2/21/2013 7:27 P.M. ET
Ortega eager to work way back to big leagues
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Four months later, the smile hasn't left the face of outfielder Rafael Ortega.
Last September, the Rockies were headed nowhere but still had a few days to actually get there. Problem was, they were running out of players because of injuries. They were in Los Angeles on the fial Sunday of the year, and needed an outfielder because Dexter Fowler had a bad wrist, Carlos Gonzalez was battling leg soreness, and Michael Cuddyer and Eric Young Jr. had long been shelved for the year because of oblique injuries.
Ortega, 21, had finished a nice season at Class A Modesto a month earlier -- .283, eight home runs, 60 stolen bases, and just happened to have been in playing shape and close by when the Rockies needed someone. He played in two of the Rockies' final four regular-season games and went 2-for-4, was hit by a pitch and stole a base -- all with his equally shocked family back in Venezuela following his every move.
"When I got home, my family was able to enjoy the moment," Ortega said. "I was really happy for them."
The appearances immediately threw Ortega into a select group of people who have appeared in a Major League game. But now he's joined the group who have been there and must work their way back. With everyone healthy, Ortega is back to being a long way from the Majors.
Winter ball in Venezuela re-established Ortega's place in the game. With LaGuaira, Ortega hit .300 but had just 80 at-bats in 41 games while sitting behind the Giants' Gregor Blanco. In Spring Training this year, Ortega is experiencing the big-league life but his locker position -- practically hidden in a corner, near the opening to the video room -- reinforces that he has a long way to go.
But he plans to work hard to relive the dream.
"I'm probably going to go to Double-A, but you never know if this year I can get to the big leagues," Ortega said. "I want to be ready for another chance. I'd like to make it back by the end of this year, or if not, sometime next year. I'll just keep working hard."
Weiss, Tulo building solid relationship
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said he and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki have quickly developed a positive rapport.
Tulowitzki was close with former manager Jim Tracy, but the Rockies hoped he and Weiss -- who played shortstop for the Rockies 1994-97 and understands the toll the position can take while playing at altitude -- would mesh seamlessly. Having honest dialogue about fatigue and injuries will be important, with Tulowitzki coming off a left groin surgery during a 2012 season that saw him play just 47 games.
"We need him on the field if we're going to do anything seriously, and I think he understands the big picture aspect of it -- to stay out there, he may have to take a break every now and then," Weiss said. "We'll figure that stuff out. We'll find a rhythm for that."
Tulowitzki is expected to play in Saturday's Spring Training opener against the D-backs. Weiss and Tulowitzki said they expect the field to be dry, after rain and snowy slush this week, and there should not be a risk. If the field is soggy, the decision could change.
Weiss, like Tracy before him, loves Tulowitzki's presence.
"Like a lot of stars do, he's got tremendous impact on the field and in the clubhouse," Weiss said. "He plays the game really hard and deserves a lot of respect for the way he does play the game."
Rockies to play intrasquad game Friday
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After rain forced the Rockies to work out indoors and in batting cages Wednesday, and an icy, snowy slush kept them off the field Thursday, the Rockies plan on having an intrasquad game Friday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
The game will start at 2:30 p.m. MT on Field 3, which is one of the practice fields to the right-field side of the stadium complex. There is no admission charge.
Manager Walt Weiss said mostly prospects will play in the game, although Manny Corpas, the closer from the 2007 National League champion Rockies who is back with the team as a non-roster invitee, is scheduled to pitch. The managers will be Glenallen Hill of Triple-A Colorado Springs and Kevin Riggs of Double-A Tulsa.
• Closer Rafael Betancourt, who said he wants to space out his appearances between now and Opening Day, was added to the pitching schedule for Wednesday's game against the Padres. He originally was not going to pitch in the first week of Cactus League games. Betancourt is past the point of throwing bullpen sessions and is facing hitters. Betancourt still wants to build slowly for the regular season.
• Weiss said he has had a one-on-one meeting with almost every one of the Rockies since arriving in Scottsdale. He was especially heartened after meeting with Todd Helton, his teammate back when Helton debuted in 1997. The two discussed the fact Helton, 39 and coming off hip surgery, will need frequent days off, but the goal is to keep Helton effective -- not ease him into retirement. "I'm expecting him to be a very productive part of our lineup, and he knows he's going to need a break every now and then, maybe even more so than he has in the past," Weiss said.
Weiss said he hasn't settled on a batting order slot for Helton.
"We'll mess around with that this spring, the five, six and seven," Weiss said. "That's probably going to float a little bit."
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.