03/11/2013 8:39 PM ET
Torrealba a steadying force behind the dish
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first time Rockies veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba worked with talented-but-developing left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, he delivered a reassuring message.
Pomeranz was pitching against Team USA last Friday when a pitch nearly sailed to the backstop.
"I threw a fastball up to David Wright and I said, 'Man, I almost threw it over your head,'" Pomeranz said. "He said, 'That's OK. I miss it, I go get it.' My last outing was the first time I've thrown to him. I hadn't thrown a bullpen or anything to him. He's great."
Pomeranz threw to Torrealba again on Monday, when he gave up two runs and four hits and struck out three in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox. Torrealba was there with advice as Pomeranz worked through minor delivery issues out of the stretch, and his presence was part of the reason Pomeranz's confidence ticked up a notch.
Torrealba, 34, is hoping to be a key mentor to young Rockies pitchers, the way he was during his first tour with the team (2006-09) -- a stint that included two of the three playoff appearances in club history. Many in the club and outside have theorized that the Rockies missed Torrealba's presence after he left as free agent -- and helped the Padres to contention one year and the Rangers to a World Series appearance.
Torrealba also hit his first home run of the spring, a drive to left off electric White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, and possibly saved Pomeranz some damage by picking Jordan Danks off third base in the third inning.
If Torrealba, who played for the Rangers and the Blue Jays last season, provides what the Rockies think he can, he will force the club into a decision. The team has second-year slugger Wilin Rosario as the primary catcher, and is paying veteran Ramon Hernandez $3.2 million. In addition, utility man Jordan Pacheco has impressed the Rockies with his receiving ability.
The club could look to move Hernandez in a trade, although it might involve eating some of the salary.
Torrealba is concentrating on his day-to-day work. To help Pomeranz along, he called Monday's game as if it were a regular-season contest. He realized that Pomeranz's secondary pitches need work, but it was hard to go away from a 95 mph fastball when White Sox hitters were having trouble catching up to it.
"Especially today, I knew he was going to go four, maybe five, I wanted to help him as much as I could," Torrealba said.
The Rockies are looking for aggressiveness, which fits Torrealba's defensive personality. He didn't hesitate before picking off Danks.
"This is Spring Training," Torrealba said. "The skipper gives you enough confidence. Go out there, have fun, try to do your job, throw the ball around and if you mess it up, you mess it up. At the same time, we're trying to send a message. 'Hey, this guy likes to throw behind runners. Keep those runners on a short leash.'"
Pomeranz showing signs of confidence
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Drew Pomeranz made the Majors on the fast track, but not as quickly -- or as impressively -- as White Sox lefty Chris Sale.
But it appears Pomeranz is gaining his bearings.
Pomeranz was chosen fifth overall and Sale went 13th in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The Indians selected Pomeranz but traded him to the Rockies in 2011, and he was in the Majors and in the starting rotation before that year ended. The White Sox sent Sale on a whirlwind 11-game tour of the Minors and had him in their bullpen before 2010 ended.
After spending the next season in the bullpen, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA his first year in the rotation. Pomeranz has started all 26 of his games in the Majors and is 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA.
But when the two faced off Monday, Pomeranz pitched right with Sale. Pomeranz gave up two runs, one on a Paul Konerko first-pitch homer in the second inning, and four hits, while striking out three against two walks in a 3-1 loss to the White sox. Sale gave up three hits, one a Yorvit Torrealba homer, and struck out two in five innings plus two batters in the sixth.
With Pomeranz showing improvement with his secondary pitches and having found the delivery that gives him a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, he is showing signs of the confidence to go with the talent that made him a top-five pick.
"It's good to know you can just go out there and throw, and not sit there thinking, 'What am I doing this time?'" Pomeranz said. "Just get it and go."
Pomeranz ran into a delivery issue -- allowing his momentum to drift to the third-base side, instead of straight to the plate -- from the stretch. But he was able to correct on the go. Last year, when he went 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA in 22 Major League starts, he was trying to survive without knowing when he was out of whack.
The Rockies' rotation is led by Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, who missed extensive time last year because of injuries, and veteran Jeff Francis, who has been forced to rely on guile when shoulder injuries robbed him of velocity. Having a talented young pitcher like Pomeranz hit his stride could shore up a rotation that could render a high-scoring offense and a dependable bullpen moot.
"I don't care what's being said," Pomeranz said. "I'm more worried about how I feel and being around the zone."
Manager Walt Weiss said Pomeranz on Monday was "a lot more in control of the at-bats. You didn't see the big misses."
Parker, Anderson among first cuts of spring
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two recent Rockies No. 1 Draft choices, outfielder Kyle Parker (2010) and left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson (2011), were among the first group of players that were sent to Minor League camp on Monday morning.
The Rockies also sent down outfielder Rafael Ortega, who played in Class A last year but was called up to the Majors as an emergency replacement for the final week of the season.
Also sent down were right-handers Chad Bettis, Parker Frazier and Dan Houston, lefty reliever Erick Threets, catcher Lars Davis and infielder Cristhian Adames.
Bettis (No. 4), Parker (No. 5), Anderson (No. 6), Ortega (No. 15) and Adames (No. 19) are among the Rockies' Top 20 Prospects, according to MLB.com.
Ortega and Adames are members of the 40-man Major League roster. The cuts leave the Rockies with 57 players in camp, including 18 non-roster invitees.
Chacin to throw simulated game Tuesday
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who struggled in his lone appearance in the World Baseball Classic, will throw a simulated game on Tuesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick as he and the other players who represented Venezuela -- outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and catcher Ramon Hernandez -- return to the club.
Chacin worked 3 1/3 innings and gave up five hits and four runs in Venezuela's first-game loss to the Dominican Republic. Chacin left the game with two runners on base, and they scored.
Chacin is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in two Cactus League appearances.
Rosario wants to be threat behind the plate
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario sent out an alert to opposing baserunners on Sunday afternoon.
With the Dodgers' Wilkin Castillo batting, Rosario picked Alfredo Amezaga off first base. He had narrowly missed throwing out a runner on a similar attempt early in the game.
Rosario was decent against basestealers -- he threw out 30 of 94 (32 percent) -- last season. Controlling the running game was one area that Rosario, who struggled with receiving, showed well defensively.
Rosario has shown improvement at blocking balls and receiving this spring. If he proves to be a threat against the running game, he could take one worry off the minds of Rockies pitchers.
"I like to throw," said Rosario, who isn't bashful about throwing to first with either a left-hander (whose body screens the runner's vision of the catcher) or a righty batting. "I like to use my arm. I have quick feet. I'm trying to get advanced at that. I feel good when I do that.
"The sooner we can make the runners stay closer, the easier it is for the pitcher to pitch the game."
Veteran non-roster catcher Yorvit Torrealba accomplished a pickoff of this own Monday against the White Sox at Glendale, Ariz., when he erased Jordan Danks at third base in the third inning.
• Righty Chris Volstad, who is striving for a rotation spot but could be used in the bullpen, struck out one in two scoreless innings on Monday. Volstad gave up four runs in three innings against Team USA in his last outing. Volstad has relied too heavily on secondary pitches and saw his career run awry with the Marlins and the Cubs. The Rockies have stressed the importance of staying with what they believe is an effective sinkerball.
"With that big sink he's got, those guys have the luxury of not having to be too fine," manager Walt Weiss said. "If it's over the plate with that big, sinking action, the hitters have to scrape it out of there."
• Veteran first baseman Todd Helton likely will not pull many assignments like Monday's -- facing White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, a long-limbed, hard-throwing lefty with an unusual delivery. Helton, who sustained a twisted knee Friday but felt better Monday, went 0-for-2.
"That's a tough slot to try to hit against, but we need to start getting him some at-bats here," Weiss said. "It was his day to play."
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.