2/19/2014 5:50 P.M. ET
Protecting runner at plate important to Weiss
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss is on board with proposed rules to reduce collisions at home plate, because he agrees with attention to player safety. But there is uncertainty because MLB has not settled on how the rule will be written.
As in the past, the Rockies will train catchers to make a portion of the plate visible to the runner before the ball arrives. The collision rule will have to address not only the runner taking a shot at the catcher, but the catcher having to give the runner the possibility of reaching the plate without contact.
Catcher injuries, especially concussions, have been discussed. But runner injuries are possible.
For example, last April, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was trying to protect leg muscles that were a problem in the past, suffered groin tightness on a play at the plate when D-backs catcher Miguel Montero had the plate blocked completely. Tulowitzki was in no-man's land; with his injury history, he was not going to body check Montero in an early-season game. Tulowitzki played on and off for a period of time, but he at least did not have to go to the disabled list.
"As a runner -- I've never been on the catching side of it -- you have to make that decision well before you get to the plate," Weiss said. "Now if you look up and there's no plate, I know for me, those are the times I would try to run the catcher over. But it was a last resort. But you have to make that decision, probably, 15 feet from home plate."
Weiss noted that there is a safe medium.
"The good ones, a lot of them, that's what they did -- when you went to your slide, you saw the plate, but by the time you got to the plate it was gone," Weiss said. "There's an art to it, and I'm sure there still will be, even if the rules do change. But I'm always in favor of protecting players."
Weiss noted that the so-called "neighborhood play" at second base, where the fielder will get the benefit of a doubt whether he is or is not in contact with the bag on a force play with the runner sliding, is a player safety issue. Weiss agrees with the fact it will not be reviewable in whatever replay system is instituted.
Spot in batting order 'all the same' to Cuddyer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss wants to experiment with the batting order this season, and the presence of versatile Michael Cuddyer allows him to do it.
Cuddyer, who turns 35 on March 27, won the National League batting title last year with a .331 average. He also finished fifth in slugging and ninth in on-base percentage -- numbers that can make him a table-setter or an RBI threat.
After hitting Cuddyer primarily in the fourth and fifth spots last season, Weiss wants to bat him second in 2014. Cuddyer doesn't have a problem with the idea.
Cuddyer has hit mostly fourth and fifth (a total of 794 regular-season games in those two spots), but has 93 or more games in the third, seventh and eighth spots. He's only hit 12 times at No. 2.
"You don't change your mindset," Cuddyer said. "I've hit everywhere in the order, and it's all the same. If you have nobody on base, you try to get on base. If you've got a guy in scoring position, you try to drive him in. If you've got a guy on base, you try to move him around and you get on base. It's all about setting the guys up behind you and driving in the guys in front of you.
"There's no secret formula to being a two-hole hitter or leadoff hitter or anything like that. When you start over-complicating things, that's when you start struggling."
Weiss is thinking back to 1996, when the Rockies took a hitter with power, Ellis Burks, and used him in the No. 2 spot. Burks hit .340 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in 78 games while batting second, and .351 with another 19 homers and 54 RBIs out of No. 3. The following year, Burks hit .308 with 27 homers and 64 RBIs in 84 games batting second.
The Rockies had a .256 average and .290 on-base percentage from the second spot last season, and need to bolster that spot with a proven batter.
"Cuddy uses the whole field and hits with power," Weiss said. "He uses the whole field and is just a professional hitter that's dangerous. With the pieces we have or that we potentially have in our lineup, we can afford to move Cuddy up to that spot. You've got some power throughout."
Age simply a number to Rox reliever Hawkins
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reminding Rockies right-handed relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins that, at 41, he's the oldest pitcher on a Major League roster -- and second-oldest pitcher in any Spring Training Major League camp -- doesn't make him feel old. That's because he never feels old.
The only pitcher in Spring Training older than Hawkins is Rangers non-roster invitee Jose Contreras, at 42.
Hawkins finished last year strong with the Mets, converting 13-of-14 save opportunities from Aug. 1 to season's end. The Rockies signed him this year for $2.5 million, with a club option for 2015.
Hawkins doesn't see being 41 as a badge of honor.
"I don't care ... I feel like I'm ..." Hawkins said, before turning to fellow reliever Adam Ottavino learning he is 28. "I feel like I'm 28. I don't feel 41.
"To be 41 playing a kid's game, you can't beat it. I wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world."
Here are the five oldest pitchers in Spring Training, plus their respective birth dates:
• Jose Contreras, Rangers (non-roster), 12/6/1971
• LaTroy Hawkins, Rockies, 12/21/1972
• Bartolo Colon, Mets, 5/24/1973
• Guillermo Mota, Royals (non-roster), 7/25/1973
• R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays, 10/29/1974
Here are the five oldest position players, plus their respective birth dates:
• Jason Giambi, Indians (non-roster), 1/8/1971
• Henry Blanco, D-backs (non-roster), 8/29/1972
• Raul Ibanez, Angels, 6/2/1972
• Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees, 10/22/1973
• Jamey Carroll, Nationals (non-roster), 2/18/1974
Weiss: Communication key as replay evolves
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With the mechanics of instant replay still being discussed, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the club is trying to figure out how it will handle possible replay challenges.
Most likely, the Rockies will have to assign some personnel on a rotating basis -- it won't be one person for 162 games -- to monitor replays and try to deliver word to Weiss in the dugout whether to challenge a call. But how that will occur, especially with video rooms in different places depending on the park, and who will do it are variables.
"We don't have all the answers yet," Weiss said. "There's got to be some kind of rapport there between the manager and whoever is up there watching."
Video rooms must be in an area where a door may be closed and can't be in the dugout. The rule is to prevent signs from being stolen by the opposition and relayed to players. At Coors Field, for example, the Rockies' video room is down a runway from the dugout, up a short flight of stairs, then down a hallway. How word will be relayed from the video monitor, and how quickly that can happen, are to be determined as well as who will be doing the monitoring and communicating.
It's different from football, where coaches are seeing the video and relaying info into a headset to the head coach. It sets up for someone possibly unknown to the public, being in position to provide crucial information that could determine a baseball game. Weiss said he will not ever make that person a fall guy if the challenge goes wrong.
"The way I look at it, it's never going to be that guy's fault," Weiss said. "Ultimately, I'm the one.
"Whoever it is, that's how I'll communicate it to him: 'It's going to be on me. It's not going to be on you.'"
• The late-inning, righty bullpen role to get the ball to left-hander Rex Brothers and right-hander LaTroy Hawkins is up for grabs. Wilton Lopez, Matt Belisle, Adam Ottavino and Chad Bettis are possible options. But Weiss is confident Lopez can rebound from some struggles in 2013, when he went 3-4 with a 4.06 ERA in a team-high 75 appearances. Lopez, 30, had some bad luck with ground balls early, then struggled when he put pressure on himself to make up for the misfortune, Weiss said. There was also a family issue in Lopez's native Nicaragua, Weiss added.
"He was really good before last year," Weiss said of Lopez. "He never shies away from competition. He always wants the ball. Usually, he tried to talk me into sending him out for another inning. Good, bad or indifferent, he wanted the ball and wanted to go out again. You can sit here and talk about that stuff, but that stuff is very valuable, that type of mentality."
• With Cuddyer at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Wednesday, all 64 players have reported to Major League camp. Position players aren't due to report officially until Friday.