Pacheco's big blast marks resounding spring
Rockies backstop prospect batting .500, turning heads
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There were a handful of safe bets going into Spring Training: Opening Day would find Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, Carlos Gonzalez in left, and Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound at Coors Field -- and catching prospect Jordan Pacheco would take a step up from Tulsa to start his fifth season of professional baseball at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
As the Rockies finished their 10th game of the Cactus League season, those first three bets were still winners. Pacheco, however, has made such an impression at the plate that he's forcing reconsideration of the one thing working against him: his timing.
As he starts just his fourth season as a catcher, it would be "a stretch," as manager Jim Tracy said, for him to leapfrog past Triple-A and break camp with the Rockies. But with a .500 batting average (6-for-12) in eight Cactus League games, and after his towering pinch-hit, three-run homer to left-center field off Braden Looper in Tuesday's 4-0 win over the Cubs, Pacheco is raising eyebrows and prompting hyperbole.
"He was swinging the bat when he came out of the womb," said an admiring Carney Lansford, the Rockies' hitting coach.
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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"He could be good there with [Jason] Giambi as a right-hand bat, left-hand bat combination," said bench coach Tom Runnells, who managed the game against the Cubs while Tracy managed a split-squad game against the White Sox, a 9-8 loss.
For his part, Pacheco is trying to keep grounded. Knowing he is still developing behind the plate, the 25-year-old from Albuquerque is exercising admirable restraint in relishing his time in the big league camp without booking his ticket for Denver just yet.
"You play this game to get to the big leagues," Pacheco said Tuesday. "When you're drafted by a team, you want to help the organization out eventually. That's the ultimate goal. But we got a bunch of catchers who can help this organization out who hit, who can catch behind the plate, and that's why they're here. If it takes me learning from them, I'm just trying to be the best catcher I can be."
Pacheco is keeping his focus behind the plate, talking about establishing pitcher-catcher relationships, gaining the pitchers' confidence and making them feel comfortable throwing to him.
"It's only 12 at-bats," he said of his prowess at the plate. "The whole season is 600 if you're lucky, or 300 or 400 at-bats for a catcher. It's a long run. It's not what you do in a short period of time; you've got to do it every day.
"I feel I can do it," Pacheco said about his readiness to catch in the Majors. "Hopefully I'm in that mold of a guy who can do his job and can help the team wherever I'm at. Even if it's back in Modesto [Calif.], helping the team out. We got Chris Iannetta, Chad Moeller, Matt Pagnozzi. I mean, wow, those guys all caught in the big leagues. I just listen to them and do what they tell me to do."
Pacheco gets his second start Wednesday catching Jhoulys Chacin against the Angels. Beyond that, the Rockies aren't ready to tell him to pack his bats and mitts and meet them at Blake St. on April 1, but Tracy and his coaches have already admitted they expect him to be a big leaguer -- eventually.
"He's pretty good, that kid," Runnells said. "It's nice to have somebody like that, that you have that kind of confidence in to come in there and swing a bat. He's a great hitter, and he really has shown up well in Spring Training. You're probably going to see him a lot more."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.