03/14/11 4:39 PM ET
Stewart gets extra at-bats in 'B' game
By Thomas Harding and Owen Perkins / MLB.com
Ian Stewart saw his first game action since injuring his knee in the Cactus League opener. Stewart was the DH, and was able to get extra at-bats by hitting third every inning from the sixth through the eighth. He walked his first time up, and struck out on a Scott Kazmir curveball his second time up, then went 2-for-3 the rest of the game, with line drive singles to left and right.
Shortstop Alfredo Amezaga saw his first game action of the spring, and went 1-for-3 with a run-scoring double down the left field line.
Eric Young started at second base. He walked twice and stole a base before grounding out in his third at-bat.
Highly touted catching prospect Wilin Rosario entered the game in the sixth inning and made his first appearance behind the plate since his August knee surgery. He defended the plate on a scoring play, but made a throwing error on a steal of second, and was hitless in two at-bats.
With the exception of starter John Maine, the pitchers weren't in the recovering category, but Felipe Paulino and Matt Daley got good work in on Monday, throwing 1-2-3 innings, with Daley notching two strikeouts to boot. Eric Stults pitched a clean fifth, but Matt Reynolds struggled, giving up a run in both the sixth and seventh innings. He yielded a walk and three hits -- including a solo homer -- to open the sixth. Casey Weathers pitched a scoreless ninth.
"I'm not ready to set the club today," manager Jim Tracy said about Reynolds' prospects. "Anybody that's worn a Major League uniform has had situations where they've struggled a little bit and had to search and find some things."
Rogers looks to take next step on Tuesday
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Esmil Rogers knows winning the open spot in the Rockies' rotation, and thriving in it, will take more than a strong right arm. It'll take a quick mind.
Rogers, 25, has a 6.00 ERA in nine innings over three appearances in Cactus League play going into his start Tuesday against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. His last start saw him pitch well for most of four innings, even though he gave up a two-out, three-run homer to the Brewers' Ryan Braun.
Rogers left that game insisting he was happy with how he pitched, and that he had full confidence. Then he sat with pitching coach Bob Apodaca to learn what was missing.
"Me and Apodaca were talking about the last game, about Braun, he liked low-and-in pitches," Rogers said. "I told him I didn't even know that. He said, 'Now you're going to start knowing the hitters, seeing where he likes the ball. We'll be focusing more on that, starting tomorrow.'"
Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who has served as a mentor to Rogers, said Rogers is ready to develop that necessary pitching savvy.
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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"Last year he had really good experience on what is good and what is bad in the big leagues, and what he needs to do to get better," Jimenez said. "This year he came to Spring Training being more focused on what he wants to do, trying to get better."
Rogers made 28 appearances last year for the Rockies, including eight starts. That's more work last year than any of his other competitors. Righty Clayton Mortensen made one Major League start with the Athletics, righty Greg Reynolds battled injuries all season and was limited to 19 starts in the Minors, and righty John Maine made nine starts with the Mets -- for whom he won 15 games in 2007 -- before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
During the offseason, Rogers adopted a circle changeup to go with his fastball, curve and slider. The plan Tuesday is to use all of his pitches, but not forget about No. 1.
"Apodaca told me to pitch inside to right-handers, pitch inside to left-handers, use my changeup and my curveball," Rogers said. "We're going to use the curveball and slider a little bit more in the game. For me, my key from my last game is I've got confidence. I just have to have fastball command.
"I watched Ubaldo in his last start. It was a great start. I'm going to try to be like that, get fastball command. When you have confidence in your pitch, like Ubaldo, you can throw the fastball at any time and they're not going to hit it."
Jimenez tracks Nicasio's progress
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Until Sunday, Rockies right-hander Juan Nicasio was a name with an impressive strikeout total in the low Minors. Finally on Sunday, he was seen at the Major League level against big-time hitters.
The results were rough -- five hits and four runs in two innings of a 9-4 loss to the Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The game had one interested observer -- Rockies ace right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.
Last season, Jimenez said he was keeping up with Nicasio, 24. Like Jimenez, Nicasio is a hard thrower from the Dominican Republic. Nicasio is one of the many young Latin American pitchers that Jimenez has been offering advice to, and Jimenez said he made it a point to keep up with Nicasio's stats and progress. There has been quite a bit, since Nicasio has fanned 286 batters in 289 innings over the last two years at two Class A levels.
"I saw a couple innings yesterday," Jimenez said Monday morning. "I haven't talked to him today, but he has really good stuff. He throws hard. He has a good breaking ball. He just has to put everything together. This is the big leagues. You have to try to minimize the errors and the mistakes.
"One thing I saw about him was he was getting hit, but he kept throwing strikes. He was like, 'Hit it.'"
The Cactus League stat sheet reads that Nicasio is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA, but so what. Ask Jimenez about his first Cactus League appearance, and you see how important the result is.
"That was in 2006 ... I don't even remember," Jimenez said. "But that's part of the process of being a big-league player. You have to go through bad times. You have to go through good times. Everyone goes through that. It doesn't matter who you are, you're going to get beat sometime."
Reynolds to get another look
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Five innings of Rockies right-hander Greg Reynolds on Saturday night has left manager Jim Tracy wanting to see more.
When the Rockies face the White Sox on Thursday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Reynolds will start while ace Ubaldo Jimenez will pitch in a Minor League game. Reynolds gave up two runs on two hits, struck out three and didn't walk any against the D-backs on Saturday.
That led to the pitching arrangement. Tracy knows what Jimenez can do, so he is intrigued by Reynolds, who spent last year recovering from a shoulder surgery and having the double-whammy of a cracked elbow suffered during Spring Training. After a couple of rehab outings at Class A Modesto, Reynolds went 7-6 with a 5.22 ERA at Double-A Tulsa.
"Not only is he going to face better lineups, but they're getting to the point of time in the spring where they'll stay around longer," Tracy said. "They're going to take that extra at-bat."
It's not fair to say the clock is running out on Reynolds, but it is clear the Rockies want to see what they have in their No. 1 Draft choice -- second overall -- from 2006. The Rockies took him instead of current stars Evan Longoria and Tim Lincecum. Reynolds was in the Majors by 2008, but he had experienced right shoulder problems even before then.
Reynolds is not going to overpower hitters. But Tracy said his sinking fastball at around 90 MPH can be good enough if he has pinpoint location. Tracy noted that Reynolds needs to address his tendency to run up 2-0 counts, but he likes Reynolds' competitiveness.
"With their capability of commanding their stuff and being able to fire it through a tea cup, there are a lot of guys that are solid winners at the Major League level," Tracy said. "The other parts of him as an athlete have impressed me. He handles the bat. He fields his position. He does a good job of handling the opposition's running game. This guy has upside.
"You're not a No. 1 Draft choice because you don't have a skill set. It's that simple."
The two hits -- a Chris Young double and a Henry Blanco home run -- were pitches that were left too high in the zone. He simply can't afford to fall behind and miss high.
"That's probably a good thing for me to realize," Reynolds said. "Last year I went to my cutter a lot because I was developing it, and I thought it was a better pitch than my sinker last year. Now my sinker is a lot better than it was last year. My sinker has kind of come back. That cutter will work off that sinker a lot more.
"Anytime you're throwing the ball downhill with a little bit of movement and it's down at the knees, it's going to be real tough to lift, and guys are going to miss-hit it. If you can drop another pitch or two pitches in there, it'll keep them off-balance and be tough to hit."
Rockies send three more to Minor League camp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies sent three right-handed pitching prospects, Edgmer Escalona, Juan Nicasio and Cory Riordan, to Minor League camp on Monday.
All are highly regarded, but there will not be enough innings for them in Major League games to prepare for their Minor League seasons. Each saw two innings of action in Cactus League games.
Pacheco continues to impress
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies keep giving catcher Jordan Pacheco more looks, and he keeps showing them something good.
During Monday's 3-2 victory over the Reds, Pacheco -- a converted college infielder -- threw out Brandon Phillips trying to steal second in the first inning. After grounding out in his first at-bat to extend a hitless streak to nine at-bats, Pacheco doubled down the left-field line against Bill Bray in the fourth inning.
The Rockies obtained switch-hitting Jose Morales from the Twins during the offseason as a backup to Chris Iannetta. But lately, they've been intrigued enough with Pacheco, a .310 hitter in the Minors since 2007 and a .317 hitter in the Arizona Fall League last year, to start him semi-regularly in Cactus League action. The Rockies are also having Pacheco take grounders at third base, second base and first base, but it could be that he and Morales are competing for one spot. But there's also the possibility that the Rockies could break camp with both Morales and Pacheco. They could structure their rotation with four starters until April 10, which means they could use an additional position player and work out the logistics later.
Manager Jim Tracy smartly isn't committing to anything beyond gathering information. That's why Pacheco has caught Ubaldo Jimenez and on Monday, Jhoulys Chacin.
"What we're trying to find out as we move forward is can he handle our front-line starters, and the only way you're going to find out that information is you've got to get him out there and play him," Tracy said of Pacheco, who is hitting .348 with eight RBIs in Cactus League play. "I don't see anything just yet that suggests he can't catch anyone."
Tracy said the Rockies will give all the catchers still in camp -- Iannetta, Michael McKenry, Morales, Pacheco and Matt Pagnozzi -- ample opportunity in Cactus League games, "B" games and Minor League games.
Brothers is pushing hard
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers has developed quickly since the Rockies selected him 34th overall in 2009, and the pace of his maturity has hit the accelerator this spring as well.
Brothers, 23, was at his best Monday, in his fourth Cactus League appearance, a 3-2 victory over the Reds. He threw a perfect eighth inning, striking out reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto for the second out.
Going into camp, the Rockies felt it was too soon to identify Brothers as a serious candidate to make the Opening Day roster, but that he could be ready at some point during the season. But by developing greater command and confidence with each outing, Brothers has at least proven worthy to stick around as long as possible. Manager Jim Tracy said he wants Brothers facing big-time hitters.
"If you sat here and knew that guy was going to consistently throw the ball like that on a regular basis, would you want that on a regular basis?" Tracy said. "I don't want to feel like anybody has been pushed into a situation that we feel in our mind maybe a little bit more seasoning would be helpful.
"He has not pitched at the highest level of the Minor Leagues just yet. But rest assured that regardless of the direction that we take, he's close, and he's pushing. He was beginning to show signs of that in the latter stages of the season last year."
Brothers pitched at Class-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa last season. He had a .165 opponent's batting average at Modesto, and struck out 18 against six walks in his final 14 appearances at Tulsa. Brothers said he's curbing any nervousness that may come with facing stars.
"You know who they are, but you've got to keep it 60 feet, 6 inches," said Brothers, who didn't get calls on a couple of close pitches, but fanned Votto with a fastball nonetheless.
Tracy also said right-hander Claudio Vargas is day-to-day with a right hamstring strain.
Maine still fiery as ever on mound
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It took only four innings in Spring Training for John Maine to find the fire that attracted the Rockies to him. After a pair of scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut last week, Maine pitched a "B" game against the Angels Monday, and found himself quickly frustrated with what he characterized as a timid approach on the mound.
"I was being soft out there, like I wasn't competing," Maine said of a three-hit, two-run second inning. "I'm already fed up with it, and I went out there and pitched more like me in the third inning."
Maine may be his harshest critic, but it will suit the Rockies fine if he can motivate himself to be the pitcher he was when he pitched the Mets into the postseason his rookie year and won 15 games for them in his sophomore season. After season-ending shoulder surgery last July, Maine has been easing himself back up to game speed, but he's finding that "easy does it" doesn't do it for him.
"It was the combination of getting my feet under me and [concerns in] the back of your mind with a shoulder [injury]," Maine said of his cautious approach Monday. "I wanted to come in each day and progressively get better each game, and kind of feel my way. But that's not the kind of pitcher I am. I go up there and just compete. Just trying to get my legs underneath me does not work for me."
Maine pitched a rare 1-2-3-4 first frame. He was so efficient getting his first three outs that the Rockies gave the Angels another at-bat so Maine could get his pitch count up. "B" game etiquette allowed him to get four outs again in the third inning, though he did allow one base runner, who was promptly picked off first by catcher Mike McKenry. His damage all came in the second.
"I gave up a couple hits on my slider," Maine said. "Instead of going out there and throwing it, I was just kind of guiding it in there. If I'm going to get beat, I'm going to get beat going out there and competing, and not just throwing slop up there."
Maine's velocity on his fastball was consistently clocking in the low '90s, and he said his shoulder felt fine throughout the game. Once he decided to let it fly, he was able to pitch with more conviction, and as far as Maine is concerned, that's the only way he can be effective on the mound.
"It's a good thing the second inning happened," Maine said. "Even the first outing here five days ago, it was more like 'get through it,' instead of actually going out there and competing. I can't pitch like that. I have to go out there and compete. I'd rather do that than lay it up there and put it on a tee for them. It's good it happened now."
Though the Rockies don't want to push Maine too fast, and were content to consider him for their Triple-A rotation as he completes his recovery, he is a viable candidate for the fifth starter's spot opened up by Aaron Cook's broken finger.
Thomas Harding and Owen Perkins are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.