’s big questions.

The Rockies will not pick up left-hander Jeff Francis’ $7 million option for 2011. Three years of shoulder problems makes it too risky, but O’Dowd says he wants Francis back.

It should be an interesting free agency season. The big question is whether the Rockies can retain lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who could have numerous bidders.

 

My thoughts? If the bidders stay in the three-year range, the Rockies can compete. If someone goes overboard on years, the Rockies will wish him well.

Beimel en route; here’s the lineup

Left-hander Joe Beimel, who reached a Minor League agreement with the club yesterday to join a competitive bullpen association, is scheduled to arrive in Tucson later this morning.

In the meantime, manager Jim Tracy has posted a lineup that, save for the pitcher, looks like something you’d see on Opening Day.

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Todd Helton, 1B

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Brad Hawpe, RF

Chris Iannetta, C

Ian Stewart, 3B

Clint Barmes, 2B

Jason Hammel, RHP

Two catchers who have been injured recently, Paul Lo Duca (right arm strain) and Paul Phillips (right calf strain) are listed as available on the lineup card. Lo Duca said if he plays defensively, it’ll be at first base.

Righty reliever Rafael Betancourt will make his first appearance of the spring after battling shoulder tightness, and lefty Randy Flores will return after being hit on the throwing forearm by a line drive six days ago.

Rockies set for match with Indians

Right-handed closer Huston Street is likely headed to the disabled list with a shoulder issue. He’s having an MRI today. Infielder Omar Quintanilla is getting an MRI tomorrow.

So the news has been a little bit of a downer this morning. But the Rockies are playing the Indians today at Hi Corbett Field. Here’s the Rockies’ lineup:

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Todd Helton, 1B

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Brad Hawpe, RF

Chris Iannetta, C

Ian Stewart, 3B

Clint Barmes, 2B

Jorge De La Rosa, LHP

 

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