3/20/2014 2:09 A.M. ET
Walk-off homer boosts Blackmon's spring
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's Spring Training but don't tell Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon that Wednesday night didn't count.
Blackmon, competing not only for starts but for a 25-man roster spot, ended the Rockies' 9-6 victory over the Cubs with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Paolo Espino.
"That's a big hit in a big situation," Blackmon said. "I really don't know that I've ever hit a walk-off home run -- ever, anywhere. It wasn't like I was 4-for-4, trying to get another hit. It went from an average night to a pretty good night. Every at-bat counts."
Blackmon went 2-for-5 to bring his batting average to .282, with more success lately than at the beginning of the spring. He is competing with fellow left-handed hitter Corey Dickerson, who is at .342, to be part of the puzzle in center field with right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs.
"I'm starting to get there, starting to feel a little bit better, seeing the ball a little bit better," Blackmon said. "It's just a process here in Spring Training. It's easy to get carried away with things like that but I've been doing this for a while. It seems I'm always competing for something with somebody. It's normal now. I really don't think about it."
Blackmon, who has played parts of three seasons and has a .291 career batting average (.309 in 82 games last season), and Dickerson are each bidding for their first Opening Day in the Majors. With Stubbs and Brandon Barnes in good shape for right-handed at-bats, it's possible the lefty hitter who loses out could begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Although Dickerson has turned heads with his hitting and dramatic defensive improvement, manager Walt Weiss has confidence in Blackmon.
"We pretty much know what we have in Charlie," Weiss said. "He finished pretty strong and was one of our better players the last month of the season or so. He can do a lot of things."
Morales overcomes tight groin in solid start
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Franklin Morales, competing for an open starting rotation spot, felt tightness in his left groin while starting Wednesday night's 9-6 victory over the Cubs but does not believe the injury will cost him time on the mound.
Morales said the groin became tight while issuing a walk to Darwin Barney in the top of the third, and he ran gingerly in the bottom of the inning when he doubled and later scored. But Morales went four innings and threw 69 pitches -- about what the Rockies planned -- and held the Cubs to one unearned run and one hit.
"It's going to be OK," Morales said. "The trainer said it's tight, but I didn't pull it. When I went out the last inning, I didn't feel anything."
Morales is competing with righty Jordan Lyles for the spot that opened because of Jhoulys Chacin's right shoulder strain and inflammation, which could keep him out until May.
Manager Walt Weiss, who also said he doesn't believe the groin will affect Morales before his next scheduled appearance, said Morales overthrew his fastball but adjusted.
"Those guys with big arms, they have a tendency to do that, because they feel like they can miss the bat," Weiss said. "The difference between Frankie now and when he was younger is he can keep it together and pitch his way through it."
Chacin feels good, sticking to Rockies' plan
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin holds hope he can return from a shoulder injury by the middle or end of April, but he won't fight it if the club doesn't let him pitch in a regular-season game until May.
Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, said in an online chat with fans Wednesday that Chacin will not be ready until May. Chacin arrived at Spring Training with pain and inflammation in his throwing shoulder.
Chacin (14-10, 3.47 ERA, 126 strikeouts in 197 1/3 innings last year) has built up to long-toss at 220-240 feet. By the end of this week or early next, he hopes to throw bullpen sessions -- something he was not able to do before the Rockies shut him down and had him start over with strengthening exercises. Chacin feels good enough to at least dream of a shorter timetable, but said the ultimate decision is the club's, with head athletic trainer Keith Dugger administering the rehab program.
"In the beginning they told me mid-April or the end of April, but I think it depends on how I'm feeling," Chacin said. "The good thing is I'm feeling good now and everything is going well. But I really don't know when I'll pitch. They know.
"Maybe they're slowing me down. Maybe they want me to be 100 percent before I start throwing bullpens. They don't want me to rush, have a setback and miss more time."
Chacin said the shoulder feels healthy. The Rockies aren't letting his program advance until they are sure his mechanics are correct. Chacin says his mechanics are "way better."
Left-hander Franklin Morales, who started Wednesday night against the Cubs, and right-hander Jordan Lyles are competing to fill the void. Morales has extensive bullpen experience as well and most likely will begin the year in relief if the Rockies pick Lyles. If Lyles doesn't win the job, he'll likely start the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Stubbs hopes to show hitting versatility
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The numbers say there are times for center fielder Drew Stubbs to be in the Rockies' starting lineup and times to sit him, and there are better places for him in the batting order than the top. But Stubbs is challenging himself to break from a cramped statistical box.
The Rockies have let Stubbs face whomever happens to be on the mound and have batted him first a healthy number of times. Stubbs, whom the Rockies acquired from the Indians for lefty relief pitcher Josh Outman, was not in the lineup Wednesday night against the Cubs and righty Carlos Villanueva, but facing whomever, hitting wherever in the order, he has a .323 batting average and .400 on-base percentage in 10 Cactus League games. His last three hits were off righties -- doubles off Angels pitchers Jered Weaver and Yoslan Herrera on Saturday and a single off the Padres' Tyson Ross on Monday.
It's a good start in a Rockies uniform for Stubbs, 29, who had chances with the Reds from 2009-12, much of the time as a leadoff man. Going into this year, Stubbs hit .226 with a .296 on-base percentage against right-handers, as opposed to .274 and .349 agianst lefties. He also has batted .245 with a .323 on-base percentage as a leadoff man.
"You take it upon yourself to show what you're capable of doing," Stubbs said. "Any player would say their numbers don't affect how they feel about themselves as a player. That's the case for me right now."
The strikeouts are still high, as has been the case throughout his career -- 11 in 31 at-bats this spring. But Stubbs is hoping to reverse a perception that he should be used only under a narrow set of circumstances.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable against lefties and righties," Stubbs said. "The last couple of years, in my opinion, haven't been good against lefties or righties, with righties being the lower of the two. But I know I'm capable of hitting either one, and I have at different points in my career. I just have to show everyone I am capable of being just as good on either side.
"As long as I'm sticking to my approach, focusing on taking the ball to the middle of the field or to the right side, for a right-hander it keeps you on the sliders and stuff away. Everybody gets into a little trouble when they get pull-happy. If I stay set in my ways, in my approach, I'll be OK."
The Rockies are intrigued by Stubbs' speed-power combination. He hit 22 home runs in 2010 and has finished in double figures every season since then. Stubbs also stole 30 bases in 2010 and 2012 and 40 in 2011. But the problems reaching base from the leadoff position have limited his running opportunities and made managers rethink whether to put him in that spot.
Manager Walt Weiss is expected to use several players in that spot, whether it's Stubbs, a lefty-hitting outfielder such as Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu or outfielder Brandon Barnes. Stubbs isn't campaigning for leadoff at-bats, but he doesn't want to be dismissed from any spot.
"At the end of the day, you try to be consistent, whether that's at the top of the lineup or down low. You're trying to achieve the same things," Stubbs said. "If it's different every day, it doesn't bother or affect me.
"People look at numbers and say, 'You do a good job in 'X' or 'Y' spot,' but I really don't care. The breakdown of all those numbers is not something I pay too close attention to at times. If you've been a guy in my situation and you've hit all up and down the lineup, I would have no idea what my numbers are at the top, middle or bottom."
• Rockies lefty reliever Boone Logan, who hasn't pitched this spring while completing his recovery from October surgery to shave a bone spur and remove bone chips from his throwing elbow, will make his Cactus League debut Saturday against the Mariners at Peoria.