5/5/2014 6:25 P.M. ET
Masset back in Majors for first time since 2011
By Thomas Harding and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
DENVER -- Even as the Rockies built a 19-14 record, a need for a solid, experienced reliever has emerged. Right-hander Nick Masset joined the team Monday after beginning the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, and will have a chance to prove that they had one all along.
Masset, who turns 32 on May 17, was one of the National League's top righty setup men with the Reds from joining them in 2008 until suffering a right shoulder injury in 2011. Recovery from that surgery plus another operation to correct a pulmonary embolism kept him out of the Majors in 2012 and off the mound at any level in 2013.
Masset signed a Minor League contract in the offseason, but was set back by a staph infection in the shoulder area during Spring Training and needed time at Colorado Springs to build his arm. In eight scoreless appearances covering 7 2/3 innings, Masset struck out nine against one hit and one walk.
Manager Walt Weiss plans to ease Masset into action at first. But if truly healthy, Masset gives the Rockies a late-inning reliever who, like lefty Boone Logan and righties Matt Belisle and LaTroy Hawkins, has experience in playoffs and playoff races.
"It's tough when you're out for a couple of years and you're not pitching, and you're almost a little worried if it's going to come back," Masset said. "I was trying to find myself a little bit in Spring Training, trying to figure out what I need to do to get my stuff working, if my arm is going to be at full speed. It took a little time, but I feel like my old self.
"I'm turning my governor off and putting it in gear."
Masset broke in with the Rangers in 2006 -- he was called up for the first time while the team was at Coors Field -- and pitched for the White Sox from 2007-08 before being traded to the Reds. In Cincinnati, he pitched in 231 games 2009-11 and appeared in the 2010 National League Division Series.
"This is a great story," Weiss said. "This guy has fought through some tough stuff to get back. I know this has got to be an exciting time for Nick. He's got to have a great sense of accomplishment getting through what he's had to fight through.
"He's been in the heat of the battle in the National League, been in pennant races helping to close out games in the bullpen. We felt it was a steal."
The Rockies optioned left-handed hitting corner infielder Ryan Wheeler, who went 2-for-4 with a home run in two games during a brief promotion, to Colorado Springs. The Rockies also cleared room on the 40-man Major League roster by moving right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood, who is 6-8 weeks from even throwing because of a right flexor tendon strain, to the 60-day disabled list.
Barnes bringing consistent effort
DENVER -- It's harder to hustle some days than others, as Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes can vouch.
One of the unsung plays in Saturday night's 11-10 victory over the Mets came in the fifth inning. Barnes bounced to short and dashed down the line trying to stay out of a double play. The throw was close, and Mets first baseman Lucas Duda didn't hang onto the throw. But Barnes didn't make it easy, and later in the inning Nolan Arenado's grand slam gave the Rockies the lead.
Barnes has brought consistent effort. He had to dig a little deeper that night. He was affected by the same flu bug that has landed infielder Josh Rutledge and catcher Wilin Rosario on the 15-day disabled list. His version was milder, but it didn't exactly tickle.
"I think I got through a lot better than 'Rosie' [Rosario] and 'Rutty' did," said Barnes, who led off Monday night against the Rangers' difficult lefty Martin Perez. "I tried to take care of myself, make sure I'm ready to go.
"Once I stepped in between the lines, my adrenaline and passion for the game took over. I knew we needed something to get us going. It didn't happen the way I wanted, grounding into a possible double play, but I'm going to run hard down the line every single time."
Barnes, hitting .233 with three RBIs, led off and played right field, and Drew Stubbs, hitting .250 with a home run and four RBIs, hit second and played center in a right-handed top of the lineup. Lefty hitters Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson did not start.
In addition to Barnes, righty reliever Chris Martin was bothered by the bug during the weekend but felt better Monday.
Reliever Belisle regaining his form
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander pitcher Matt Belisle is quietly regaining his zip and effectiveness.
Belisle gave up four earned runs over three straight appearances April 20-26. While giving up a run and two hits in a 6-3 Rockies road loss to the Dodgers April 26, Belisle leaned on a fastball that sat at 91-92 mph.
In his last three outings, however, Belisle has thrown four innings and given up no runs and one hit, with two walks and four strikeouts. And the fastball is running in the 93-94 range, occasionally touching 95.
It has been often reported that Belisle's effectiveness has dipped the last two years, with heavy usage being blamed, and his numbers this year (0-2, 4.80 ERA in 15 games) point to a lack of consistency. While fastball velocity in and of itself is not important to Belisle, it could point toward some subtle changes he has made recently that are helping with his consistency.
Without falling into pitching coach jargon, Belisle and pitching coach Jim Wright have worked toward keeping Belisle's power in the direction of home plate, rather than spinning off toward first base. Belisle said he enjoys the between-games work toward the goal, then putting that aside and competing at game time.
"I give myself the best potential to reach my best ability if I'm repeating my delivery," Belisle said. "That's the best way I can say it. I'm trying to put myself in the right position to get people out. That comes back to focusing on each pitch, and that comes back to my preparation before. During the game, I want to see a pitch and execute it."
While he has been effective, Belisle is not considering himself on a roll, simply because he doesn't want to take it for granted.
"You have to work to stay on top of things in this game," he said. "The one consistency in this game is the mental grind. Whether you're going well or you're going bad, whether you're about to do something good or you're about to go into something bad, you have the grind of how you're going to think, act and prepare."
Manager Walt Weiss believes Belisle has "gotten some instant results from some things he's done mechanically with Jim Wright."
Wheeler odd man out as Rox keep 13 pitchers
DENVER -- On Monday afternoon, it was left-handed-hitting corner infielder Ryan Wheeler's turn to learn that it wasn't him, it was the roster.
After being called up for a weekend series with the Mets and contributing in a couple of wins, Wheeler was optioned back to Triple-A Colorado Springs to make room for righty reliever Nick Masset.
Wheeler was 2-for-4, with one hit a pinch-hit single and the other a home run that started an eight-run, fifth-inning rally in Saturday night's 11-10 victory.
Like outfielder Corey Dickerson and infielders Charlie Culberson and Josh Rutledge, Wheeler is part of the crew that could be up and down often because of roster purposes. With the club playing the next seven days, five on the road, manager Walt Weiss decided to go with 13 pitchers.
"Maybe it's wishful thinking that you've finally stuck, but when I got here I said there were 40 guys that can play -- and you have Masset, who just got added [to the 40-man Major League roster]," Wheeler said. "It's the reason we're winning right now. Maybe for the individual it's tough.
"My four days here were really fun. It goes back to how good everyone in this organization is. I'm getting older."
If the Rockies need a left-handed bat who can provide power in a spot start or late in a game, Wheeler plans to be ready.
"I'm getting older and I feel I'm in the prime of my career, and it's not the time to come up here and play scared," said Wheeler, 25. "This is my time. I want to show them it is, too. I've got some other minds to change, too."
Prospect Dahl belts two homers for Class A
Outfielder David Dahl, the Rockies' No. 3 prospect, hit two home runs Monday, leading Class A Asheville to a 5-1 victory against Lakewood.
Dahl, who is ranked No. 66 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list, finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Rockies selected Dahl 10th overall in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He had an impressive professional debut that summer, leading the rookie-level Pioneer League in batting (.379), slugging (.625) and OPS (1.048).
But Dahl was unable to build on that momentum in 2013. He opened the season with Asheville, only to be sent back to extended spring training after just one game because of a disciplinary problem. He returned to the club in late April, but his season ended the next week when he tore his right hamstring.
Dahl is making up for lost time now. In 28 games this season, he is hitting .276 with eight home runs and nine stolen bases. He ranks second in the South Atlantic League in home runs, trailing only Ryan McMahon, his Asheville teammate and the Rockies' No. 5 prospect.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.