2/26/2014 7:21 P.M. ET
Pair of pitching prospects aim to put themselves on radar
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The prospect focus has centered on right-handers Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, but two other young pitchers could put themselves on the radar -- righty closer Scott Oberg and lefty starter Jayson Aquino. Both will thrown in Thursday's intrasquad game.
Oberg, who turns 24 on March 13, earned 33 saves and struck out 61 in 53 1/3 innings at Class A Advnaced Modesto. His 1.86 ERA ranked third among California League pitchers with 40 or more appearances.
"He's a competitor, he's not afraid and he's got a pitch mix that works for him," Rockies player development director Jeff Bridich said. "It's low-to-mid 90s and two 'plus' [above-average for the Major League level] off-speed pitches -- a hard curveball and a changeup."
Aquino came from the Dominican Republic to the Rockies' farm clubs two seasons ago at 19, and went 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA at Rookie-level Grand Junction. Last season he went a combined 0-10 at Short-Season A Tri-City and Class A Asheville, but compiled a 3.13 ERA in four games at Tri-City and a 4.78 ERA in 11 games at Asheville and has placed himself on many prospect watch lists.
"He dominated the Dominican Summer League at a very young age, came over here and was somewhat shell-shocked by the United States and all the changes that are involved, so there has been a great deal of growth there in a two-year period," Bridich said. "He's got a 'plus' breaking ball, and he's got a developing changeup that is potentially a 'plus' pitch as well.
"It's going to come down to his pitch-making ability, especially his fastball, which he throws in the low 90s consistently," Bridich continued. "He does have two off-speed pitches. He's got a good combination of pitches and he's a good athlete."
Confident Butler welcomes veterans' feedback
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Eddie Butler, a Rockies supplemental first-round pick in 2012, was feeling the excitement Wednesday, more than 24 hours before Thursday's 1 p.m. intrasquad game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
"I'm stoked, I'm really excited," Butler said. "Especially against big league guys so I can get feedback on what they're seeing, and they can tell me how I can improve."
Butler will be facing Brandon Barnes, who spent most of last season with the Astros, as well as Ryan Wheeler, Jordan Pacheco and Paul Janish -- all with Major League experience. Butler, 22, who had a 1.90 ERA at three Minor League levels last season, will make his Cactus League debut against the D-backs on Monday in a 7:10 p.m. game at Talking Stick. He's scheduled to pitch behind starter Christian Friedrich.
Gray and righty Jon Butler, a fire-balling righty who was the third overall choice last season and whose debut is being hotly anticipated as well, will pitch in the intrasquad game, as well. Gray, also 22, is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut at Peoria, Ariz., on Monday against the Mariners.
Time will tell if Butler and Gray can help the Rockies this season. Gray is thoughtful and on the quiet side. Butler, at this early stage, is a Major League interview for the media.
"Going to a small college [Radford] probably helped out, since I was the big-name guy there and I was able to get some of the talking out of the way, and be kind of the center light," Butler said. "And the guys are very welcoming, helping us get acclimated to the game."
Chatwood gets nod to start intrasquad game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow at the end of last season, but appears recovered, will make his first Spring Training start Thursday in an intrasquad game.
Chatwood, 24, went 8-5 with an eye-opening 3.15 ERA last season, but in just 111 1/3 innings. Chatwood threw another 34 innings at Triple-A Colorado Springs while waiting for his callup, and will have to show he can handle a heavy workload this season. Chatwood's career high total was 158 innings -- 142 in the Majors -- with the Angels in 2011 before he was traded to the Rockies.
Last season, the elbow chips and a strained hamstring limited his innings.
"My arm feels fine, and I think that's 100 percent," Chatwood said. "I might be a little bit behind as far as how sharp I like to be early in camp, but I think that's a matter of getting into games and getting adrenaline going."
The Rockies enter the Spring Training schedule with Chatwood penciled in as a key rotation component. It's the first time in his career that Chatwood has been depended upon that way, but he's approaching it as if he has to win a job.
"I think it's still pretty crucial," Chatwood said. "You want to show them why you feel you deserve a spot in the rotation."
McKenry clears hurdle in recovery from knee injury
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies non-roster catching hopeful Mike McKenry passed a milestone when he practiced sliding. It was his first time sliding since July 27, when he suffered a season-ending left knee injury while playing for the Pirates.
The injury occurred when McKenry, who was backup to Pittsburgh's Russell Martin, slid into second to break up a double play. McKenry slid late in that situation, and the injury occurred when his left knee, which folded beneath him, slammed into the bag. McKenry said he had a partial tear before that.
"That was my last hurdle," said McKenry, who was not tendered an offer by the Pirates and signed a Minor League contract with the Rockies on Jan. 16. "I made it."
McKenry, who turns 29 Tuesday, will be in game action for the first time since the injury when the Rockies play their intrasquad game Thursday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
"There's always a little bit of doubt but you've got to overcome that," he said. "People on your side give you a little more confidence, and you try to make small goals and accomplish them."
McKenry made his Major League debut with the Rockies in 2010 but was traded to the Red Sox before the 2011 season and played at Triple-A until he was dealt to the Pirates that June. He is a career .223 hitter with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs in 193 Major League games.
The Rockies came into the spring planning to have Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco as a catching tandem, but McKenry's Major League experience makes him a viable candidate.
• Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is playing for his littlest supporter this season. Tulowitzki and his wife, Danyll, welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Taz, on Jan. 9.
"It's been good so far," said Tulowitzki, wearing a purple T-shirt with his son's name on the front. "It's special to be a father, puts things in perspective. I'm excited to play my first season with him watching me. It's something I'll always remember."
Tulowitzki loves the unique name.
"It's something we came up with -- we wanted a short first name, something different," Tulowitzki said. "It goes good with the last name, and I always keep a 'T' in the name. My middle name is Trevor, his is Tatum -- all T's."
• Rosario reported to camp about 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight last year. Some players report heavier because they tend to lose weight in the first month, but Weiss does not worry that it'll happen to the still-burly Rosario.
"A lot of it comes down to their body type," Weiss said. "He'll maintain his weight. He's a short, stocky guy, so I don't think he has a problem holding onto his weight during the season. For him, it was just a matter of coming in physically stronger, if that's possible."