2/28/2014 8:24 P.M. ET
In start, Morales shows glimpse of restoration
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Franklin Morales' first Spring Training start had its mini-challenges, which he faced down easily. Two walks and a double in two innings of an 11-0 victory vs. the D-backs on Friday, but no runs. No big deal. It served merely as the starting block for his pursuit of a spot in the starting rotation.
If nothing else, though, it served as an introduction to a Morales who is different from the pitcher seen around these parts from 2007-11. The jersey No. 56 is the same, but the player wearing it is different for the better.
Injuries forced Morales into starting duties late in 2007, and he was a part of the Rockies' stunning run that ended in the World Series. But his youth and lack of composure and control led to a move to the bullpen and eventually to the Red Sox, for whom he pitched capably while working mostly out of the 'pen.
But Morales, traded back to the Rockies this past offseason, is out to prove he has grown into the starter role that was too big for him way back when. Morales throws the ball as hard as he did then, but he has honed his secondary pitches and exudes a new calmness.
"I'm the same power pitcher -- my first pitch is my fastball -- but right now I have more control and more location with my other pitches," Morales said. "Now I've got a cutter, a split-finger, and I can use them in any count.
"When you're young, you try to do too much. You put too many things in your head. Now what I try to do is put my thoughts in the game and let it go. It's different now mentally. Now I try to make my pitches. Before, I threw the ball hard and didn't know where it was going."
That control will need work. His 36 pitches (21 for strikes) is too high a total for a starter -- especially for the Rockies, who will keep a tight limit on Morales' pitch count and raise it only moderately as the season progresses. The Rockies also know he can go to the bullpen for any role if they do not like him as a starter.
But there was something to be said for Morales' refusal to be flustered on Friday. After walking Gerardo Parra with one out in the first, he forced Chris Owings into a double-play grounder on a sinker to the outside. In the second, Matt Tuiasosopo doubled with one out, and Cliff Pennington drew a walk with two down, but Morales dialed up a four-seam fastball to the outside to make Henry Blanco ground harmlessly.
"I feel healthy this year; I have my control," Morales said. "And I know what I'm doing."
Stubbs recovering after flareup of condition
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies center fielder Drew Stubbs did not play in Thursday's intrasquad game and was not in the lineup for Friday's Cactus League opener against the D-backs because of a flareup of an esophagus condition.
But Stubbs, who was acquired from the Indians in a trade for reliever Josh Outman and is being considered a major part of the picture at center field, said Friday he felt better and could play if needed.
Stubbs, 29, is afflicted by eosinophilic esophagitis, symptoms of which include heartburn, food being trapped and difficulty swallowing. On Wednesday night, Stubbs needed to be treated at a hospital, but he has since been been regaining the ability to eat and drink, and he is building his strength.
"It's really random," Stubbs said. "That's the first time it's happened in several months. It's definitely not a common occurrence, but it's happened several times in the past.
"It happens at random times with random foods. I wish I knew how to pinpoint what caused it, but at this point I don't."
Dickerson reminds Rockies of power potency
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It could be said that Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson is already making a positive impression in Spring Training, with a hit in Thursday's intrasquad game followed by two hits, including a two-run double, and two runs scored Friday in an 11-0 Cactus League-opening victory over the D-backs.
But for Rockies manager Walt Weiss, Dickerson's fast start to 2014 is simply a reminder.
"There's not a lot to change for 'Dickie,'" Weiss said. "He's one of those guys that can hit under water. He's very aggressive in the box, and he can hit. He's always going to hit."
Called up twice last season for his first big league stints totaling 69 games, Dickerson hit .263 but made the hits count with a .459 slugging percentage, five home runs, five triples and 13 doubles. He came to camp this year with more muscle and feels faster after working with a sprint coach on his jumps. As a result, he is turning heads in his pursuit of starts in center field.
Dickerson actually entered Friday's game in left, replacing Carlos Gonzalez. But he wants to show he can hit under any circumstance.
"I feel aggressive; my timing feels really good," Dickerson said. "I'm being very patient and trying to relax out there. Working hard in the offseason is paying off early on in camp."
Corpas sees mix of familiarity, opportunity
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Familiarity and a belief in his chances led right-handed relief pitcher Manny Corpas to re-sign with the Rockies on a Minor League deal, despite interest from the Orioles, with whom he talked extensively, the Yankees and the Mets.
"No. 1, I came back because I know everybody -- coaches, front office, everybody," said Corpas, 31, who pitched for the Rockies 2006-10, missed 2011 with an elbow injury and pitched for the Cubs in 2012 before returning to the Rockies last year. "No. 2, I have a house in Colorado, and No. 3, my son likes when I play for the Rockies. He's 5 now."
Corpas went 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 31 appearances covering 41 2/3 innings last season, which meant he sometimes went more than an inning. Corpas also made 21 appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs. One reason he is of value to Major League teams is that he still has two Minor League options. While his service time gives him the right to veto an option and request his release, Corpas says it is best to be cooperative.
Competition will be tight. The Rockies signed righty LaTroy Hawkins and lefty Boone Logan for late innings. It appears Corpas is competing for a right-handed role in middle relief with former Reds setup man Nick Masset, Rule 5 Draft pick from the Yankees Tommy Kahnle and Rockies homegrown prospects Chad Bettis and Rob Scahill.
If Corpas performs well but is not added to the roster to start the regular season, the Rockies have told him they will take two days to try to find him a spot elsewhere. But if he pitches that well, he can help this year's Rockies.
It is as if the Rockies have reassembled some of the old gang from the 2007 squad that went to the World Series. Corpas was the closer then. Hawkins was a key setup man. The Rockies also reacquired lefty Franklin Morales, who broke in as a starter, to work out of either the rotation or the bullpen.
"I know they brought a lot of good relievers in, and I know it's a hard situation with all the relievers we have right now," Corpas said. "The only thing I think about is to do my best. That's it."
Rox prospect Aquino OK after hit to head
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-handed prospect Jayson Aquino said Friday that he did not sustain a concussion when hit by a hard liner from Rafael Ynoa, the first batter he faced during an intrasquad game.
Aquino, 21, last year went 0-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 15 games, 14 starts, combined at Short-Season A Tri-City and Class A Asheville. The year before that he went 10-1 with a 1.66 ERA combined in 16 starts in the Dominican Summer League and Rookie-level Grand Junction.
Aquino is scheduled to travel to Goodyear, Ariz., for Saturday's game against against the Reds.
Chacin takes step toward bullpen sessions
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, shut down Sunday because of a strain and inflammation in his throwing shoulder, began using resistance bands Friday morning and hoped to resume light throwing in a couple of days.
It is still not clear when Chacin will be able to start throwing bullpens. The team had to shut him down because he would experience pain once he began throwing in earnest. He has not thrown a bullpen session since arriving at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Friday's exercise represented progress, as it gave Chacin the opportunity to build much-needed strength. However, because it is not clear when he will be able to throw bullpens or appear in games, it remains in doubt whether he will be ready in time for the opening of the regular season. The Rockies have said they will not rush him. The team entered Spring Training fostering competition for Juan Nicasio for the No. 5 rotation spot, and manager Walt Weiss is approaching Spring Training as if the Rockies need to fill Chacin's spot to start the season.
• Non-roster outfielder Jason Pridie, 30, has played in snippets for the Twins, Mets, Phillies and Orioles, so he knows the key is making sure that organizations discuss him favorably when making decisions before and during a season.
Hit a homer a day, and you get talked about that way.
Pridie homered in Thursday's intrasquad game and again Friday against the D-backs -- right after catching prospect Tom Murphy went deep in the eighth inning of an 11-0 victory. Both homers came off D-backs reliever Alex Sanabia.
But Pridie said he knew evaluations about him would be about more than power, even though he has 102 Minor League home runs. (He also has five homers and a .228 average in 232 at-bats in the Majors.)
Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer are the all-star corner outfielders, and there are more candidates on the Major League roster than there are outfield spots. But Pridie wants to make sure he is not overlooked.
"You make a good first impression, they start talking in meetings, 'Oh, yeah, look what he did,'" Pridie said. "Or it's putting together consistent at-bats and just keep getting your name brought up where if something happens and they need something, they say, 'He's been out there doing it, and he's playing the game the right way.'"
Ryan Casteel, another prospect with power, homered for two runs in the third inning Friday against D-backs lefty starter Patrick Corbin.
• Rockies pitching held the D-backs to two hits on Friday. Starter Franklin Morales and relievers Rex Brothers and Adam Ottavino are expected to be part of the staff. Hopefuls Tommy Kahnle, a Rule 5 pick from the Yankees who struck out one and threw 93-95 mph in his spotless inning, Chris Martin and Greg Burke (formerly of the Padres and the Mets) also were smooth. Lefty Tyler Matzek, a former Rockies top Draft pick, gave up a hit and a walk but struck out three in two scoreless innings.
• Weiss seemed happy with Friday's offensive performance.
"The guys swung the bats well, and some of the things we talked about offensively came into play right away -- two-strike hitting, hitting with runners in scoring position," Weiss said.
The Rockies finished Friday with 14 hits, with doubles by Dickerson and backup infield candidates Charlie Culberson and Ryan Wheeler.