SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Rockies made their final significant roster moves on Saturday, sending three players to the minor league camp and trading a fourth, leaving them with procedural decisions to make regarding the final two moves of the spring, and creating a roster spot for veteran first baseman Mark Reynolds.
The Rockies optioned right-handed pitcher Carlos Estevez and infielder Pat Valaika to Triple-A Albuquerque, returned catcher Brett Nicholas to minor-league camp, and traded outfielder Mike Tauchman to the Yankees to open a roster spot for Reynolds. Reynolds came to camp on a minor-league deal with a $1 million salary if he made the Opening Day roster.
Nicholas indicated interest in receiving his release to pursue other opportunities, but that decision is on hold pending what happens with catcher Tom Murphy. The Rockies placed Murphy on waivers, hoping he would clear and could go to Albuquerque. If he is claimed or a trade is worked out, Nicholas would become the primary catcher with the Istopes and the most likely call up if the Rockies develop a need at the big-league level.
While there are 29 players left on the spring roster, two of them are pitchers Chris Rusin (upper back) and Antonio Senzatela (infected right heel), who will open the season on the injured list. The other two eventual moves are expected to involve catcher Murphy and right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman.
The Rockies are keeping Hoffman in camp for protection against an injury to one of five planned starters.
The rotation is currently set with left-handed pitchers Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson, and right-handed pitchers German Marquez, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis.
Manager Bud Black formally announced right-hander DJ Johnson and Reynolds have made the Opening Day roster. Left-hander Harrison Musgrave also appears to be set as the long man, although no formal announcement was made, technically leaving the final pitching spot to be between Musgrave and Hoffman.
The move with Valaika, who had a strong spring, goes beyond stats. It deals with roster depth, i.e., keeping Reynolds, who would have retired if he did not make the team.
“We are trying to keep as much depth as possible,” said Black. “In formulating the roster, we have to look long-term.”
Estevez, who battled an oblique and elbow strain last year, was called on in late-inning situations late in the 2017 season, but Black wants to see him get regular activity at Triple-A to assure his health.
“He worked 7 2/3 innings in big league games (this spring),” Black said. “Carlos had a tough year last year both in performance and health wise. He has to perform in the regular season to tell you, `I’m performing well and healthy, ready to get back (to the big leagues).”
Black said Valaika is on hold.
“Pat is going to be a (big league) contributor at some point,” Black said.