Colorado Rockies: Ian Desmond Closer to Return, But Where Will He Play?

Mar 9, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond against Puerto Rico during a 2017 World Baseball Classic exhibition game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond against Puerto Rico during a 2017 World Baseball Classic exhibition game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Rockies had a grand plan for Ian Desmond in the offseason. Sign him to a big deal, let him learn how to play first base and, with that, fill one of the biggest needs for the team heading into 2017.

It sounded like a great idea. But then along came Mark Reynolds and a wayward pitch in spring training.

With Desmond on the shelf after being hit by a pitch in mid-March, Colorado has climbed to the top of the National League food chain. Forget about just the West. We’re talking the entire National League after the Rockies rallied for an 8-4 win on Monday night for their fourth consecutive win and a 14-6 mark.

They’ve done this without Desmond, David Dahl or Tom Murphy. They haven’t had Chad Bettis on the hill and are now plugging along with their ace, Jon Gray, sidelined by a stress fracture in his foot.

So how have they not only survived but thrived early in the season? Players like Reynolds and Gerardo Parra stepping up. Young pitchers like Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland not showing their age or inexperience. A bullpen that has been highly effective, words that haven’t been spoken in Colorado in quite some time.

Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies /

Colorado Rockies

When Desmond began taking batting practice on Monday at Coors Field, it signified another step along his path to recovery and rejoining the Rockies. There’s no specific timeline for Desmond rejoining the team. However, if things keep going well, it could be by mid-May.

But what happens when Desmond becomes an active member of the roster, especially with Reynolds playing so well at first base at the moment? A hint of what might be was given on Monday when Desmond was shagging fly balls in the outfield as part of his “test run” in front of Rockies management.

Versatility has been a keyword around this team throughout the entire season. Great value has been placed upon players who can play more than one position. That includes Desmond, who has done well in the outfield and shortstop in his previous MLB stops.

Taking a red-hot Reynolds out of the lineup at the moment and forcing Desmond into the first base hole makes little sense, especially with Reynolds as a co-leader on the team with six homers and 18 RBI as well as a .329 average heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals.

As Ben Macaluso discussed in this article, Desmond and Reynolds are veterans who are learning from each other. They’re also veterans who want to be playing rather than watching from the bench.

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So what will Bud Black do when Desmond returns? It’s the million dollar question at the moment and Black does have some time to see where Desmond will fit best into the lineup.

With Parra and Reynolds both hitting well, does it make sense to plug Desmond into their spots? At times, yes, just as much as it might Trevor Story or Carlos Gonzalez. After all, every player will need an off day and every player will go through a slump at some point during the season.

Could Desmond time-share with Reynolds at first? Absolutely. Could Desmond, Parra and Gonzalez rotate in the outfield? Absolutely. Could that be even more convoluted when Dahl returns? Yep. Could Desmond see some time at shortstop? You bet. Nothing at the moment seems out of the realm of possibility.

Black has already proven two things in his time as manager. He likes distinct roles in the bullpen and he likes versatility with his position players. His bullpen management has been spot on in the early going. He’ll face a bigger chess match when Dahl and Desmond return. It’s a good problem for the Rockies to have, knowing that two big pieces of the offense are on the mend.

Next: Why This April is Different for the Colorado Rockies

When Desmond was first signed by the Rockies, Colorado management was adamant that the team had found its first baseman of the future. That may still be the case, but the Rockies are dealing with the present at the moment. That’s a present that includes a red-hot Reynolds and a team that has streaked to the top of the National League. With that in mind, this season, Desmond may see his past years of versatility used more than the future plans that were laid out for him in December.