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Bridich denies contract talks with Ichiro

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- General manager Jeff Bridich dismissed as inaccurate report on Monday that suggested the Rockies were in talks with veteran star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

In this slow free-agent offseason, Ichiro -- who played for the Marlins the last three seasons while extending his Major League hit total to 3,080 -- has contemplated returning to Japan if an MLB team doesn't come through with a contract.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- General manager Jeff Bridich dismissed as inaccurate report on Monday that suggested the Rockies were in talks with veteran star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

In this slow free-agent offseason, Ichiro -- who played for the Marlins the last three seasons while extending his Major League hit total to 3,080 -- has contemplated returning to Japan if an MLB team doesn't come through with a contract.

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Monday's story on the Sanspro site identified a spokesman as saying (translated via Google), "I heard that there is talk from Rockies," and that agent John Boggs is in contact with every Major League team except the Marlins.

However, Bridich warded off the story in a text.

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Bridich declined to discuss which free agents the club is negotiating with. However, it was learned recently that Mark Reynolds, the starting first baseman the last two seasons, and Carlos Gonzalez, who represented the team in three All-Star Games and was a fixture in right field, are among possible targets.

The Rockies have a full 40-man Major League roster, have Gerardo Parra -- capable of playing all three outfield spots -- back for the end of his three-year, $27.5 million contract, and are chock full of young players looking for breakouts. First basemen Ryan McMahon and Jordan Patterson and outfielders David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman, in particular, have a chance to advance their careers.

But the idea of adding a veteran bat is appealing, as well. And the Rockies have versatile regular Ian Desmond, who will start at first base or in the outfield depending on roster makeup.

Video: Outlook: Desmond offers power-speed potential

Desmond at first base, Part II: Desmond played shortstop with the Nationals from 2009-15 and in the outfield with the Rangers in '16, before signing with the Rockies for five years and $70 million to play first base. The position switch went by the wayside when Desmond was hit in the left hand by a pitch last spring and Reynolds, who took over in his place, produced in the first half.

But Rockies manager Bud Black said Monday that he believes Desmond should become more comfortable at first base if the roster dictates he play there, and he can slide to the outfield if that's more beneficial.

"Ian will be at first base in the spring, he'll be in left field in the spring, and we'll see how it all shakes out," Black said. "But Ian will be on the field."

Desmond wound up playing 67 games in the outfield -- 66 of which were in left -- and 27 at first base. But asked whether he feels comfortable with Desmond at first, Black said, "Absolutely, no doubt. This guy was a shortstop." The thought is a player who has the footwork and athletic ability to play short can play anywhere on the field.

Gonzalez working toward health: Rayan Gonzalez, a right-hander, was a 21st-round pick in 2012 who earned a 40-man Major League roster spot with a strong 2016 (49 strikeouts in 52 innings at Double-A Hartford, 12 strikeouts to two walks in 11 2/3 Arizona Fall League innings) is progressing in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Hurt in camp last year, Gonzalez is at the point where he is playing catch, and he will participate in fielding drills early in the spring. It's not clear when he will be ready for game action, but once he regains his 94-96-mph fastball with cutting action, he can quickly regain his spot on the Major League radar.

Almost time: The Rockies are scheduled for physicals on Tuesday and will have the first workout for pitchers and catchers Wednesday.

Blackmon rising: Center fielder Charlie Blackmon was ranked third on MLB Network's Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now!, which was released Saturday. In keeping with a career that has seen him improve with each season, Blackmon rose four spots from where he was on last year's list. Additionally, third baseman Nolan Arenado came in second at his position, second baseman DJ LeMahieu fifth, and shortstop Trevor Story was ninth.

Starting Wednesday and over a three-day period, MLB Network will release its "Top 100 Players Right Now!" There are two countdown shows Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, starting at 7 p.m. MT.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

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