Quintanilla fighting for spot on roster
Infielder's hot start at plate this spring helping his cause
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rockies infielder Omar Quintanilla has no idea if the roster numbers are going to work for him, but the numbers he is putting up this spring are hard to ignore.
Quintanilla went 1-for-2 with an RBI triple and a walk in the Rockies' 13-11 victory over the Padres on Friday afternoon, bringing Quintanilla's Cactus League batting average to a nice, round .500 (7-for-14).
"I don't know what kind of role, if I do have a role this year, but I'll go out and hopefully put together a good at-bat and show them something -- that I can help this team win," Quintanilla said.
After the regular eight starters and the second catcher, the Rockies will need to fill four reserve spots if they carry their normal 13 position players.
One could be an outfielder who can start and compete for the everyday lineup, like, Carlos Gonzalez, if the Rockies don't send him down to Triple-A for consistent at-bats. Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker, both currently fighting injuries, could be in line for spots, although it's hard to count on Baker, because he has an elbow injury and isn't close to returning to action. They can play in the infield and outfield and are offensive threats.
That's three. So do the Rockies go with Quintanilla, who has demonstrated outstanding fielding during stints with the club the last four years, or an outfielder like Matt Murton, Scott Podsednik or Daniel Ortmeier, all of whom have their attributes?
It helps that Quintanilla would be the only backup with the ability to play shortstop, but regular second baseman Clint Barmes could move there if something happened to Troy Tulowitzki.
Manager Clint Hurdle, as is his policy, is not juggling names and players at this stage of Spring Training. But he likes the defensive possibilities that Quintanilla offers. Even more, he is happy to Quintanilla's response to some offensive assignments he was given after last season. The Rockies want Quintanilla, a left-handed hitter, to hit the opposite way more often and improve his baserunning.
Quintanilla turned down an invitation to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic to demonstrate that he's done his homework.
"He's gotten a little more professional in everything he does," Hurdle said. "He's come in very good shape. Him deciding to stay was the right reason for him, just to hone his game."
It's a crucial spring for Quintanilla, who is out of Minor League options and could face an uncertain future if the Rockies want to send him down. He'd be exposed to other clubs via waivers.
But Quintanilla, 27, is using this spring to prove that his bat is every bit the factor in an evaluation of him as his glove.
"I take every at-bat seriously," Quintanilla said. "We have a lot of players, so you're not going to get to play the whole time. I'm just trying to get a good at-bat, trying to hit the ball hard on a barrel."
Part of the reason Quintanilla is forced to prove himself with the bat is his .226 career average. But he has hit much better when he's had a few starts in a row, and during his Minor League career he was considered an offensive catalyst.
Not having the luxury of a large number of at-bats to make up for his bad ones, Quintanilla has concentrated on a scaled-down approach at the plate.
"I go out there and try to have fun," Quintanilla said. "It's hard enough just to play the game. I just stay simple with the fundamentals, like, when you have two strikes, try to have a two-strike approach. Just make something good happen."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.