DENVER -- One more batter in the lineup means plenty of options for Rockies manager Bud Black, with National League teams using the designated hitter for the entire 60-game regular season.
The original Spring Training saw competition for at-bats in left field, and some solid developments with players expected to help the bench. Now any of those players can bolster the daily lineup.
What are the possibilities?
There is always the possibility of employing right fielder Charlie Blackmon as DH, as long as the team gets solid defense out of the younger options. Blackmon moved from center to right last year. While it took a while for him to adjust and his throwing did not have much impact, the final months were solid in terms of range.
With Blackmon turning 34 on July 1, the DH option could be a way of keeping him fresh.
Tapia, 26, muscled up during the offseason. During the spring, he added a toe tap that put him on better balance, allowed him to swing at better pitches, and produced more velocity off the bat. He also dramatically dropped his chase rate after Tapia had some dramatic ups and downs last season, but finished with a .275 average.
Hilliard, 26, debuted in late August and batted .277 with seven homers, four doubles, two triples and 13 RBIs in just 77 at-bats. This spring, Hilliard struck out 12 times in 34 at-bats and batted .176, but Black pointed out that he was seeing growth in his swing and an approach that wasn’t reflected in the numbers. Hilliard had two spring homers.
Chris Owings, 28, had been a mainstay with the D-backs a few years ago before struggling. But, reunited with Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan (who had worked with him in Arizona) and healed from a hand injury that was part of the root of his decline, Owings hit .471 in Rockies camp and made himself a roster option.
Interestingly, Owings is one of three right-handed middle infielders available for Colorado.
In 24 September games last season, Garrett Hampson found his swing (.318) and speed (nine steals) at the big league level. Like Owings, Hampson is able to play all three outfield positions at the level of a regular.
Top prospect Brendan Rodgers, whose debut was marred by a right shoulder injury that required surgery, came back sooner than expected in the first installment of Spring Training. Rodgers, who was pushing to make the team then, became healthier with rest and rehab and could make himself a factor.
Owings, Hampson and Rodgers also have skills that could work in the leadoff spot, although Black could stick with the original plan of center fielder David Dahl at the top spot.