The Rockies Bench Taking Shape
Watch Ian Stewart swing and it's hard to imagine him not making the team. He got jammed Monday and hit a ball nearly 400 feet. It's a testament to the Rockies' depth that he has yet to secure a roster spot. Stewart is involved in a heady competition with six players for three, potentially four, bench jobs.
With the opener three weeks away, Stewart and Matt Murton have made impressions with their bats, Murton's performance notable because he would fill the need for a right-handed pinch hitter. Scott Podsednik's pitch remains speed, and Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez have provided evidence that they won't be in Triple-A long, if they open there, as expected.
"However this breaks," manager Clint Hurdle said, "we are going to be very versatile and athletic."
Four bench spots are available if the team opens with five starting pitchers, with backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba the only lock at this point.
Stewart is closing in on a spot with Hurdle's admission that he could revisit having the slugger play second base, if necessary, while expressing confidence in his ability to play left.
Jeff Baker, once a favorite to stick, will start today at third base after a two-week injury absence. He can play corner infield and outfield positions. With the Yankees looking for an inexpensive alternative at third base, Baker, who's out of options, could become a trade candidate as well.
Omar Quintanilla has done nothing to hurt his chances as a reserve infielder. But Clint Barmes can play shortstop, providing roster flexibility if the Rockies want to carry another outfield bat. Podsednik, on a minor-league contract, is hitting .269 and has shown great range defensively.
Murton, acquired from Oakland, has played well in the corner spots and has shown power at the major-league level when given at-bats, giving him an edge over candidate Daniel Ortmeier.
"I have had my moments. The key for me is to make those more consistent," Murton said.
Fowler and Gonzalez both figure to start at Triple-A and play every day.
The Rockies have a great deal of talent on offense, particularly in the outfield. I expect them to be exciting to watch this season, and I think Fowler could be a legitimate RoY candidate if he gets the playing time.