Though second baseman Brendan Rodgers remained out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Giants at Salt River Fields, Rockies manager Bud Black expressed optimism that the right hamstring injury Rodgers suffered last weekend is mild.
“He feels good and confident that this is not a long-term thing,” Black said. “All indications are that our training staff is encouraged.”
Rodgers has dealt with shoulder issues the last two seasons and therefore struggled to live up to the prospect pedigree that came with his selection at No. 3 overall in the 2015 Draft. The 24-year-old has played just 32 games in the big leagues, with a .462 OPS.
But with the second base job all but guaranteed to him this spring, Rodgers has looked the part, with a .348/.400/.652 slash, two homers and a double in 25 plate appearances.
“He’s swung the bat great,” Black said. “That’s what’s stood out for us. The bat is in a really good spot. He pulled a 95 mph fastball [for a home run], he’s gotten his base hits, he’s hit the breaking balls, laid off chase pitches. He’s done a lot of things he came here to show us he can do.”
The hamstring injury — suffered when Rodgers tried to swipe a bag on Saturday — puts a damper on the otherwise encouraging effort, but it appears to be only a temporary concern. That said, if Rodgers is not ready in time for Opening Day, it will have a domino effect on the rest of the roster construction.
For now, the Rockies continue to evaluate Rodgers day by day.
Outfielder Yonathan Daza is out of options, but he is looking more and more like a legitimate option for the Rockies’ bench.
With the Rox unable to assign Daza to Triple-A Albuquerque without exposing him to waivers, a decision must be made by the end of camp on whether he makes the roster. The 27-year-old keeps putting on the pressure with a terrific spring highlighted by his performance Tuesday night against the Indians. Daza went 4-for-4 and fell just a triple shy of the cycle.
“The rare Cactus League cycle was almost in play,” Black said. “He’s swinging the bat well, and he’s doing everything he can to make a mark.”
If the Rockies carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players, Daza, the club’s No. 16 prospect, could make sense as a backup option at all three outfield spots, even though the club already has other infielder-outfielders who bat from the right-hand side.
But if the Rockies go with a 14-pitcher staff? Well, it’s complicated. In that scenario, the left-handed swinging Greg Bird might better complement the handedness of the rest of the roster.
“When it comes down to it at the end,” Black said, “we’re going to have to make some hard decisions on our roster.”
Daza has played just 44 games in the big leagues back in 2019, and he did not perform offensively at the highest level. But he hit .364 at Albuquerque that year, and his 13-for-28 (.464) showing this spring keeps his chances of returning to the bigs alive — either with the Rockies or any other clubs that might have interest in him, should he be exposed to waivers.
When he stepped to the mound for Wednesday’s start against the Giants, Germán Márquez was coming off a rough outing against the very same team. And his “rematch,” as it were, got off to an inauspicious start. Márquez gave up two base hits, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. It all led to two quick runs for the opponent.
“I was a little rushed,” he said.
It was a testament to Márquez’s maturity that he was able to slow himself — and the game — down from there. In the remainder of his five innings of work, Márquez gave up just a run on four hits, and he punctuated his outing with a 1-2-3 fifth in which he struck out a pair.
Márquez, who lines up to start Opening Day for the Rockies but has not yet been announced as the starter, said he learned from early stumbles in his career how to adjust between innings. He applied those lessons on Wednesday.
“My secondary pitches, my curveball and slider, were great,” he said.
Utilityman Connor Joe went 2-for-2 with a double, a homer, three RBIs and two walks Tuesday night against the Tribe. Just as importantly, he played the outfield for the first time this spring. In a Rockies camp in which “versatility” has been a big buzzword, Joe offers it.
“Versatility is huge for me,” Joe said. “Letting my athleticism play out and be able to play [in] multiple spots is important.”
Joe said he is most comfortable at first base and left field, but he is also an option at third base and second. Having overcome a scary battle with testicular cancer, the 28-year-old non-roster invitee is now battling for a Rockies roster spot.
“I’m comfortable with where I’m at in my progression at the plate,” he said. “We’ll see how things play out, but I’m excited to be working alongside these guys and working for them.”
The Rockies rest Thursday before resuming their Cactus League slate against Cleveland at 2:10 p.m. MDT at Salt River Fields. Colorado will have Jon Gray starting with Yency Almonte, Scott Oberg, Carlos Estévez and Jesus Tinoco all available to throw.