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Black among big fans of versatile vet Amarista

Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies fielded a Venezuelan top of the order Wednesday, with Gerardo Parra leading off in left, Carlos Gonzalez hitting third as the designated hitter, and super-utility man Alexi Amarista playing center in the two-hole.

At 5-foot-6 and 158 pounds, it's easy to miss the most versatile player on the Rockies' potential big league roster. But Amarista has played every position on the diamond except first base and catcher, and though he's logged the bulk of his time playing at short, second, and third, he has126 Major League games under his belt in center.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies fielded a Venezuelan top of the order Wednesday, with Gerardo Parra leading off in left, Carlos Gonzalez hitting third as the designated hitter, and super-utility man Alexi Amarista playing center in the two-hole.

At 5-foot-6 and 158 pounds, it's easy to miss the most versatile player on the Rockies' potential big league roster. But Amarista has played every position on the diamond except first base and catcher, and though he's logged the bulk of his time playing at short, second, and third, he has126 Major League games under his belt in center.

"I feel good about putting him in center field," Rockies manager Bud Black said, having developed enormous respect for Amarista while managing him for four years with the Padres. "Any of the three outfield positions, any position in the infield. I feel good about Lexi as a fundamentally sound defensive player."

Despite missing 57 games to the disabled list last season with a right and left hamstring injuries, Amarista played in 65 games, starting 31 at a combination of second (15), short (7), third (4), left (3), and right (2). He made only two errors in games he started. What's more, he pitched a perfect one-third of an inning, entering a game with the bases loaded and getting Seattle's Shawn O'Malley out on one pitch.

"He won a batting title in the [Class A Advanced] Midwest League with the Angels," Black pointed out, highlighting Amarista's .319 average in 2009 and his career .312 average in the Minors. "It's probably natural to be overlooked when you look at him for the first time. And then when you keep playing, you really don't get overlooked. Sometimes you get more scrutinized. When you see performance from a player that you think shouldn't perform, then you become more scrutinized and watching, 'How is this guy doing it?'

"And then if you keep doing it, then you attract fans. You attract people who like you. I've talked to other managers, other coaches, GMs, and he's been talked about by a lot of people. He can do so many things. You always feel comfortable. He's that guy who's always making a play."

In the first inning Wednesday vs. the Padres, Amarista helped manufacture a run, drawing a walk, stealing a base, then scoring from second to tie the game on a Nolan Arenado single to left.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Colorado Rockies, Alexi Amarista