3/14/2014 2:32 A.M. ET
Friedrich, Parker among nine sent to Minors camp
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The Rockies sent nine players down to Minor League camp on Thursday, most of them young prospects who could figure in the team's future plans.
The biggest name was lefty Christian Friedrich, who was limited to four Triple-A appearances last year because of a back injury after getting big league time in 2012. The move with Friedrich, the team's top Draft choice in 2008, leaves lefty Franklin Morales and righty Jordan Lyles as the competitors for the small handful of starts that will be available while righty Jhoulys Chacin recovers from a strain and inflammation in his throwing shoulder.
The other close-to-the-Majors players sent out were righty-hitting outfielder-first baseman Kyle Parker, who displayed power (.261, three doubles, one home run, eight RBIs) but could use some polish, and Kent Matthes, who hit .297 at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season.
Parker, ranked as the club's ninth-best prospect by MLB.com, has exceeded 20 home runs in each of his three seasons since being the club's first-round pick in 2010.
Other pitchers sent down were right-hander Raul Fernandez and left-handers Jayson Aquino, Tyler Matzek and Kraig Sitton. Matzek, the top pick in 2009, converted to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League and was solid in camp.
The Rockies also sent down shortstops Cristhian Adames and Rosell Herrera, both of whom have speed and are physical enough to move to other positions if necessary.
Adames thrilled by opportunity to back up Tulo
PHOENIX -- Although he'd love to eventually become another Troy Tulowitzki, being Cristhian Adames hasn't been so bad this spring.
Adames, 22, a Rockies middle infield prospect, entered his start at shortstop against the Athletics on Thursday night having played 36 innings at shortstop -- and with six innings Thursday he surpassed Paul Janish as the team leader at the position -- along with 15 at second base. If the day ended in "y," Adames has played.
The Rockies announced Thursday night that Adames was among the nine players optioned to the Minors.
Being a young player behind a star is part of the Spring Training life. The team doesn't want to overplay its key guy, so you'll play until the immediate roster candidates need the action. And with Tulowitzki out with a left calf bruise, there always is the possibility the Rockies will call Adames -- or prospect Rosell Herrera, also sent down -- for more action.
But the Rockies have wanted to see Adames, who hit .267 with a .331 on-base percentage, 19 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 36 RBIs at Double-A Tulsa last year. He followed that by hitting .293 with three doubles, two triples, a home run and 16 RBIs in 16 Arizona Fall League games.
"They told me that I was going to play and they were going to give me the opportunity, but I'm surprised because I've played every day," Adames said before Thursday's game and the announcement that he was being sent down. "And I'm not tired.
"My friends and my family, they are happy because I play all the time. I do what I do, and they're happy with me."
Adames entered Thursday with a .250 batting average in 12 games, with several opportunities against established Major Leaguers. The best description of Adames' game is as a bigger version of Jonathan Herrera, the utility infielder the Rockies traded in December to the Red Sox for lefty pitcher Franklin Morales and righty pitcher Chris Martin. Adames said he'd like to be able to play third in addition to short and second, and he loves to handle the bat. Adames had 17 sacrifice bunts last season.
"I have to keep doing the things I do well, situational hitting," Adames said. "Last year, I was everywhere in the batting order -- first, third, ninth. That's the kind of hitter I am, I get on base or bunt or move runners. That's what I need to do."
He also had a chance to learn from one of the best, who was generous with his time.
"I've learned a lot from Tulo," Adames said. "He talked to me about some situations. He is a great leader. I've liked playing with him."
Gray has lessons to learn after bumpy outing
PHOENIX -- Not that anyone cheers for a prodigious talent to struggle, but it's inevitable and teams use it for teaching. Call Thursday a teachable moment for Rockies 2013 top Draft pick Jon Gray, a right-hander from Oklahoma.
Gray entered in the fifth inning of the 10-5 loss to the Athletics and excited the TV audience by hitting 99 mph during a solid inning. But he gave up a run the following inning and two more the next before being removed. Pitches that resulted in Coco Crisp's double and Josh Donaldson's RBI single in the sixth, and several hits the following inning, were left in sweet locations for the swinging bats.
In all, Gray, the team's No. 1 prospect, gave up five hits and three runs, with a walk and a strikeout in 2 2/3 innings.
"That's not the worst thing in the world," manager Walt Weiss said. "The ball looked like it was coming out of [his] hand real good, like it usually does. Typically it's balls you get in the middle of the plate. Whether it be off-speed pitches or fastballs in the middle of the plate, they get hit up here."
Gray has a 5.40 ERA in 6 2/3 innings of Cactus League play. The Rockies think highly of Gray, who made nine Minor League starts at Rookie-level Grand Junction and Class A Modesto, and was 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings.
Sharpening location next on Chatwood's agenda
PHOENIX -- The next step for Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood is sharpness. Thursday night's performance against the Athletics illustrated the point.
Chatwood had a lively fastball but not always where he wanted it. The result was three mixed innings -- three runs (two earned) on three hits, with three walks and two strikeouts.
"I wasn't in the zone as consistent as I wanted to be, but my misses were right there, so it was close," Chatwood said. "I've just got to tighten it up a little bit."
The next turn will be Chatwood's first on normal four days' rest, so he expects to be more at game consistency.
"I threw some good curveballs, but they must have seen it out of my hand," Chatwood said. "I threw some good sliders and two changeups that were good. There are still things I've got to sharpen up a little but I felt good overall."
Chatwood has a 2.35 ERA through three Cactus League starts.
Belisle's spring struggles don't worry Weiss
PHOENIX -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss was not alarmed by an outing for Matt Belisle that started unlucky and got worse Thursday night in a 10-5 loss to the Athletics.
Belisle gave up a soft single to Alberto Callaspo, a one-out bunt single to Nick Punto and an RBI single by Coco Crisp that went off the glove of second baseman DJ LeMahieu. But Jed Lowrie doubled to left, and by the time Belisle was done with his inning, the Athletics had four runs and four hits, and Belisle's spring ERA was up to 10.80.
Weiss said Belisle's continued work on his changeup and his years of service to the club give him confidence, even though Belisle's ERA last season spiked to 4.32 -- his highest since he became a regular bullpen member in 2010.
"I don't get too caught up in spring for guys that are established," Weiss said. "I think if it were a regular-season game he probably would have attacked it a little bit different."