Ian Desmond was the Rockies' big offseason addition. It's four weeks into the season, and they are still waiting to see him step up to the plate in a regular-season game.The wait is about to end, and in the process, all those who couldn't see why the Rockies opted to
Ian Desmond was the Rockies' big offseason addition. It's four weeks into the season, and they are still waiting to see him step up to the plate in a regular-season game.
The wait is about to end, and in the process, all those who couldn't see why the Rockies opted to sign Desmond off the free-agent market instead of a more traditional first baseman like Mark Trumbo or Mike Napoli might finally see his value.
The broken left hand Desmond sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Reds right-hander Rookie Davis during Spring Training has healed. Desmond worked out during batting practice this week at Coors Field, and on Friday and Saturday, he is slated to get as many as 10-15 at-bats in games with Colorado's extended spring camp program. On Friday in Scottsdale he hit an opposite-field double with manager Bud Black and several coaches watching.
Sunday is an off-day at extended spring camp, but the Rockies are in Phoenix playing a weekend series against the D-backs, and lefty Patrick Corbin is scheduled to start the finale on Sunday for Arizona. So what better time is there than that to get the right-handed-hitting Desmond into the lineup?
Colorado is off on Monday before opening a three-game series in San Diego on Tuesday, so there would even be a full day to evaluate how Desmond responds to game action.
Filling in for Desmond at first base, Mark Reynolds has been a major offensive factor and has played strong defense, which gives the Rockies an opportunity to take advantage of Desmond's versatility when he returns. Colorado's starting outfield is all left-handed, so with Corbin pitching, Black could opt to have Desmond debut in left field to give Gerardo Parra a day off, keeping Reynolds in the lineup.
The reason the Rockies felt comfortable signing Desmond to a five-year deal was because of his athletic abilities. They saw him as a Benjamin Zobrist-type with a higher upside offensively.
Reynolds has manned the outfield in the past and did come to the big leagues as a third baseman after playing shortstop at the University of Virginia, but he would be the first to admit that given Desmond's athleticism, he would probably be a better fit in left.
Reynolds is an upper-echelon defensive first baseman who is enjoying the best start to a season of his career. He leads Colorado's regulars with a .317 average, is tied with Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado for the team lead with seven home runs and is second on the team with 20 RBIs.
And coming through the Rockies' system with an arrival that could be as soon as next year is Ryan McMahon, a second-round Draft pick in 2013 who was given a $1.3 million bonus. He signed as a third baseman, but he saw time at first base last year, which could be his big league destination, since Arenado mans Colorado's hot corner. This year, as a part of the club's plan to stress versatility in the Minor Leagues, McMahon is getting time at second base.
Double-A Hartford manager Jerry Weinstein told the Hartford Courant that second is "probably [McMahon's] best defensive position. He looks most comfortable at second base, and his tool set really plays well there because his arm strength is so great."
Desmond, a shortstop throughout his career, made the move to the outfield with the Rangers last season and was an All-Star. He opened the season in left field and made the midseason move to center, even though he had only appeared in the outfield twice before joining Texas -- a total of 7 1/3 innings.
Given Desmond's versatility, his RBI potential and his commitment to winning, the Rockies see him as a cornerstone for the next five years who has the ability to fill any need that arises.
The first step down that path most likely will come on Sunday.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist at MLB.com.