Tapia to employ versatility with Bryant manning left

March 21st, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It’s a new season and a new set of challenges for Raimel Tapia, but the outfielder’s outlook remains the same.

“I’ve always felt like I had to win a spot, and I’ve never taken anything for granted,” Tapia said in Spanish. “I’ve learned in baseball that nothing is ever secure. You have to show up every day with your best effort, and that’s just how it is.”

Where Tapia will play a majority of the games this season is to be determined. What’s certain is that Charlie Blackmon is the starter in right and the signing of Kris Bryant means Tapia won’t be in left field, where he played 118 games in 2021, very often. It also means he is competing for playing time in the outfield against Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson and Yonathan Daza.

For now, the Rockies do not have a center fielder who projects to be an everyday player at the position.

“I’m a left fielder, but I can play where they put me because I feel good about all three positions,” Tapia said. “I was happy when they signed [Kris Bryant]. He’s going to help this team win. If the team brought him here, it’s because they believe he will help us.”

For his career, Tapia has played 266 games in left field, 37 games in center and 37 in right. He also has served as the designated hitter 14 times.

“Our Minor League player development staff has always done a great job with our outfielders,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “And once we get outfielders into our system, we move them. Because when they get to the big leagues, we never know what they are going to play. So Raimel feels comfortable anywhere we put him.

“It just so happens that it has been predominantly left, with a little bit of center sprinkled in and a little bit of right field sprinkled in. I think we are comfortable putting him anywhere. The last few years, when he has been playing pretty regularly, we have had center fielders who have been on our roster without other guys pushing those guys to the bench.”

The Rockies will figure out the playing time for Tapia, Hilliard, Hampson and Daza as the season plays out, Black said. They’ll consider matchups, the designated hitter for that game and other daily factors when determining who mans the outfield.

Either way, Tapia will be ready.

“I’ve been working hard all offseason to have a good season, and that’s what I plan on doing,” he said. “I’m hoping for 30 stolen bases, a good batting average personally, but I really just want to help this team win.”