3/15/2014 2:05 A.M. ET
R. Wheeler making case for Rockies bench spot
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-handed-hitting corner infielder Ryan Wheeler is trying to force the Rockies' hand when it comes to the bench makeup.
Wheeler, 25, has batted .233 with one home run and 17 RBIs in 78 Major League games with the D-backs (2012) and Rockies (2013), but has hit for home run and doubles power throughout his Minor League career. He is bidding to convince manager Walt Weiss to keep a left-handed run producer for the late innings, the way former Rockies manager Jim Tracy did when Jason Giambi was at his disposal.
Off the bench in Thursday night's 10-5 loss to the Athletics, Wheeler doubled and singled to raise his Cactus League batting average to .385 (10-for-26) with four doubles and a home run.
"We came into camp knowing this guy's got a history of swinging the bat," Weiss said. "He didn't get a lot of opportunities last year with us. But his track record speaks for itself."
The Rockies could keep him by going with 12 pitchers instead of 13 or trimming a backup outfielder. Or since Wheeler can be sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs without being exposed to other teams via waivers, he could be brought up or sent down throughout the season.
Martin, Bettis making bullpen decisions tricky
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed relievers Chris Martin and Chad Bettis turned in impressive innings Friday and could be making bullpen decisions difficult.
Martin, a non-roster invitee obtained from the Red Sox along with pitcher Franklin Morales for infielder Jonathan Herrera, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in the Rockies' 5-0 loss to the Giants on Friday afternoon and has a 3.38 ERA in five appearances. Martin has yet to appear in the Majors.
Bettis, who saw big league time as a starter and a reliever last season, struck out two in an impressive eighth inning of the nightcap against the Mariners -- and has thrown five scoreless innings. Some have speculated Bettis, a second-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2010, could be developed into a closer.
There could be a middle relief spot open if Morales, who has been a reliever most of his career, makes the starting rotation.
Butler turns in another solid outing
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed prospect Eddie Butler demonstrated Friday afternoon that he can survive when he doesn't dominate.
Butler gave up one run on four hits in three innings of the 4-0 loss to the Giants.
Brandon Belt and Buster Posey each singled in the fifth, but Butler worked Hunter Pence into a line-drive double play. After a spotless sixth that ended with a strikeout of Hector Sanchez, the Giants loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a hit batsman, but Butler escaped the inning by getting a groundball force out that plated a run and a line drive.
Butler, 22, a supplemental first-round pick in 2012 out of Radford University, posted a 1.80 ERA at two Class A levels and Double A last season. It was the second lowest ERA in all the Minors. This spring, Butler has a 3.86 ERA in three appearances totaling six innings. Butler and 2013 first-round pick Jon Gray, a righty from Oklahoma, have signaled that they are not far from the Majors, although it's not clear if they'll stay in camp or be sent to Minor League camp to increase their innings.
"He kept it together," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He got some balls elevated and they got barreled, but the thing I like is he's got that heavy sinker that's going to get him out of it more times than not. He kept his cool, it didn't get fast on him and he made some pitches."
Reliever Logan coming along right on schedule
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If the rest of the steps go as smoothly as his 20-pitch live batting-practice session Friday, Rockies left-handed reliever Boone Logan should soon appear in Spring Training games in preparation for the March 31 start of the regular season.
Logan, 29, who pitched the last four seasons with the Yankees before signing with the Rockies for three years and $16.5 million, is coming off surgery to remove bone chips and shave a bone spur in his throwing elbow. The Rockies have been gradually bringing Logan along, but at a pace that should have him ready.
"It's a big step after my rehab," Logan said. "They've got it scheduled for me but I've got a simulated game after a day or two. It's good. Hopefully, I'll get at least five games in. That's one more game than I had last year [when the Yankees truncated his spring schedule because of elbow pain]."
Logan is a key figure in the Rockies' bullpen plan because of his ability to pitch full innings as well as be a specialist against lefty batters. Having a pitcher of Logan's experience and ability to pitch in the late innings should allow manager Walt Weiss to save lefty Rex Brothers for closing situations on games he doesn't want to use righty LaTroy Hawkins.
The Rockies have to be certain Logan is ready. They'll start the year with 40 games scheduled for the first 42 days and can ill afford to try to nurture through a key pitcher whose health is compromised.
Janish hoping strong spring leads to roster spot
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Utility infielder Paul Janish has a way of putting up Spring Training stats that are difficult to ignore.
Janish, 31, entered Friday's game against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium, which he started at shortstop, batting .480 with 12 singles and a home run. With regular shortstop Troy Tulowitzki nursing a left calf bruise and the Rockies having cleared a couple of younger infielders to Minor League camp, Janish is looking to take advantage of his playing time.
Janish has a way of doing that in the spring. In 2010 he hit .350 for the Reds and batted .286 and .310 for the Reds the following two years before missing Spring Training last season with the Braves while he was recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.
"Spring Training is the time of the year when I play quite a bit," Janish said. "I've always had pretty good success in Spring Training, for whatever reason. I don't know if I can pinpoint it."
As often is the case with veteran utility men, Janish is in a difficult contest. Janish is a non-roster invitee, while three other prime infield candidates -- Josh Rutledge, Charlie Culberson and Tim Wheeler -- are on the 40-man Major League roster. Rutledge, Culberson and Wheeler, however, can be optioned to the Minors, so adding a non-roster candidate would simply be a matter of clearing a spot.
Janish's Minor League contract would allow him to look for a big league spot if one isn't available at season's start, but he is focused on being part of the Rockies' squad.
"I've been on some good teams, teams that go to the playoffs and had the opportunity to see what those teams and clubhouses are made up like," Janish said. "I believe that I have some traits that contribute to things that winning teams have. Hopefully, that's the way it works itself out here."
Coors Field could host hockey, football games
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said he has been talking with the National Hockey League and others involved for more than eight months, and it should result in Coors Field hosting an NHL Stadium Series game "within the next two years."
Monfort said it is doubtful Coors Field would get the NHL Winter Classic, usually played on New Year's Day, but with the help of MillerCoors should be able to land a Stadium Series game. Coors Light sponsors the Stadium Series.
Monfort also has picked an opponent: "I think it's got to be the guys from Detroit," he said, referring to the heated rivalry the hometown Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings had in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.
For many years, the Rockies avoided events other than baseball on their playing surface, beyond the occasional Christian rock concerts on Faith Days. But last year they changed that policy with Ronnie Dunn of the award-winning country duo Brooks & Dunn. This year, Sara Evans will appear at Coors Field after a July 27 game against the Pirates.
Monfort said the team has thought about college football during the offseason.
"We've actually looked at a game, but it's difficult, and who do you get?" Monfort said. "I don't think Colorado and Colorado State would give up Sports Authority Field [where the Broncos play]. But could you have a CSU-Air Force game? But you're going to tear up the field, so you've got to make the right deal."
• Lefty Christian Friedrich gave up two solo homers to Pence and three runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings Friday. The Rockies announced Thursday that Friedrich, who was a considered a competitor for a rotation spot, would be sent to Minor League camp. Friedrich missed almost all of last season with a back injury that he suffered in 2012.
"It's been a positive camp for him," Weiss said of Friedrich, who had a 7.36 ERA in three games. "He needs to build himself up, get himself into a position where he gets out there every fifth day and gets into that routine again. He threw the ball pretty good, although Pence got him a couple of times."
• Rockies shortstop Tulowitzki, hit on the left calf by a pitch from the D-backs' Wade Miley on Wednesday, could be a candidate to return Saturday against the Angels. Weiss was not sure as of Friday but felt Tulowitzki was closer to a return.
Tulowitzki told the Associated Press on Friday, "The swelling has gone down. I've been in the training room all day trying to take care of it."