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Valaika, O'Malley dealing with injuries

Rockies bench candidates afflicted by oblique issue, broken hand
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The heart of the Rockies' bench has taken a hit during the first eight days of Cactus League games, with Colorado's two most proven and versatile bench candidates -- Pat Valaika and Shawn O'Malley -- experiencing injuries that could keep them out for most of March.

Coming into spring, the four-man bench was to be anchored by Valaika, who has big league starts at first, second, third, short, and left field. Valaika has only made two Cactus League starts in the field, and manager Bud Black revealed Saturday that the utility man is suffering from an oblique strain.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The heart of the Rockies' bench has taken a hit during the first eight days of Cactus League games, with Colorado's two most proven and versatile bench candidates -- Pat Valaika and Shawn O'Malley -- experiencing injuries that could keep them out for most of March.

Coming into spring, the four-man bench was to be anchored by Valaika, who has big league starts at first, second, third, short, and left field. Valaika has only made two Cactus League starts in the field, and manager Bud Black revealed Saturday that the utility man is suffering from an oblique strain.

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"He's a little bit banged up," Black said. "He has a little bit of an oblique injury. That's why you haven't seen him in there. He's probably going to continue to be out of the lineup for the next couple weeks, at least."

If Valaika comes back in the nearside of that window, he could still position himself to make the Opening Day roster, but being down for any more than two weeks with only three plus weeks remaining in Spring Training could make it tough for him to be ready in time.

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Valaika's status would have elevated O'Malley's odds of making the club as a natural infielder who has played more in the outfield during his three big league seasons than in the infield, giving the Rockies the ideal makeup in a bench player who can help at virtually any position.

However, O'Malley broke his left hand on a diving play in the third inning Friday and will undergo surgery on Tuesday with Dr. Donald Sheridan in Scottsdale to repair the fractured left metacarpal -- the middle finger bone, below the knuckle. Sheridan also performed the surgery on Ian Desmond's broken hand last March.

"I jumped for a ball and came down awkward on my hand," O'Malley said. "I was starting to get my legs underneath me and get comfortable. Yesterday was the first day I felt like I was starting to piece everything together. Legs and arm and everything coming around. So it's frustrating, but it is what it is. Can't change it now, just get healthy and get back out there."

Black projected at least four to six weeks for O'Malley to be back in action, with the best reasonable scenario putting him back in games in six weeks. The timing is very close to when Desmond broke his hand last year on March 12 and was activated April 30.

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"He's got big league time, he's versatile, he's got a skill set that plays," Black said of O'Malley. "It's unfortunate this happens, because he's a guy we were looking at, at least to figure in some mix with us this year, whether it's Opening Day or somewhere during the regular season. He was a good player to complement the group that we have."

The pair of injuries throws the Rockies' bench competition wide open. Raimel Tapia and David Dahl have been competing for the fourth outfield position, and odds improve that they could both make the team behind a starting outfield of Desmond in left, Charlie Blackmon in center, and Gerardo Parra in right. Parra is at least a week away from returning from his own minor hand surgery.

After Valaika and O'Malley, the infield options include Brendan Rodgers, 21, ranked as the Rockies' No. 1 Prospect by MLB Pipeline. Rodgers, who was their No. 1 pick in the 2015 Draft, played at Class A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford in 2017 and hit .336 combined, earning him a spot in last year's Futures Game.

Video: Top Prospects: Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies

Daniel Castro, 25, is another infield candidate, having played parts of two seasons with the Braves. Castro hit .306 in 115 games at Triple-A Albuquerque last year and earned a Minor League Gold Glove.

Tony Wolters, who is competing for a backup catcher role, could see his stock rise with his potential to play the infield in a pinch. He played four games at second and one at third in 2017.

Ryan McMahon has been getting a careful look at first base as the Rockies consider him for a starting role, but he is putting in time at third in Spring Training, and appeared in four games at second and three at third for the Rockies last year.

If McMahon makes the roster, he can play first and backup in the infield, with Desmond earning increased time at first -- the position he was signed to play with the Rockies. Parra has appeared in 25 big league games at first, including 20 starts.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Colorado Rockies, Shawn O'Malley, Pat Valaika