2/17/2014 8:09 P.M. ET
Right fit with Rox a comfort to prospect Butler
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies pitching prospect Eddie Butler, who is hoping a strong showing in camp will quicken his path to the big leagues, has always believed the well-worn path isn't for him.
When he was graduating from Chesapeake (Va.) Christian Academy in 2009, several coaches at College World Series-level programs regaled him with stories of the big time. Coaches at Radford (Va.) University, in the unheralded Big South Conference, couldn't one-up the big boys, but it didn't matter because that type of talk didn't impress Butler.
"I had the big opportunities, but none of them appealed to me," Butler said. "A lot of them talked about their championships, how many guys they'd gotten to the big leagues. But they were never really saying what their plan was for me. I went to Radford and they told me their plan and their expectation for me."
Butler has been excelling in pro ball since the Rockies took him as a supplemental first-round pick in 2012, partly because the organization's plan was in line with that of the pitcher.
Much of the talk going into the Draft was Butler, who relied on a fastball and slider in college, would have to convert to relief. But from the moment they took him, the Rockies had faith he'd be an effective starter. After revealing a Major League-level changeup, Butler has shut down hitters over 41 Minor League appearances (40 starts) to the tune of a 1.90 ERA, .180 batting average against and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings against 2.7 walks per nine. Butler finished last season at Double-A Tulsa, where he went 1-0 with a 0.65 ERA in six starts covering 27 2/3 innings.
"Many teams thought of me as a reliever," Butler said. "They didn't see the potential in my changeup and they didn't see a curveball. So they immediately threw me out as a two-pitch guy as a reliever. Right now it's out there that I have other pitches to go along with my fastball-slider. I'm glad the Rockies always thought of me as a starter, because that's been my thought of what I would be.
"It would be cool to be a closer. But I want to start. I want to have a big role in the game. I want to be able to hand the ball to my closer and have him finish it out for me."
Butler is eager to show what he can do on the Major League stage.
"This is the closest I've been," Butler said. "To be in here with the big leaguers, it's a great feeling. I'm hoping to make a push to be up here this year. It would be great. Maybe if I have a good spring, I don't know. You never know how soon I'll be up here. There's plenty of time, but I'd love to spend most of it here."
For Morneau, not everything's new this spring
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- New Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau has had plenty of time to blend into his surroundings.
Morneau, who played for the Twins from 2003 to last August, when he was dealt to the Pirates, signed with the Rockies this offseason. But because he has long spent his offseasons in Scottsdale, he was working out at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick the next day. This month, as many players began reporting early, he's had time to ease into the new group.
"All the position players aren't here yet, but I'm starting to get familiar with the names and faces," said Morneau, who takes over at first base for Todd Helton, who retired last year after 17 seasons. "I was at one place for so long, I knew everybody walking around the complex, their job titles and what everybody did. I'm still trying to figure all that stuff out, but the comfort level is starting to get there."
Morneau also has some familiar faces in camp with him. Morneau's first year with the Twins was the last for veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who signed with the Rockies in November to be the closer. Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, last year's National League batting champ with the Rockies, were longtime teammates. Rockies non-roster outfielder Jason Pridie also has been with the Twins.
The Twins are a small-market team that in the past found success, which the Rockies are trying to build.
"It's an organization philosophy," Morneau said. "You look around at guys that are still playing from when we won the division in '06. Torii Hunter. Nick Punto is a great teammate. You look at Mike Redmond, who is a manager now. You look at Jesse Crain. You look around, and those guys stick around for a reason. The game has a way, unless you have exceptional, exceptional talent, of weeding out the guys that aren't good teammates.
"That's something that's important over there. They draft good character people. They do their homework. They expect you to play the game a certain way. Respect the game and respect each other. That's a good way to do things."
Ottavino eager to help Rox in any situation
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Adam Ottavino responded to the increased responsibility of pitching late innings last season with a solid performance -- a 2.64 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings.
With fellow righties Matt Belisle and Wilton Lopez having gone through periodic struggles last season, the question becomes whether Ottavino, 28, is able to slide into a late-innings role. But the Rockies have added right-hander LaTroy Hawkins and lefty Boone Logan as late-innings options. Ottavino comes in concentrating on doing what he did well last year.
"I definitely controlled the count better, made better choices with my pitches," Ottavino said. "I think I can improve on that, still. But in general, working ahead and being able to mix the pitches the way I wanted was the biggest thing I did last year.
"We've got a lot of new guys and a much deeper bullpen. So I'm not really worried about a specific role. I'm a guy that doesn't really need a defined role. If I can be the jack-of-all-trades guy, then that'll be good enough for me and really help our team win."
CarGo may stay in left, won't bounce around
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After trading Dexter Fowler to the Astros during the winter, the Rockies announced that they would move three-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner Carlos Gonzalez from left field to Fowler's old center-field spot.
But in recent days, manager Walt Weiss has said he's open to the possibility of Gonzalez staying in left, especially since right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs -- acquired from the Indians in a trade subsequent to the Fowler trade -- is a center fielder by trade. Left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon and right-handed-hitting Brandon Barnes, part of the Fowler trade, have experience in center and left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson has worked at all three spots.
For now, Weiss said Gonzalez is in center, but he reserves the right to change his mind. He won't, however, move him back and forth. Gonzalez also has said he does not want to move back and forth.
"That'll be a popular question this spring," Weiss said. "We've got him in center right now. That's the plan. We have a lot of options in the outfield. We have a lot of flexibility. We have a lot of good players competing out there. We have a lot of options in center field. I understand that.
"In the end, it all comes down to who gives us the best chance to win -- offensively, defensively. We're not going to bounce [Gonzalez] around. That's not to say we won't change our minds [about him in left or center]."
Rockies' options for leadoff include LeMahieu
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - With the Rockies planning to use defending National League batting champ Michael Cuddyer in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, manager Walt Weiss has the flexibility to move second baseman DJ LeMahieu -- penciled in the No. 8 hole after hitting second much of last year -- to the leadoff spot at times.
Left-handed hitting outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are candidates to hit leadoff. But when Drew Stubbs, acquired from the Indians this offseason, is in the lineup, Weiss wants another option at the top and believes LeMahieu can do the job, even though he has a .314 career on-base percentage.
"His on-base percentage wasn't prototypical leadoff guy, but I think that's going to develop because he's got such great instincts for the game," Weiss said. "That's going to be a part of the game you're going to see him improve on. He's still an option to hit in the two-hole, because he does that very well, handles the bat very well."
The Reds tried Stubbs as a leadoff man early in his career but high strikeouts scuttled that experiment.
"I wouldn't say I rule it out, but on the surface, when I look at the club, I probably see him right after the middle of the order, somewhere down there," Weiss said.
• Right-hander Juan Nicasio, who suffered a fractured skull and broken neck when hit in the right temple with a line drive in 2011, said Monday he is open to wearing a padded cap, which is available this season. Major League Baseball has approved a cap produced by isoBlox, and other companies are working on technology to give pitchers protection.
Nicasio said he wants to test out some padded caps in Spring Training games.
"I just want to be comfortable," he said.
• Catcher Jordan Pacheco wore No. 58 when he first appeared in the Majors in 2011 before switching to No. 22 in 2012 and No. 15 last season. But when Rockies catching coach Jerry Weinstein took a job in the team's Minor League system, No. 58 opened again and he grabbed it.
Pitcher Tyler Chatwood gave up No. 32 for new closer LaTroy Hawkins, who is 41 and has seniority, and wore the number for the Rockies in the 2007 World Series. Chatwood will wear No. 27.
• Chatwood quietly underwent surgery to remove bone chips at the end of last season. He said Monday that there are no lingering issues.
"I'm full-go, 100 percent, no problems at all," Chatwood said. "We knew I was going to take a break, see how it felt and go from there. A couple weeks into it, me and [Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger] talked and it was kind of the same feeling, so we went in there and it was a good thing. I had a bone chip, a pretty good-size one. It was causing all the inflammation and fluid."
Chatwood went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts last season.