02/19/2013 7:29 PM ET
Herrera hoping to come up big in utility role
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies are bringing in bigger and bigger players, even if they play infield utility roles that are traditionally the domain of the little guy. DJ LeMahieu last year and Reid Brignac and Ryan Wheeler this year arrived at camp 6-foot-3 or taller and well muscled. Jordan Pacheco, listed at 6-1, is not small, either.
Yet Jonathan Herrera has proven hard to defeat in competition for a job.
Herrera, 28, at 5-9 and 180 pounds, shouldn't fight in the same weight class as his competition, but this is baseball and Herrera has held his ground. The last two years, Herrera has made the Opening Day roster and is battling to do the same in 2013.
It's already a crowd for what appears to be two jobs.
Brignac has been an everyday shortstop in the Majors, which works to his advantage, plus he is out of Minor League options and would have to be exposed to other teams via waivers if he doesn't make the team. LeMahieu, after time in Triple-A, earned regular starts at second base last year and finished the year hitting a healthy .297. Wheeler can play first and third, and the Rockies believe he has power potential. Pacheco hit .309 last year, started at third base and first base and has the added bonus of being able to play catcher.
Also, some infield playing time could go to Eric Young Jr., who was converted to the outfield three years ago but is being asked to play some third and first.
But Herrera is confident he'll make sure he's not forgotten.
Herrera had a difficult season in 2012. He was out from May 23 to June 21 with a strained right hamstring and missed 13 games in July when he contracted an infection of the left wrist from his watch. He finished the year with a .262 batting average, a career high-tying three home runs and 12 RBIs, but in just 86 games. He hit .242 in 2011 while appearing in 104 games, but that year his role was to move runners and he received passing grades for that.
"I still have my confidence," Herrera said. "I came in this spring with my mind really positive again and to do everything to do what I need to do to be here on the team. Hopefully, I stay healthy. Last year I battled through a lot of injuries. This year I hope to stay healthy, battle through, and play."
"I don't get out of my game. I recognize my game, stay positive, put the ball in play, give good at-bats, move guys over, get my bunt down and play defense -- third, short, second. I do what they ask me. I don't worry about anything else. Just play my game and play hard all the time."
The Rockies could get more use out of the large number of utility players than in the past. The club is considering a plan under which it will carry 12 pitchers at home but 11 on the road. Brignac is the only one in the infield backup mix who is out of options, so the idea could be workable.
Tulo continues running, could play Cactus opener
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ran the bases with no issues Tuesday for the second time since Spring Training began, but manager Walt Weiss will wait before deciding whether to start him in Saturday's Cactus League opener against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
"He's got a chance to play on Saturday; I don't think we'll put him in the instrasquad [Friday]," Weiss said. "We'll get a feel as we get closer here. We're having conversations today about early in the games how we're going to use him. We haven't figured it out quite yet, but it's not out of the question."
Tulowitzki is coming off left groin surgery for an injury that limited him to 47 games last season. The Rockies also will be careful with first baseman Todd Helton, who had right hip surgery in August.
One standout player who could receive more early at-bats than usual is All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who will leave the team to participate with Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Weiss said Gonzalez wants early playing time so he will be ready for tournament intensity.
Chacin awaiting World Baseball Classic approval
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said he had not heard as of Tuesday afternoon whether right-hander Jhoulys Chacin had received clearance, based on his physical, to play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Chacin, who missed much of last season with a nerve issue in his chest but finished the year healthy and pitched winter ball in Venezuela, has said he wants to play, and the physical result -- which he expects to be positive -- is the final hurdle.
If Chacin receives the go-ahead, Weiss said the Rockies will have to incorporate Chacin's Classic schedule into their pitching plans leading up to the regular season.
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.