SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The fact that Shawn O'Malley is starting his 13th year in professional baseball didn't keep him from getting an early start on his first Spring Training camp with the Rockies. After signing as a Minor League free agent in December, O'Malley showed up early in Scottsdale to
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The fact that Shawn O'Malley is starting his 13th year in professional baseball didn't keep him from getting an early start on his first Spring Training camp with the Rockies. After signing as a Minor League free agent in December, O'Malley showed up early in Scottsdale to take advantage of any opportunity he could find to give his game an edge.
"A couple days before Spring Training started, I was asking Nolan [Arenado] about the little things that make him so great. He's a Gold Glover for a reason. Same as DJ [LeMahieu]. It's like, 'what separates you from everyone else?' I just try and pick their brain a little and try to find one thing that I can apply to my game and make it that much better."
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That sponge-like approach to picking up elements from every aspect of the game is indicative of the utility role O'Malley hopes to win on the Rockies' 25-man roster when the team opens the season in a month.
"That's what I'm kind of known for," O'Malley says of the utility role. "Whether it be pinch-running or going in for a defensive substitution, or maybe it's pinch-hitting late and bunting a guy over. Whatever they want, I'll do."
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After being drafted out of high school and starting his pro career that same summer of 2006, O'Malley got his big league break as a September callup with the Angels in 2014. He switched to Seattle the following year, and earned another September callup, but it was 2016 when he finally stuck after being promoted in May, playing 89 games for the Mariners. He logged games at shortstop (36), right field (19), left field (15), second base (12), third base (7), center field (5), and DH (1).
O'Malley has the versatile skill set to keep him in the mix for a reserve role on the Rockies' four-man bench.
"We feel comfortable with the defense," manager Bud Black said before O'Malley's Wednesday start at second base. "That's been proven. He's 30 years old. He's been in the pro game for a while. Mentally, he's capable of bouncing in and out of positions and coming off the bench."
The Rockies have Tony Wolters penciled in as the backup catcher and Pat Valaika reprising his role as an infielder, who can also play outfield. They'll likely take a fourth outfielder who doesn't figure in the infield, so it would behoove any contenders for the final roster spot to have multiple tools in their utility belt.
"What we're looking for is that comfort that he looks good at every position," Black said of O'Malley. "That he can make a play in the hole from short. He can man the outfield positions with breaks, and jumps, and reads, and go get balls. Turn a double play from second. And offensively, switch-hit capabilities, get some hits, get a bunt down, hit-and-run with him, steal a base. That's what we're looking to see from him."
O'Malley's approach is to focus on preparation and answer whatever call the Rockies send his way if it gives him a chance to help the team.
"I'm trying to work on everything I possibly can right now, if that's infield, outfield -- if they want me to catch, I'll catch, pitch, whatever they need," O'Malley said. "If they call my name, with the game on the line, I'm not worried about where they're going to stick me. I'm prepared and ready to go."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.
Thomas Harding contributed to this report.