Reynolds a Rockie; Once Rising Star Rosario Looks for 2nd Chance in Minnestoa

Wilin Rosario, photo by © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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While Mark Reynolds was getting the official word that he will be on the Rockies Opening Day roster in the visiting clubhouse at the Twins spring training headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon, Wilin Rosario, a once rising star in the Rockies organization, was on the back field, battling to make the Twins Triple-A Rochester.

Reynolds is looking forward to what most likely be a final chapter of his big-league career of nearly 12 years of big-league service time with eight different teams, an impressive feat for a 16th-round draft choice of the D-backs when he came out of the University of Virginia in 2004.

Rosario is returning from spending three seasons overseas – two in the Korean Baseball Organization when he hit .330 with 709 home runs in 245 games for the Hanwha Eagles, and then last summer, at the age of 29, with Hanshin in the Japanese Central League, where he hit only .242 with eight home runs and 40 RBI in 75 games.

For a day, however, they were both in the same spring training complex, Rosario a virtual stranger to the roster of his former team, the Rockies. Only Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Chad Bettis were teammates of Rosario.

Baseball execs, however, knew his name. In 2011, MLB.com ranked Rosario the 21st best prospect in MLB. At the age of 23, in 2012, he replaced Ramon Hernandez as the No. 1 catcher for the Rockies and hit 28 home runs with 71 RBI in 100 games. He even finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Bryce Harper won the award that year.

And in 103 games in 2013 he hit another 20 home runs, becoming the only catcher in Rockies history to have multi-home run seasons. The next three seasons, his stock dropped. He does still hold the Rockies record for home runs by a catcher, but the bulk of his last three seasons in a Rockies uniform he was playing first base, and his numbers were crumbling.

By the end of the 2015 season, Rosario has faded from the Rockies plans. He had become primarily a first baseman, which is where he played overseas, and what his role would be in the Twins organization, with time at the DH and the thought of being a third catcher.

“I was a free agent after that season and could not get a major-league offer,” Rosario told Minneapolis columnist Pat Reusse of his decision to head to Korea in 2016. “I enjoyed Korea, and Japan, too. My family enjoyed it, too. But it was time to stay home, and (Twins farm director) Jeremy Zoll was my man. He was very positive for me getting a chance (in Minnesota).”

With a big-league hope, right now, Rosario must be realistic, too. His return to the big leagues most likely will require a warm-up act in the minor leagues.

Reynolds, meanwhile, knows his days are winding down. He, however, wanted to return to the Rockies, where he played in 2016-17, and showed that when he accepted a minor-league invite to camp with a $1 million salary if he made the big-league team, which he did.

"It's good to be back," Reynolds told the media in Fort Myers. "There's very few teams that I would have played for this year -- this is one of them. I enjoyed being here in '16 and '17, and I feel like this team has a real shot of going deep in October. And I wanted to be back around these guys and be back in this organization, and I was fortunate enough to make the team and get one more shot."

Reynolds played for the Nationals last year in a bench role. He hit .248 in 86 games, driving in 40 runs and hitting 13 homers. Reynolds expects to have the same role this year, giving relief to Daniel Murphy at first base when needed or when the matchup is right.

Reynolds said his two years in Colorado really left an impact on him, not to mention that he may have had one of the most complete years of his career just two seasons ago -- in 2017, he recorded 30 home runs and 97 RBIs with a .267 batting average.

"I think I played pretty well, but it was more just the guys in the clubhouse, and you know, I missed it last year," Reynolds said. "It's good to be back and be around these guys, and you know, you're with these guys a lot so it's good that you like them, and I just contributed when I can."

The Rockies had enough confidence in Reynolds even though he hit .125 in the spring that they kept him over Tom Murphy, who the Rockies lost to the Giants on waivers Monday when they tried to send him to Triple-A to start the season.

Reynolds said he felt “good,” this spring, referring to physically, but admitted, "I haven’t had results, but I feel like I've had good at-bats. And you know, it's pretty cliché, but you don't want to waste them in spring, right? I had good at-bats, I feel like I'm ready and we'll see how we start Thursday."

Manager Bud Black likes the idea of that veteran bat on the bench this year after the Rockies opened a year ago with an inexperienced bench crew.

“He will get some starts against left-handed starting pitching,” Black said. “He'll be a versatile component where we know that he can play first base, in a pinch he can move around the infield -- [we'll] probably stay away from that, but it's a dangerous bat off the bench in a pinch-hitting role and spot starting."

At this stage of his career, it’s a role Reynolds can embrace.

Unlike Rosario, Reynolds is at that stage of a career where he is not still trying to build a resume.

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