MESA, Ariz. – It is a sign of the evolution of the Rockies.
The final days of springs have arrived, and there is no great debate to be settled.
Coming off back-to-back post-season appearances for the first time in franchise history, there is a sense of stability with the franchise.
The biggest question facing the team will be two spots in the bullpen, and that’s only because Antonio Senzatela (infection right heel) and Chris Rusin (upper back) are expected to open the season on the injured list.
“Doubtful,” manager Bud Black said on Sunday when asked about Rusin being ready for Opening Day. “Senzatela is probably in the same point. I don’t see the scenario (of Opening Day) unfolding.”
There, however, is no sense of panic. The Rockies feel they have three options to fill the two spots with DJ Johnson (6 2/3 innings, no runs), Harrison Musgrave (7 innings, two runs) and Carlos Estevez (one earned run, 11 strikeouts, 7 1/3 innings). All three have an option, which means the Rockies can eventually send them to Triple-A Albuquerque without risking a waiver claim.
Sorting out the rest:
Catching: This is the toughest decision the organization will make -- which two catchers to keep. Chris Iannetta has a $4 million guarantee. Tony Wolters has the confidence of the young rotation. Tom Murphy has the most power and his out of options. It is hard to tinker with a strong chemistry with the staff, particularly with half the games played at Coors Field.
First base: Daniel Murphy has played more second base than first, but is more comfortable at first, and adds a confidence level that allows him to play farther off the bag than most first basemen, adding to defensive range. Power potential with bat will fit well at Coors.
Second base: Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson give Rockies a left/right combo, but it figures to be more a time share than strict platoon. McMahon is also capable at first and third, and Hampson at short and center field, adding to roster versatility.
Third base: Nolan Arenado. Enough said.
Shortstop: Trevor Story. Ditto.
Left field: David Dahl. Has the productive bat that lengthens the lineup, but more than that the athleticism and speed to cover the massive ground in baseball’s biggest left field at Coors Field. Can play any of three outfield positions without missing a beat.
Center field: Ian Desmond returns to the position where he was an All-Star for the Rangers in 2016. A strong stabilizing force in clubhouse. Value outweighs statistics.
Right field: Charlie Blackmon. Makes the move from center field. Figures to keep him stronger as the season progresses because he won’t have as much ground to cover. Hitting 1-2 with Arenado behind him will give Rockies instant offense potential at top of lineup.
Bench: In addition to one of the two second basemen and backup catcher, four-man bench will include Raimel Tapia and most likely Mark Reynolds over Pat Valaika. Valaika has an option so the Rockies do not lose him. Reynolds' guarantee is only $1 million, and he has a veteran presence that fit well in the Rockies clubhouse his previous two years in Colorado.
Rotation: First four spots were set before camp opened with Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson. Nothing has changed. Steadiness of Chad Bettis puts him in the fifth slot. Senzatela was a candidate and when he is healthy, he will go to the bullpen. Jeff Hoffman will go back to Triple-A Albuquerque to get regular work and build off signs he showed this spring of being close to ready.
Bullpen: Wade Davis will be the closer. Scott Oberg has shown he is ready to build off success of last year, most likely assuming the eighth-inning role from the right side with a healthy Mike Dunn in line from the left side. Right-handers Seunghwan Oh and Bryan Shaw, and lefty Jake McGee are set. With the anticipation of Rusin and Senzatela on the injured list, the final two spots likely come down to Johnson, Musgrave and Estevez.