02/20/2013 12:45 PM ET
LeMahieu determined to compete, contribute
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thanks to an improved swing that took months to hone, Rockies infielder DJ LeMahieu went from forgotten man to starting second baseman by the end of last season. Now he simply has to make sure he isn't forgotten again.
The conventional wisdom in camp is the Rockies are looking at Josh Rutledge, who played shortstop last season after Troy Tulowitzki was hurt, as their second baseman. Rutledge displayed more power last season than LeMahieu.
If Rutledge holds the starting spot, LeMahieu will be part of a crowd of players seeking backup infield jobs. LeMahieu simply is out to show new manager Walt Weiss that he is prepared to help the team.
"There's going to be another opportunity, whether it's right away this year, later this year, next year or whatever," LeMahieu said. "There's going to be another opportunity and I'm going to be ready for it.
"I'm coming in here and competing. You could look at it both ways, but I think I'd be cutting myself short to be just trying to make the team."
The improvement LeMahieu showed last season suggests he can't be counted out. A Cubs second-round pick out of LSU in 2009, LeMahieu was acquired by the Rockies before last season. Then-manager Jim Tracy and former hitting coach Carney Lansford saw an area where LeMahieu could quicken his swing, and they began working with him before Spring Training.
LeMahieu began the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and earned a promotion in May, but hit just .205 in 19 games before being returned to Triple-A.
But after returning to the Majors on July 16, LeMahieu sizzled at a .316 clip for the rest of the season to bring his final number to .297.
"With the Cubs, I'd always hit, so no one wanted to bother me too much," LeMahieu said. "But Tracy took it upon himself to say, 'He's hit, but he can be better. ... A lot better.' I agreed with him, bought into what he was saying -- he and Carney, both -- and benefitted a lot."
LeMahieu finished with just two home runs and 18 extra-base hits in 81 games (65 starts), but he believes there is more power in his bat.
"I don't think anyone goes up here and says, 'I'm going to go up there and hit a home run in this at-bat' -- well, maybe 'CarGo' [All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez]," LeMahieu said. "But it's taking the right approach, hitting the ball harder, hitting the ball a little more out front. I grasped that concept last year and it's working well so far this year."
Pomeranz to kick off rotation derby vs. D-backs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, one of the competitors for the final spot in the Rockies' rotation, will have the first chance to show his wares in Cactus League play.
Pomeranz will start against the D-backs in Saturday's opener at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (1:10 p.m. MT). Righty Tyler Chatwood, also competing for the rotation, is scheduled to follow Pomeranz.
Two of the four solid rotation members will throw Sunday against the D-backs (1:10 p.m. MT). Lefty Jeff Francis will start and righty Juan Nicasio will follow him.
Former Marlins and Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad will start on Monday, and lefty Danny Rosenbaum, whom the Rockies selected from the Nationals in the Rule 5 Draft, will follow. Rosenbaum, a starter in the Nationals chain, will be looked at for both duties during the spring. Under Rule 5, once the season starts Rosenbaum must either remain on the Major League roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Nationals for $50,000.
The other two solid rotation members will work Tuesday against the Cubs (1:05 p.m. MT), with righty Jhoulys Chacin starting and lefty Jorge De La Rosa coming in after him.
On Wednesday against the Padres (1:05 p.m. MT), Chatwood will start, Pomeranz will follow and lefty Josh Outman, listed for one to two innings of relief in the first two games of the schedule, will follow. Outman also is considered a competitor for the rotation.
Left-hander Nick Schmidt, who went 12-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 26 games (25 starts), at Double-A Tulsa last season, and righty prospect Chad Bettis, who missed last season because of a shoulder injury but is still considered one of the team's top prospects, are among the pitchers for Friday's intrasquad game.
Prospect Rosenbaum looking to get back in form
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Danny Rosenbaum hopes to show the Rockies the stellar form he displayed for the Nationals during the first half of last season.
The Rockies selected Rosenbaum, 25, in the Rule 5 Draft. Once the season begins, the Rockies must either carry him on their Major League roster the entire year or offer him back to the Nationals for $50,000. At the time of the Rule 5 Draft, the Rockies said they were looking at Rosenbaum for their bullpen, but he is being stretched out like a starter and could swing to either role.
Rosenbaum established himself as a budding prospect by beginning last season at 7-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 15 starts Double-A Harrisburg. However, by season's end he was 8-10, with a 3.94 ERA in 26 starts. A 22nd-round pick out of Xavier (Ohio) University in 2009, Rosenbaum had not finished any of his previous seasons with an ERA above 2.59.
"The first half, everything was working, so I tried to just slow the game down and have a lot of confidence in my abilities, and that's why I was so successful," Rosenbaum said. "Toward the second half, I went away from what I was successful with. That's kind of why the season started to go downhill for me. I tried to find things, rather than sticking with what worked.
"These guys have seen a lot of video of me and want to get me back to where I was in the first half and the first years of my career. The minor mechanical flaws have been fixed, and it's starting to feel good again."
There also was an unusual injury. Rosenbaum was hit in a sensitive area by a line drive.
"It was something I wish no one to have to experience," he said. "I learned my lesson, [since I] didn't wear a cup that day."
Betancourt to ease into spring pitching schedule
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt said Wednesday he is taking his time getting ready for the regular season, so his not being included on the early Spring Training pitching schedule is no cause for concern.
The Rockies posted their schedule for their intrasquad game Friday and the first six Cactus League contests without their closer being listed. Betancourt, who turns 38 on April 29, earned 31 saves last season -- his first full season as a fulltime closer.
"There's no reason for me to pitch on Saturday or Sunday, and [still am] going to be here for five weeks after that," Betancourt said. "I'm going to try to get in 10-12 innings down here in Spring Training, and there's plenty of time for that. I just want to get ready for the season."
Chacin to pitch for Venezuela in Classic
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin announced Wednesday via Twitter that he will represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Earlier in the day, he said he was awaiting the results of a physical that he had taken for Classic officials.
This will mean time away from Rockies camp, but the tournament keeps pitchers on their schedule so the event doesn't disrupt teams' regular-season plans.
Chacin, who was scheduled to make an official announcement during a conference call with Venezuelan media Wednesday afternoon, was out for much of last season with a strained nerve in the right side of his chest. But he finished the season healthy and pitched winter ball. When the Mariners' Felix Hernandez bowed out of the tournament to protect himself after signing a six-year, $175 million contract, Chacin -- who had expressed interest in participating during the winter -- actively sought a roster spot.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the intensity of the event, at a time when most players are merely tuning up for the season, could help Chacin.
"You can look at it any way you want to," Weiss said. "You like to have your guys around in Spring Training so you've got them in front of you. But the guys who are in the WBC are going to be in some high-pressure situation, having to win games. They're going to get a lot out of that. It's a great honor for these guys to be selected for that."
This year's Classic also will give Chacin more time with Venezuela pitching coach Wilton Lopez. In January, Chacin visited Lopez in Sarasota, Fla., to adjust his conditioning and correct a mechanical flaw that could help his fastball. Chacin has consistently kept his fingers on top of the ball while throwing his changeup and slider, which are considered his best pitches, but had fallen into a habit of letting the fingers slip beneath the ball on the fastball. Lopez spotted the habit on video and addressed it with Chacin.
Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and catcher Ramon Hernandez also will represent Venezuela.
Weiss: Helton to miss 'first handful' of spring games
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Rockies Manager Walt Weiss said Wednesday that veteran first baseman Todd Helton will not play in Saturday's Spring Training opener against the D-backs, and he will check with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki before committing to using him.
Both players are coming off season-ending surgeries -- Helton's in August on his right hip to repair a torn labrum and Tulowitzk's in June on his left groin to remove scar tissue. Weiss said Helton prefers to ease his way into playing shape and might not be used in early games. Tulowitzki has done baserunning drills with no problems. Weiss said he believes Tulowitzki will play, but he wants to make sure playing doesn't create a setback.
Weiss said veterans such as Helton and Tulowitzki, as well as closer Rafael Betancourt, who is facing hitters but asked not to be put on the pitching schedule the first week of games, have earned the right to approach Spring Training with an eye toward preserving themselves for the regular season.
"This Spring Training is five or six days longer than it usually is [because of the World Baseball Classic]," Weiss said. "Todd wants to time it right, so that when it's time to go -- he's at his peak. He's probably not going to be in there for that first handful of games. I don't know the exact number. For a guy like him, there's no reason to put your foot on the pedal. He's got a good feel.
"I'm trying to do that with all our guys. What gets you right? I don't care what that looks like, that's what we're going to do."
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.