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Healthy Desmond looking to rebound in '18

Veteran preparing for outfield role after intro to first base last year
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Say this for Ian Desmond's 2017: He filled it with new adventures and challenges.

Accustomed to postseason play, Desmond signed a five-year, $70 million contract with a Rockies team that hadn't been in years, and it worked out with a National League Wild Card Game appearance. He took up first base in a project that may or may not continue. Three trips to the disabled list limited him to just 95 games -- the fewest in any of the eight complete years he has spent on a Major League roster, and something he'd rather not repeat.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Say this for Ian Desmond's 2017: He filled it with new adventures and challenges.

Accustomed to postseason play, Desmond signed a five-year, $70 million contract with a Rockies team that hadn't been in years, and it worked out with a National League Wild Card Game appearance. He took up first base in a project that may or may not continue. Three trips to the disabled list limited him to just 95 games -- the fewest in any of the eight complete years he has spent on a Major League roster, and something he'd rather not repeat.

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But before putting last year in the file of things he'd rather not discuss -- "I'm kind of at the point now where I have moved past last year," as he put it -- he finished '17 with a delightful new experience.

"I went up to Denver and had Christmas up there -- the first-ever 'white Christmas' for me and my family," said Desmond, who lives in the Sarasota, Fla., area. "It was pretty cool."

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Desmond, 32, hopes to truly bring all his gifts, athletic and otherwise, to the Rockies in ways that he couldn't last year because of injuries. Desmond suffered a fractured left hand when hit by a pitch during Spring Training and missed the first month, then endured disabled list placements July 3-16 and July 28-Aug. 28 because of a recurring right calf strain.

A shortstop with the Nationals from 2009-15 before becoming an outfielder with the Rangers in 2016, Desmond brings a versatility that allows the Rockies roster flexibility. As the roster stands, Desmond gives the Rockies a chance to see for sure if Ryan McMahon -- the team's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- is ready to take first base.

While first base remains part of his profile -- something manager Bud Black believes he can do capably because of his athletic ability -- Desmond has spent most of the offseason preparing to play left field. That means the left-handed-hitting McMahon will have his shot, and it leaves open the possibility the team could revisit right-handed-hitting first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hit 30 home runs last season before becoming a free agent.

Desmond has far more experience in the outfield. He played 156 games in the outfield for the Rangers in 2016, including 130 in center. Last season with the Rockies, he made 66 appearances in left and 27 at first base (plus one each at shortstop and center field).

However, roster makeup will be the determining factor. The Rockies have David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman, all with big league experience and upside, trying to break into the outfield.

"Honestly, I haven't really been focusing a lot on first base," Desmond said. "I have spent a lot of time in left field, just getting my legs ready to play out there. I will be ready to play first base if they need me to, but right now, from what I understand it's going to be mostly left field."

Anywhere but the DL is fine.

"Some of it was bad luck and some of it was dealing with an injury he's not used to having," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "He was not accustomed to missing much time. He and I joked about it at times out of sheer frustration." 

At $22 million for this year, Desmond can get used to becoming a Rockies mainstay, rather than someone trying to fit in on the go.

"I know that Ian's goal is to play his game and do what he's very capable of doing, which is a very productive big league player," Black said.

Video: MIA@COL: Desmond rips three-run homer to open scoring

Desmond finished last season with a .274 batting average, seven home runs and 40 RBIs, and with a .701 OPS that was considerably below the .764 he averaged 2012-16. After an offseason without the nagging pain that calf strains often leave behind, Desmond returns with a healthy body and a tweaked swing.

"I did make an adjustment -- I lowered my hands a little bit," Desmond said. "I was just hitting one day and it was like, 'try this.' It felt good and I have been riding with it ever since.

"Timing, of course, is everything, and last year it was a little bit choppy for me. So, I am hoping to get some good at-bats during Spring Training, track some pitches early, and just try to get the timing right."

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

Colorado Rockies, Ian Desmond