- Rockies left-hander Chris Rusin had been vying for one of their available rotation spots before suffering an oblique injury March 3. Rusin returned to throwing on Wednesday, in the form of a 25-pitch bullpen session, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. The 30-year-old hopes to return by Opening Day, but he no longer has a chance to earn a starting job. The Rockies will choose two of Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Harrison Musgrave and Kyle Freeland to fill out their rotation behind Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood.
- David Dahl is still around 10 days away from resuming baseball activities after an MRI revealed that his right rib was still healing, Rockies manager Bud Black told media (including Nick Groke of the Denver Post). Dahl was revealed to have a stress fracture in his ribcage earlier this month, already leaving him questionable for the start of the season and the latest news should all but confirm Dahl for the 10-day DL come Opening Day. The 22-year-old was expected to be Colorado’s starting left fielder this season, though Gerardo Parra is slated to handle the job in Dahl’s absence.
- Could the Rockies go from arguably the league’s worst bullpen in 2016 to a potentially dominant pen in 2017? Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan thinks it could happen, though Colorado will clearly need a lot of bounce-backs and good health from Adam Ottavino, Greg Holland, and Jake McGee. All three pitchers have high ceilings, however, and with Carlos Estevez, Mike Dunn and others in the mix, the Rockies could make a big turnaround in their relief corps.
- Rockies left fielder David Dahl is making progress in his recovery from a ribcage injury and could “increase activity” soon, manager Bud Black told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Dahl was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his sixth rib 12 days ago, and the Rockies said at the time they’d re-evaluate him in two weeks. The highly promising 22-year-old has only taken four at-bats this spring.
Right-handed Rockies pitcher Rayan Gonzalez will likely require Tommy John surgery, Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports via Twitter. Gonzalez suffered an apparent elbow injury in his most recent spring outing.
The 26-year-old reliever was added to the 40-man roster over the offseason and had seemed slated to take up a slot on the bullpen depth chart. While there was never any expectation that Gonzalez would crack the active roster to open the season, he’d likely have been one of several interesting young arms to take up residence at the highest level of the minors.
Gonzalez showed enough in 2016 to lead the Rox to protect him from prying rivals in the Rule 5 draft. Last year, over 52 Double-A frames, he worked to a 3.12 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 while allowing only 44 hits (just two of which were home runs).
As MLB.com’s Thomas Harding explained at the outset of camp, Gonzalez seemingly made yet more strides in the Arizona Fall League, where he allowed just three earned runs on seven hits over 11 2/3 innings. Beyond the results, he had impressed the organization with improvement in his fastball command, which had often been fleeting (4.1 BB/9 lifetime walk rate) over his time in the minors.
- Rockies manager Bud Black said today that a best-case scenario for injured first baseman Ian Desmond and injured catcher Tom Murphy would be for each to return in mid-April (via Thomas Harding of MLB.com). While initial reports suggested that Desmond could be out six weeks, Dr. Donald Sheridan, who performed the surgery on Desmond’s fractured finger, said the operation went so well that the team is now projecting a recovery of four to six weeks. Mark Reynolds, in camp on a minor league deal, figures to make the team and handle first base early in the year in lieu of Desmond.
- Turning to an interesting pen situation, the Rockies liked what they saw out of righty Greg Holland yesterday, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. The one-time ace reliever, who’s working back from Tommy John surgery, returned to competitive mound action for the first time with a 95 mph heater and effective breaking offerings. While the three-up, three-down frame came against minor-league opposition, the outing represented an important step for Holland as he seeks to reestablish his health and once-dominating stuff. That leaves him on track to make six or eight Cactus League outings, Groke writes, though he won’t take the hill again until the weekend. While the team’s plans for the ninth inning remain unresolved at this point, Groke suggests that it’s likely Holland will receive the closer’s nod over Adam Ottavino.
Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond is expected to miss around six weeks with his fractured finger, GM Jeff Bridich tells ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. Desmond requires surgery on the second metacarpal in his left hand after being hit by a pitch.
It is not immediately clear whether the six-week timeline is in reference to a return to baseball activities or making it back for full MLB action. Regardless, there’s a mix of good and bad news.
On the one hand, Desmond won’t be available for Opening Day. That hurts all the more given the five-year, $70MM commitment the team made to sign him over the winter and the fact that several other players are also set to miss time.
On the other, it seems as if the veteran utilityman will likely not require an overly lengthy absence. Weathering a month or so without Desmond isn’t ideal, but perhaps it won’t be back-breaking for the contention-hopeful Rox, who’ll likely lean on veteran Mark Reynolds in Desmond’s stead.
The bigger concern for Colorado, perhaps, is the aggregate of injury problems that have already arisen. There’s real talent on hand, but the club doesn’t seem to be overflowing with depth. Already, the reserves will need to be deployed to account for anticipated absences at first (Desmond), the rotation (Chad Bettis), the outfield (David Dahl), and catcher (Tom Murphy) at the start of the year.
Rockies catcher Tom Murphy has become the latest player to suffer a fairly significant spring injury for Colorado, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. Murphy has been diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his right forearm that will sideline him for the next four to six weeks — though it’s not entirely clear whether that’s when he can be expected back in game action.
Murphy, who’ll soon turn 26, is slated to play a major role at the MLB level for the coming season. He has appeared in just 32 games in the majors entering the year, but has impressed (.266/.341/.608) at the plate in that brief span and laid waste to Triple-A pitching last year (.327/.361/.647).
The Rox will presumably lean on Tony Wolters in the meantime, increasing the pressure on the light-hitting 24-year-old. It seems likely that Dustin Garneau will crack the roster as well, as Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource projects in an updated Rockies depth chart.
It’s also possible that Colorado will look into outside options, if for no other reason than to bolster the depth. A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro are among the available veterans, with Steve Clevenger also still unsigned after his controversial statements last year. It’s also plausible to imagine the Rockies keeping an eye on the waiver wire and looking at veterans who can opt out of their contracts in a few weeks’ time. The Nationals, for instance, have placed Derek Norris on waivers, and he could represent an appealing option.
The Rockies have been hit hard by the injury bug this spring. David Dahl, Ian Desmond, and now Murphy all seem likely to open the year on the DL. In those cases, at least, some of the absence will occur during camp time, and the players are expected to make their way back in relatively short order. The outlook is much less certain, and the situation significantly more worrisome, for workhorse righty Chad Bettis, who is undergoing chemotherapy.
- The Rockies are giving a real look at young righty Antonio Senzatela in their suddenly wide-open rotation battle, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Though he only managed seven starts at Double-A last year, owing to a conservative course of care for shoulder soreness, Senzatela has impressed this spring. With Colorado seeking to fill two jobs, the 22-year-old could be in the running. While it seems likely he’ll have rather strict innings limits for the upcoming season, Senzatela could conceivably be of greater utility early on. Manager Bud Black praised his repeatable mechanics and ability to spot multiple pitches in the zone, which led to some “funny swings” in his most recent outing.
- Meanwhile, the Rockies have continued to decline to consider large raises for their pre-arb players, with Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reporting that the organization renewed several important youngsters. Shortstop Trevor Story, outfielder David Dahl, catcher Tom Murphy, and righties Chad Bettis and Jon Gray were all renewed after failing to agree with the team’s proposed numbers. Story and Gray each got marginal raises over the minimum, earning $540K apiece; it’s not clear what the remaining players will get. Colorado has long drawn the ire of agents for its approach to setting pre-arb salaries, though it’s entirely within the rules to handle things this way.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams gave an interesting interview to David Laurila of Fangraphs that’s worth a read. The top Cincy baseball decisionmaker noted that it’s harder for clubs of that market size to pay solid veterans on short-term deals during a rebuilding campaign, which is one of several factors that tends to make the process more painful. But the organization is plainly committed to doing it and doing it right. Williams detailed many different initiatives underway after an exhaustive review of “where we thought dollars would have a better return on investment than at the major league payroll level.” You’ll want to give the post a full read.
Here’s more from the National League:
- With Ian Desmond set to miss a chunk of time early in the season, the Rockies are sorting through their options for filling in, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Mark Reynolds is the obvious choice as a primary replacement, of course, but the team will need to line up some bodies behind him. With manager Bud Black saying the club hopes to “take advantage” of the versatility of some of their own players, he lined up each of Jordan Patterson, Stephen Cardullo, and Cristhian Adames at first in drills. Whether the organization might look at external names isn’t known, but Black did say that he has not heard any discussion surrounding former Rockies first bagger Justin Morneau.
- Righty Matt Wisler is still trying to establish himself for the Braves, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The 24-year-old has been hit hard this spring, as he was in the majors last year, and there doesn’t seem to be much chance that he’ll crack the MLB rotation unless there’s an injury or big performance downturn during the season. Still, manager Brian Snitker says he’s a believer — at least in the quality of Wisler’s offerings. “[I]t’s just location– fastball location,” Black said of Wisler’s struggles. “He’s just got to keep working on location. The stuff is there. The kid’s stuff is too good not to be successful.”
- Jordan Schafer’s efforts to make the Cardinals roster as a lefty reliever have run into some difficulties, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch Reports. The 30-year-old is dealing with forearm soreness, with the root cause yet to be determined. He hadn’t been particularly effective in his five outings anyway, and struggled upon reaching Triple-A briefly last year with the Dodgers organization. But Schafer was actually quite impressive at Double-A in 2016, working to a 3.15 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over forty frames.