Top prospect Arenado among Rockies cuts
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies have decided that their top prospect, third baseman Nolan Arenado, is not yet ready for the big leagues.
Arenado, who turns 21 on April 16, was one of six players sent out of Major League camp on Friday. The Rockies wanted to take a long look at him in camp, but were careful not to put pressure on him to break camp with the big club. Arenado had his moments, but also hit .192 with four doubles and five RBIs in 12 games.
Making it to the Majors would have been a push for Arenado, the club's second-round Draft pick in 2009 out of El Toro (Calif.) High School. The team invited him to camp as a non-roster player after a big 2011 season. He hit .298 with 20 home runs and led Minor Leaguers with 122 RBIs at Class-A Modesto, and followed that up by earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Arizona Fall League.
MLB.com named Arenado the No. 22 overall prospect in baseball this year and top prospect in the Rockies' system. It was the highest ranking of any third baseman. Arenado was ranked two spots ahead of the Rockies' next highest-rated player, left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, 24, who is in line to begin the year in the club's starting rotation.
The Rockies did not immediately announce the level of the Minor Leagues that Arenado would begin this season, but he is most likely bound for Double-A Tulsa.
Officially, the Rockies optioned Arenado and right-handed pitcher Zach Putnam to the Minors and reassigned non-roster right-hander Carlos Torres, first baseman Chad Tracy (son of manager Jim Tracy) and outfielder Tim Wheeler -- another highly regarded prospect, who hit .263 with a home run and two RBIs in 14 games.
The Rockies had earlier optioned infielder DJ LeMahieu to the Minors, but kept him with the big club. However, LeMahieu was re-assigned to Minor League camp on Saturday.
The Rockies still have 39 players in Major League camp, including six non-roster invitees.
Giambi sharp after layoff
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The rest appears to have paid off for Rockies veteran Jason Giambi.
Giambi rocketed a double off the right-field wall against the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija in his first at-bat Friday, and two at-bats later smashed a line drive that required a nice catch by Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney.
The hard contact is a good sign for Giambi, who at one point didn't appear in a Cactus League game for five days -- at first due to calf soreness, then because of dicey weather and field conditions.
"A couple of days off really turned out to be almost a week," Giambi said. "I'm also going to get into some Minor League games, so it's time for me to get some at-bats. This will be perfect leading into the season -- get a whole bunch of at-bats and go from there."
Giambi, 41, remains a key reserve. Since Giambi joined the Rockies in late 2009, manager Jim Tracy used him for that key late at-bat, usually in the ninth inning. This year, he plans to use the left-handed hitting Giambi earlier in games, so he'll have more chances and be sharper.
After being effective as a pinch-hitter in 2009 and 2010, Giambi functioned much better as a starter last season. He hit 12 of his 13 home runs in those starts. Giambi wants to provide a combination of power and a good hitting eye no matter what role he is fulfilling in a given game.
"It kind of goes how the season goes," Giambi said. "I just want to take good at-bats, help Todd Helton [the regular first baseman] out, and perform my role the best I can play. I enjoy it, but it's still a learning process every year that I've done this role. I'm figuring out things I need to do better."
Scutaro hopeful to find swing in time for Opening Day
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman Marco Scutaro admits that even after 10 seasons in the Majors, how and when his best swing timing arrives is still a mystery.
"Last year I felt good in Spring Training, went into the season confident and on Opening Day I was like, 'What happened here?'" Scutaro said. "I'm not lying. I went to Google and searched, 'Marco Scutaro's swing,' and I couldn't find results."
Maybe Scutaro's internal search engine found his swing, because it showed up Thursday night.
Scutaro, who joined the Rockies in a trade with the Red Sox during the winter, lashed a two-run double to left field during the Rockies' 7-0 victory over the Giants at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It's as good a time as any. With a couple weeks left before the regular season starts, Scutaro is 4-for-25 with two doubles, and Thursday's hit gave him his first RBIs of the spring.
Last season, Scutaro hit .299 with a .358 on-base percentage for the Red Sox, primarily from the No. 9 position in the lineup. It was enough for the Rockies to covet him for their No. 2 spot behind center fielder Dexter Fowler.
However, Rockies manager Jim Tracy has said all along he can use Scutaro and Fowler interchangeably. That happened Thursday. Not only did Scutaro have his double, but Fowler managed his fourth hit of the spring and stole his first base.
Scutaro said his spot in the order doesn't make a difference. It's just a matter of finding his swing.
"I swung the bat good the second half of last year, so I've been watching the videos, trying to do the same thing," Scutaro said. "But the feeling hasn't been there. Even if you're trying to do the exact same thing, sometimes the feeling is not there. Then the feeling comes."
This spring has allowed Scutaro to immerse himself in his new competition. After four straight seasons in the American League East with the Blue Jays (2008-09) and the Red Sox (2010-11), Scutaro is facing National League West clubs in Cactus League action. But he's trusting that only so much.
"It's different when the season starts," Scutaro said. "Guys you face here sometimes don't look the same when the season begins. It's not even close."
Scutaro hopes that's the case with his swing.
Nelson not thinking about the future
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies infielder Chris Nelson knows the best way to approach the next two weeks is with no thought of the future.
Nelson, 26, has a shot at making the Opening Day roster for the first time. If veteran Casey Blake can't complete his recovery from neck surgery, Nelson is a candidate to start at third base. It's a lot to think about, if Nelson would let himself.
"I can't think about that kind of stuff -- you get mentally jacked up," Nelson said. "I just think that they ask me to do my job, and I do it.
"But every day I'm still here, it's more exciting."
On Friday, the Rockies asked Nelson to play second base and he responded with his first Cactus League home run, a shot off Jeff Samardzija to left field.
Nelson entered the game with a .257 spring batting average with two doubles and two RBIs. Manager Jim Tracy has mentioned the quality of Nelson's at-bats on several occasions, noting that they've been better than the numbers indicate.
Nelson, of course, is avoiding the stats.
"I leave that for mom and dad, they look at that kind of stuff," Nelson said. "I'm very pleased with the way the ball is coming off the bat. Everything feels great."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies speedster Eric Young Jr. continued his late push to make the Opening Day roster by going 1-for-2 and stealing a base -- to improve to 6-for-6 this spring -- in Friday afternoon's 10-8 loss to the Cubs.
The switch-hitting Young is hitting .310 by hitting line drives, ground balls and using his speed, which can make a difference on the bases off the bench.
Manager Jim Tracy said Young, who came up an infielder and has played a little second this spring, has improved defensively in the outfield. That could erase a question that has nagged the Rockies since they moved him to the outfield.
"Let's be quite frank here, he's had a very solid spring," Tracy said. "He's played center field and left field about as well as I've seen him play it since we started the project."
• Left-handed hitter Tyler Colvin, also pushing for a backup outfield spot, went 2-for-4 with a double and a run against the Cubs, who traded him to the Rockies during the offseason. Colvin is carrying a .400 batting average.
• Charlie Blackmon, another left-handed-hitting outfielder, has not played for two days because of a right big toe injury. Blackmon is hitting .233.
• Outfielder Dexter Fowler bunted to force a bad decision and put pressure on the defense, and he reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases in the fourth against the Cubs on Friday.
Fowler, a speedy leadoff hitter, has not made much use of the bunt as a weapon in his career. It's doubtful he'll use it much the rest of this spring, either. Fowler, who has hits in his last three games, has struggled with his swing because, Tracy said, his leg kick was higher than it should have been. He lowered it Friday and will continue with that project.
• Left-handed pitcher Josh Outman entered with two on and one out in the fifth on Friday and coaxed what should have been a double-play grounder from Marlon Byrd, but second baseman Chris Nelson committed an error. Outman walked in a run, but ended up pitching 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts.
Outman also pitched a scoreless inning against the Padres on Tuesday night. Tracy said he is not opposed to a bullpen that includes three left-handers -- primary setup man Rex Brothers, Matt Reynolds and Outman.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.