Moustakas' offseason work pays off with roster spot
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Even before the Rockies called with a job offer, three-time All-Star Mike Moustakas prepared for a knockout Spring Training.
Moustakas, 34, went to former Major Leaguer Marlon Byrd to tweak his hitting, and put in boxing footwork drills with George Foreman III to bounce back from three injury-filled seasons with the Reds. Then he knocked it out of the park in the camp.
From agreeing to a Minor League contract on March 5 through Friday, when he homered against the Brewers, Moustakas hit .367 (11-for-30) with two home runs and nine RBIs. He learned before Saturday night’s game against the Guardians that he had made the Opening Day 26-man roster.
The Rockies moved close to the Opening Day roster by informing left-handed relief pitcher Ty Blach and utility man Harold Castro that they have made the team after being non-roster invitees. To clear space on the 40-man Major League roster, the Rockies placed outfielder Sean Bouchard (left biceps surgery), second baseman Brendan Rodgers (left shoulder surgery) and left-handed pitcher Ryan Rolison (left shoulder surgery) on the 60-day injured list.
Moustakas made All-Star appearances while with the Royals (2015, 2017) and Brewers (2019), but struggled with leg injuries for three seasons with the Reds and was released during the winter with a year left on his four-year, $64 million contract. This was the first time he came to camp not guaranteed a job in “about 12 years.” Saturday’s call with his wife, Stephanie, and children, Mila, 6, Mick, 5, Marigold, 3, and Monroe, 3 months, was special.
“Being able to share that with my wife and my kids back home was unbelievable,” Moustakas said. “Doing this away from your family is tough, but the support I had back home was incredible. I told my kids and they were jumping up and down. They were so excited. It was awesome.”
Manager Bud Black said the Rockies picked up important experience and depth by adding Moustakas.
“He’s very knowledgeable about baseball,” Black said. “He’s a connector. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a team guy first, unselfish. He wants to be a Rockie. He wants to be here to help because of his experience -- World Series winner, World Series runner-up, playoff with the Brewers, a history of being in winning situations.”
Moustakas went to Byrd at the recommendation of former Royals teammate Eric Hosmer and modified his leg kick before the swing. Foreman, son of boxing legend George Foreman, offered footwork exercises to help with defense and “when you’re throwing punches, it’s really similar to hitting and throwing.”
He’ll serve as left-handed depth for third baseman Elehuris Montero and first baseman C.J. Cron, and will be part of the DH rotation. Moustakas should receive plenty of action, with the Rockies planning to keep frontline players fresh by resting them more frequently, especially during the early part of the season and at home in Denver’s demanding atmosphere.
Abby Greer Award
Montero arrived at camp with the assignment of improving his footwork at third base and delivering more mature at-bats. The result? The Rockies on Saturday presented him with the Abby Greer Award as the camp’s most valuable player.
Just one bad game in March?
Rockies closer Daniel Bard, beginning a two-year, $19 million contract, said his delivery “didn’t feel locked in” before he joined Team USA for the World Baseball Classic and the noise and intensity of the Classic was “not the ideal environment” to find it. He had a bad outing against Team Venezuela, most notable for his hitting the Astros' Jose Altuve and leaving him with a fractured right thumb.
Bard, who was out of the Majors from 2013-19 because of control problems (a fact brought up often during and after the struggle), believes it will go down as a bad Spring Training performance.
“It’s amplified because of the tournament and the stage it was on,” he said. “But in the grand scheme, there’s certain years you show up on March 1 and you feel in midseason form and you roll into the season. There’s other years where you need those 10-12 outings in spring to fail and succeed, feel things out and let your body learn how to move again.”
In the ninth inning of Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Guardians, Bard hung his second pitch -- a 93.6 mph sinker -- for a David Fry solo homer before chalking up a strikeout and two grounders.
“A 93 mph fastball -- Daniel’s not there yet, but he’s getting there,” Black said. “He threw one 96, which is good, so the velocity is not there, but hopefully in the next week it shows up.”