The 31-year-old Desmond has been on the shelf since fracturing his left hand on a hit by pitch on March 12, but he played an extended spring training game Saturday and then told reporters, including Harding: “As far as I know, the bone is healed. Now, it’s just about getting motion back and seeing what it’s going to feel like.”
Colorado raised eyebrows in the offseason when it signed Desmond to a five-year, $70MM contract, which also cost the club the 11th overall pick in this June’s draft. It came as a surprise, too, that the Rockies added Desmond with the intention of using him at first base, where he has never played. As a member of the Nationals from 2009-15, Desmond was a shortstop, but he spent last season as an outfielder with the Rangers.
When he suits up as a Rockie for the first time, he’ll displace Gerardo Parra in left field, per Harding, thanks to fill-in first baseman Mark Reynolds’ early season success at the plate. Reynolds has slashed an excellent .307/.367/.636 with eight home runs in 98 plate appearances, which is easily superior to the production of Colorado’s primary corner outfielders, Parra and Carlos Gonzalez. To some degree, Parra has bounced back from a nightmarish 2016, having hit a Coors Field-inflated .286/.324/.443 in 72 PAs; on the other hand, the normally solid Gonzalez has batted a meek .222/.286/.358 in 91 tries.
At some point, the Rockies will also have David Dahl as an option, which will add to their outfield logjam. Dahl, like Desmond, hasn’t played yet this season. The 23-year-old suffered a stress reaction in his sixth rib in early March, though he did show progress in his recovery when he took batting practice Friday. Dahl had a quality rookie year last season, hitting .315/.359/.500 in 237 PAs, and was in line to serve as an integral part of Colorado’s offense prior to his injury. It’s now up in the air how the Rockies will distribute playing time to him, Desmond, Parra, Reynolds and Gonzalez if they’re all healthy at the same time (notably, Desmond and Reynolds are right-handed hitters, while the rest are lefties). It could be a good problem for the Rockies, though, as they have unexpectedly started a National League West-leading 15-9 without any contributions from either Desmond or Dahl.