It is getting down to crunch time in Arizona at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. With less than two weeks until Opening Day, there are some important roster spots still up for grabs for the Colorado Rockies.
Wednesday’s spring game against the the Diamondbacks gave a us glimpse of what the starting lineup will possibly look like on Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies but the starting rotation, bench and the final bullpen spots are left to be determined. So here is a rundown on those remaining battles:
This is the only starting position that is still undecided. Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson both have had good springs and will make the 25-man roster. They will likely be platooned to start the season based on starting pitching match-up. Hitting splits and defense may be the deciding factor.
The catching position as a whole has been a complete disappointment this spring. Whether it has been Chris Iannetta, Tony Wolters, or Tom Murphy, production from the that spot has been few and far between. Iannetta will be the Opening Day starter so it is down to Wolters and Murphy for the backup role. Since Murphy is out of minor league options and Wolters has been battling an illness, Murphy should get the nod. However, if he struggles early, don’t be surprised if the Rockies discover a phantom injury that would allow them to call up Wolters and keep Murphy on the roster.
The Final Bench Spot
Assuming that the Rockies go with a four-man bench/eight-man bullpen, with Raimel Tapia as the fourth outfielder, McMahon/Hampson, and the backup catcher spot filled, they have one final bench role left to decide.
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Bud Black’s toughest decision could be choosing between Pat Valaika or Mark Reynolds. Valaika has had an amazing spring while Reynolds has struggled. In a recent article, I wrote that Valaika had likely played Reynolds out of a job, but for some reason, I suspect that will not be the case. Don’t be surprised if the veteran Reynolds makes the Opening Day roster, but the pressure will be on him to produce off the bench as he is limited to playing only first base while “Patty Barrels” can provide a lot of versatility around the infield.
The top three spots of the rotation are crystal clear with Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Jon Gray but the last two is a bit murky. Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, Antonio Senzatela, and Jeff Hoffman will have a few more starts left this spring to stake their claim.
Luckily for the Rockies, all four of these players have minor league options left so they won’t have to expose any of them to waivers. Of the four, Anderson has struggled the most but he was the most consistent last season. Bettis and Hoffman have had solid springs so far and Senzatela has been up and down as he has been working on adding another pitch to his arsenal. This decision will come down to who performs the best as their innings are extended in their final starts of spring.
Locks for the perceived eight-man bullpen are Wade Davis, Mike Dunn, and Scott Oberg. Even though Seunghwan Oh, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw have had horrible springs, they are also a lock as the Rockies have paid them too much money not to be there. Carlos Estévez has had a good spring and has likely earned a spot in the pen.
The eighth and final spot in the bullpen would have gone to Chris Rusin but a back injury could land him on the injured list to start the season. Bud Black could go in a variety of directions to fill Rusin’s long-relief roll. One of the four starters mentioned earlier could be a temporary fix or there are arms such as Harrison Musgrave or DJ Johnson who could step in.
There aren’t many decisions left to be made for Bud Black as he shapes his Opening Day roster but that doesn’t mean those decisions won’t be easy or any less important. The competition is only going to get fiercer as those players on the fringe make their case to make the trip to Miami on March 28.