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Journeyman lefty, rook hitters try to crack roster

Rosscup, Patterson, Cuevas dark-horse candidates this spring for Rockies
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Lefty relief pitcher Zac Rosscup dominated left-handed hitters -- 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts -- last season, but it takes more than a small, stellar sample size to impress the Rockies.

The Rockies have veterans Jake McGee and Adam Dunn, plus versatile Chris Rusin, as lefties in the bullpen. So Rosscup, 29, who appeared in one game for the Cubs last year before arriving in a trade for righty reliever Matt Carasiti and appearing in nine Rockies games, finds himself lower on the depth chart but still with high hopes.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Lefty relief pitcher Zac Rosscup dominated left-handed hitters -- 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts -- last season, but it takes more than a small, stellar sample size to impress the Rockies.

The Rockies have veterans Jake McGee and Adam Dunn, plus versatile Chris Rusin, as lefties in the bullpen. So Rosscup, 29, who appeared in one game for the Cubs last year before arriving in a trade for righty reliever Matt Carasiti and appearing in nine Rockies games, finds himself lower on the depth chart but still with high hopes.

"I think I have a pretty good chance," Rosscup said. "They told me there's not really a formula for the bullpen as far as a certain number of lefties or a certain number of righties. I'm just going to try to compete."

Cactus League games start Friday, with rotation candidate Jeff Hoffman starting against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The Rockies and all teams have depth charts that suggest what the roster should look like, but injuries and surprises during Spring Training tend to make the actual Opening Day rosters look different.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Rockies have extensive competition for jobs around the diamond, and there is an intriguing contest among starting pitchers who have never pitched in the Majors to be the first choices should depth be needed. But even names that aren't front and center could find their way onto the regular-season roster at the beginning with strong springs and breaks their way. There are more where these come from, but here are a few intriguing outside candidates (with their 2017 statistics):

Rosscup (0-0, 5.14 ERA with Rockies; 4.4, 2.58 in 58 Triple-A games with Cubs and Rockies): Even with the success against lefties, Rosscup finished with a 5.14 ERA. His 10 strikeouts and no walks work in his favor, but he will have to conquer righty batters to improve his chances.

"My first live batting practice the other day, I faced only righties, and that's a focus I've expressed to the coaches," Rosscup said. "I've had opportunities with the previous club I was with, but I never have established myself in the bullpen. Kind of take that opportunity and run with it."

OF-1B Jordan Patterson (.283/.348/.539, 26 HRs, 92 RBIs at Triple-A Albuquerque): A corner outfielder who has developed talent at first base, Patterson struggled early and didn't climb above .230 until June 9, which cost him when the Rockies needed help. With left-handed-hitting rookie Ryan McMahon getting a shot at first base, but with little Major League experience, and with young players all over the outfield, Patterson could turn some heads this spring.

Video: CHC@COL: Patterson rips an RBI double to right

But Patterson, who went 8-for-19 in his first 19 Major League plate appearances in 2016, said fighting back from the poor start in '17 will ultimately move his career forward. Technically, he corrected his load and setup; mentally, he thought catch the ball with his bat. It all worked.

"I was forced to make an adjustment and change on the physical and mental side of it," said Patterson, who ended up with his career high -- by nine -- for homers in a Minor League season. Things I figured out I'll probably keep with me the rest of my career. Now I know myself better than I did last year, so that's a step forward for me."

OF Noel Cuevas (.312, 15 HRs, 79 RBIs at Albuquerque): Cuevas has stepped up boldly to bring awareness to the plight of people in his native Puerto Rico, who have suffered the effects of Hurricane Maria for months but feel ignored because of an uncoordinated response. His family is also dealing with the after-effects. But he has size and baseball tools that could get him noticed on the diamond.

Video: Black on Cuevas' chances of making Opening Day roster

Manager Bud Black includes the right-handed-hitting Cuevas in a group of players who, unlike him, have been in the Majors -- David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Michael Tauchman, all lefty batters -- vying for what appears, without unforeseen events, to be two spots.

"When I'm out on the field, I'm concentrating on doing the job," Cuevas said. "But as soon as I step off the field, I go back to that [by phone, helping his family work through power outages and the like], and I wish I didn't have to, because I think we shouldn't be going through what we're going through four or five months after the hurricane. I have to do it. All my family is out there, so I need to know that they are OK."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Noel Cuevas, Jordan Patterson, Zac Rosscup