SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A strong spring from David Dahl will not earn him a spot on the Rockies' Opening Day roster, but it sure made a good impression for when an opening does come.The Rockies optioned Dahl to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. Dahl, 23, had a .274 batting average --
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A strong spring from David Dahl will not earn him a spot on the Rockies' Opening Day roster, but it sure made a good impression for when an opening does come.
The Rockies optioned Dahl to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. Dahl, 23, had a .274 batting average -- a major comeback from an 0-for-15 start -- and team-highs in home runs (five) and RBIs (18). Also sent to Minor League camp were two non-roster players, catcher Anthony Bemboom and right-handed relief pitcher Austin House.
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The plan is to give Dahl, who didn't appear in the Majors last year due to a series of injuries that began during Spring Training, daily playing time rather than the small snippets that are available in an outfield that has three veterans in the last year of their contracts -- Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Adding to the crowd is first baseman Ian Desmond, who can play the outfield on occasion.
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While the strong numbers didn't earn Dahl a spot, they weren't for nothing. Manager Bud Black wasn't around when Dahl was called up after Parra was injured in 2016 and hit .315 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 63 games.
"In these exhibition games, he showed very well," Black said. "You could see why people in our organization think so highly of David, that he's going to be a big part of our group moving forward.
"Just the total skill-set. I can see the ability to hit, hit to all fields. There's power in there as well. His speed plays, both on defense and on the bases. He's got a fine throwing arm. You put him on a scouting scale, the tools line up pretty well."
While the unavailability of a starting spot is a tough-to-surmount obstacle for Dahl, a former top Draft pick, he does have an outstanding assignment: Stay on the field. In fairness, some of his injuries have been freaky: a hamstring ailment that limited him to 10 games at Class A Asheville in 2013, a ruptured spleen suffered in an on-field collision while at Double-A New Britain in '15 and last year's stress reaction in his sixth rib, which never fully healed and eventually led to a back issue that limited him to 19 games in the Minors.
Dahl is a phone call away from the Majors, with the expectations for him being high should the phone ring. The Rockies also face a similar decision of whether to start the season with their No. 2 prospect -- first baseman Ryan McMahon, who is hitting .355 this spring. For Black, it's a good problem, emblematic of "a deep team that these players are a part of. Over time, that depth will show."
This will be the second of three available Minor League option years for Dahl, but with the club unlikely to re-sign its entire outfield for next year, it appears his time is coming.
With Gonzalez in 2009, third baseman Nolan Arenado in '13 and shortstop Trevor Story in '16, the Rockies called them up and never sent them back, even if they had to go through growing pains.
For example, after being called up in June 2009, Gonzalez hit .202 through his first 27 games, but manager Jim Tracy resisted calls to send him back to Triple-A. All Gonzalez did was hit .320 in his final 62 games, then serve as the team's best offensive player in its National League Division Series loss to the Phillies.
Black hopes Dahl will earn the right to be inked into the daily lineup one day.
"Usually, when a guy's truly ready, he does perform and doesn't go back," Black said. "Our hope is all our young players that come up, when we feel as though it's their time, it's their time from that point on. Hopefully, that's the case for David."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.