Rockies fortify roster with September callups
DENVER -- A day after taking sole possession of first place in the National League West, the Rockies fortified their roster with a handful of September call-ups. Three of the new members of the active roster -- outfielder Raimel Tapia, infielder Chris Hampson and left-handed pitcher Sam Howard -- are returning to the Rockies after brief stints earlier in the season, and two -- right-hander D.J. Johnson and outfielder Yonathan Daza -- were promoted to the Majors for the first time.
Adding the players to the big league roster gives the Rockies some specific tools on their bench, and it also gives promising prospects an excellent opportunity to be tested in the fires of a pennant race.
"This is what we play for, whether you're Matthew Holliday in his late 30s, or some of these guys in their early 20s," manager Bud Black said of the opportunity for young players to have "building block" moments in games of high consequence. "It's great. And it's the experience in games like this that will make you a better player in situations that arise like this moving forward in your career."
Tapia, 24, has the most experience of the new additions, having played 92 games for the Rockies in 2016 and 2017 and 14 games in a stint earlier this season, when he hit .222 (4-for-18) with four runs, two doubles, a homer and five RBIs. Tapia will have to fight for room in the Rockies' deep outfield ranks, but his speed makes him a valuable weapon off the bench in the late innings, with 21 steals at Triple-A Albuquerque and eight career swipes for the Rockies.
Hampson gives the Rockies a versatile glove and promising bat. In 10 games with the Rockies since making his big league debut this year, Hampson, 23, has played five games at second and a game each at shortstop and center. He hit .273 (6-for-22) for the Rockies and hit .311 (138-444) between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A with 36 steals this season.
Howard, 25, made his Major League debut on June 10, pitching a scoreless inning of relief at home against the D-backs, his only action in the big leagues to date. He was a starter in Albuquerque, going 3-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 21 starts.
Johnson is on his first big league roster following the selection of his contract from the Isotopes. The 29-year-old right-hander posted a 3.90 ERA in 50 Triple-A appearances this season.
Daza made a leap of sorts from Double-A, where he hit .306 (67-for-219) with four homers and 29 RBIs in 54 games. Daza, 24, has been on the 40-man roster all year, and recalling him enabled the Rockies to open a spot for Johnson by putting the injured Daza on the 60-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain Tuesday.
Tuesday's moves put the Rockies' active roster at 35 players and maintained a full 40-man roster.
Chased from behind
The Rockies moved into first place Monday night, taking sole possession atop the division standings for the first time since June 1. It's also the latest date the Rockies have led the division since the strike-shortened 1995 season, when they led as late as Sept. 26. It's the first time the team has occupied first place in September or October since that first Wild Card season 13 years ago.
"I don't think it really changes," Black said of the shift in perspective from chasing the D-backs and Dodgers to leading the pack with a target on the back of their jerseys. "In our sport, especially this year with the interchanging of the teams in our division, we got to play our game and keep doing our thing. Last year was a different story. The Dodgers sort of pulled away. They had a great few months in the middle of the season. But now, new season, we feel that we can be there with any team in baseball. It's good stuff."
The Rockies have the potential to take advantage of playing 16 of their final 25 games at home, where they own the best home winning percentage in the NL (.714, 24-10) since ending an eight-game home losing streak on June 19.
"You just need to get wins right now," Chris Iannetta said after the Rockies started the 10-day homestand with a rollercoaster 9-8 win over the Giants. "This is just another one off the list that we need to get to the playoffs."