Could Opening Day being pushed back because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic give Brendan Rodgers a better chance of making the Colorado Rockies roster when the season actually begins?
When we last saw Colorado Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers, it was March10 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz. He had just taken a fielding position (second base) in a game situation for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a labrum tear in his right shoulder last July. It was a monumental moment for Rodgers in his recovery and he talked to me exclusively earlier in that big day about what taking the field again would mean for him.
March 10 would also be the last game the Rockies played in spring training, forging a 5-5 tie with the Cincinnati Reds, before baseball would come to a temporary halt as questions about player safety and the pandemic grew.
With all of that in mind, a question now becomes what does the layoff do for Rodgers on his road to full recovery as well as his chance for making what could be an expanded Opening Day roster?
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As we know, the Rockies have said that repeatedly they were not going to rush Rodgers back to the field. However, his recovery from the surgery was also ahead of schedule this spring, giving Rodgers time to not only bat in spring training but also, for a very short time, play second base as well. As Rodgers told me during our interview in Scottsdale, his ability to throw from further distances had also increased as spring training went along, a necessary and positive sign.
There is no question that, during this pause in baseball action, Rodgers will continue to work out on his own and gain strength in the shoulder and confidence in his ability to return to the Major League level fully healthy. There is also no question that, when the Rockies and MLB are ready to return to spring training, Rodgers will be in a different position and mindset than he was when the first installment of spring training abruptly ended.
Back then, it was commonly thought that, even though Rodgers returned to play, he would need more time to gain that strength, confidence, and reps at the plate and in the field. However, with the Opening Day delay, Rodgers could well come back to spring training ready to truly battle for a roster spot, especially with the possibility of expanded rosters.
With Garrett Hampson likely going to be a part of the roster as an infield/outfield hybrid player and Ryan McMahon entrenched as the Opening Day second baseman and the left side of the infield intact with All-Stars Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado, it still may be tough to find opportunities for Rodgers to get regular at-bats if he were to make the roster, meaning a start in Triple-A still may be of value in order to gain additional playing time. However, if Rodgers can flash his skills and gain the confidence of the Rockies in his health when the team reconvenes in Scottsdale, the season delay could well work in his favor.
There are still many questions about the actual date that spring training could start again. However, the second coming of spring training could well give Rodgers the chance he needs to start the season on the Rockies roster. After major surgery in July, that scenario would be a feel-good story for the Rockies and possibly usher in the Rodgers era on a full-time basis in Denver.