Colorado Rockies spring training notebook: First base battle, Marquez debut

Scottsdale, Ariz. — As we begin our in-person time with the Colorado Rockies at spring training, here are some of the things we heard and saw early on Sunday morning.

Battling and learning

Josh Fuentes is battling for the first base job in spring training, a position he put a stranglehold on toward the end of the 2020 campaign. With the Rockies bringing in C.J. Cron and Greg Bird on minor league deals with invitations to spring training, and Connor Joe also being in the mix, Fuentes said he is learning from the other players while trying to beat them out for the starting job as well.

It’s an interesting balance of wanting to win the position, but also getting to know your competition and helping each other get better at what you do every day, Fuentes said.

“When I first met Cron and Bird, they were really nice guys. Everyone here is a good person and they want to be better, but they’re also good people,” Fuentes said. “For me, it was easy to go up to Cron and ask questions about his career and his success because he’s such a good dude.

“These are good guys who are approachable and you can pick their brains. Everyone’s trying to get better and everyone wants to play but, at the end of the day, we have to get each other better and support each other.”

Heading into Sunday’s game, the battle for first base has seen a pretty even distribution of plate appearances. Joe has seven while Bird, Cron, and Fuentes each have 10. Fuentes, however, has had the most success, going 4-for-10 with three RBI. Joe has the group’s only homer of the spring so far.

Black on Bird

Speaking of the first base competition, Rockies manager Bud Black has liked what he has seen from Bird so far this spring.

“He’s come as advertised with a professional at-bat. I think that’s stood out,” Black said. “I think he has good command of the strike zone and that’s been evident in his career. That’s been noticed here early.

“This guy knows his approach and it’s an approach of swinging at pitches in the strike zone.”

Bird is 1-for-10 so far this spring with four strikeouts and is starting at first base on Sunday.

Bring out the big guns

German Marquez, one of the leading candidates to be this year’s Opening Day starter, is scheduled to throw for three innings in his spring debut on Sunday when the Rockies travel to Glendale to meet the White Sox.

Ryan Rolison, one of the rising pitching stars in the Rockies organization, will follow Marquez with what is scheduled to be a pair of innings.

Also on the pitching list for Sunday is Phillip Diehl, looking to rebound from two rough outings out of the bullpen so far this spring. In 1.2 innings of work, the southpaw has surrendered five hits and a team-high three homers.