3/10/2014 8:25 P.M. ET
Betancourt returns for first time since surgery
By Cash Kruth / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The smile on Rafael Betancourt's face said it all.
The former Rockies closer arrived in Arizona late Sunday night, and on Monday morning was at Colorado's Spring Training complex to continue rehabbing following Tommy John surgery in hopes of returning to the Majors this season.
Betancourt, who turns 39 on April 29, was warmly greeted by teammates who were excited to see him for the first time since he had the season-ending operation in September.
"I'm really happy to be here and see all the guys," Betancourt said. "Sometimes you miss this, and I know there was a reason for me not to be here, but sometimes it helps to be around the guys."
Betancourt, who has pitched the last 4 1/2 seasons with the Rockies, became a free agent after the club declined its 2014 option on him. But the Rockies welcomed the right-hander to work out at Salt River Fields for 10 days so they can monitor his progress in the event they're interested in giving him a look once he's ready to pitch.
Betancourt is progressing through his regimen, and this week will throw 25 times from 90 feet on three occasions before moving back to 125 feet next week.
Some pitchers who have been through Tommy John rehab say the length of the rehab -- which takes between 10 and 12 months -- can take a mental toll on top of the physical one. But so far, Betancourt said everything is going as anticipated.
"People tell me it's a long rehab and whatever, but I go day by day," Betancourt said. "The way I feel now is pretty good. I've been throwing without any setbacks, and I hope to get back in there and see what happens."
Morales struggles through first rough outing of spring
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Padres did something Monday that had been unprecedented in Cactus League action: produce solid contact against Franklin Morales.
The Rockies left-hander and fifth-starter candidate surrendered his first earned runs of the spring in Monday's 5-0 loss to the Padres at Salt River Fields.
Morales allowed three runs on five hits and uncorked a wild pitch in 2 1/3 innings.
"I threw a lot of strikes, made my pitches," said Morales, who also struck out three. "Sometimes you miss your pitch, and that's when you get hit. But I feel great."
Manager Walt Weiss agreed.
"I didn't see anything that was much different from his last outing," Weiss said of Morales, who threw 51 pitches in preparation for this week's two split-squad games. "I think he got the ball up and he tried to go in a few times with cutters to righties, and they got the barrel to it. He got two strikes on a lot of hitters and just had trouble finishing."
Morales had a quick first inning, making two nice defensive plays -- one covering first base and the other a snare on a comebacker -- and retired the first five in order before trouble struck.
He allowed a double, a home run, a ground-rule double and a single, all of which were hard-hit.
"The guys start to swing and I missed a spot like twice, and they got hit," Morales said.
Morneau returns, adds to strong infield defense
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- First baseman Justin Morneau returned to the field Monday after being sidelined with a stiff neck.
He started at first and went 0-for-2, grounding out to second and flying out to left in foul territory, in Colorado's 5-0 loss to the Padres.
Morneau played four innings in the field, fielding two grounders and attempting a diving stop in the first.
"He looked good," manager Walt Weiss said. "He took some good swings and it was good to see him out there.
It was the second time all spring the Rockies saw their projected Opening Day infield together -- Morneau at first, DJ LeMahieu at second, Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop and Nolan Arenado at third -- which Weiss said he thinks could be one of the best defensively in the history of the franchise.
"Two Gold Glovers on the left side. DJ, statistically, last year was one of the best in the league at second base and I think he's one of the best anyway at second base," Weiss said. "And Morneau, who's a very solid defender. So, yeah [it could be]."
Slugging prospect Parker getting time at first
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kyle Parker is having a busier Spring Training than usual.
The Rockies' first-round pick in the 2010 Draft has played the outfield for the majority of his professional career and much of this spring. But near the end of Double-A Tulsa's 2013 season and sparingly here at Spring Training, Parker is getting time at first base.
"It's different, especially coming in from the corner outfield where you're kind of separated from the game, for the most part," Parker said. "When the ball comes your way at first base, action's happening your way a lot more often. That's one of the things you get used to, but being out there every day and working on it, I'm starting to feel more comfortable."
Manager Walt Weiss said the Rockies are confident in Parker's ability to play they outfield, and they're looking to add versatility to Parker's game.
The 24-year-old is expected to start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs after hitting .288/.345/.492 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs at Double-A. That production was in line with his other two Minor League seasons, with Parker sporting a .293/.374/.510 line and 67 home runs in 342 Minor League games since the Rockies drafted the former Clemson quarterback.
Parker has brought that offense to Arizona, hitting .294 (5-for-17) with three doubles and six RBIs. And while scouts, evaluators and veterans mostly agree Spring Training stats don't matter, Parker admits he wants to put up good numbers.
"You always want to go up there and have success, so I wouldn't say you completely don't care about it," Parker said. "But at the same time, you have to make adjustments and fine tune and get ready for the season."
Parker appears to have his swing in sync, especially after driving in five runs Sunday against the Royals.
"He's an interesting guy," Weiss said. "It's an impact right-handed bat. There's not a lot of those guys running around the league anymore with right-handed power."