DENVER -- Chris Iannetta felt his swing and his comfort in the batter's box return when he ended an eight-pitch at-bat with a sacrifice fly in the Rockies' 2-0 victory over the Pirates on Monday night. It's a good time for Iannetta to feel good.The Rockies went from carrying three
DENVER -- Chris Iannetta felt his swing and his comfort in the batter's box return when he ended an eight-pitch at-bat with a sacrifice fly in the Rockies' 2-0 victory over the Pirates on Monday night. It's a good time for Iannetta to feel good.
The Rockies went from carrying three catchers to two on Tuesday when they optioned rookie Tom Murphy to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room on the roster for Tuesday's starting pitcher, righty Chad Bettis. That leaves the right-handed hitting Iannetta and lefty-swinging Tony Wolters.
Iannetta had started just five of 12 games before Monday, with Murphy receiving the bulk of the playing time. Now Iannetta, 35, will receive more regular playing time during an important stretch, as manager Bud Black divides the opportunities based on matchups or trends with the starting pitcher.
In the first year of a two-year, $8.5 million contract, Iannetta hasn't complained about playing time when it has been sporadic, and feels healthy and ready for more regular opportunities.
"I've been ready all year to do that," said Iannetta, who made his 70th appearance, which defensively was his 61st overall and 58th start. "I take care of myself. I work really hard so I'm ready to play, whatever they need.
"I signed on to play between 60 and 120 games, not caring what the number was and just totally focused on finding a way to contribute and winning -- if that meant contributing on the field, if that meant mentoring off the field, whatever I could possibly do. I'm at the stage of my career where it's about winning, not about numbers."
Iannetta entered Tuesday batting .214 with seven homers and 23 RBIs. He hit .265 with five homers and 13 RBIs from April 30-July 4, but has had trouble gaining traction overall.
"Right now, I feel the best that I have since Spring Training, and that just started yesterday," Iannetta said. "I finally felt back to normal, even though the numbers were a lot better early in the early part of the year. I feel better mechanically, seeing it, pitches finally started slowing down. I'd felt like everybody was throwing 110 [mph]."
The plan had been to have Iannetta or Murphy available to pinch-hit when not catching, but both struggled with the bat during a 2-5 road trip. Murphy also struggled in the ninth inning of Sunday's eventual 5-4 victory at Milwaukee, with a catcher's interference, a third strike from Adam Ottavino he couldn't corral (a play that would have ended the game) and a wild pitch that ticked off his glove on the fly.
"There are some adjustments he has to make with the swing," Black said. "On the defensive side, he's gotten a lot better from two years ago. Setting up the target, blocking, mechanics, positioning, but he still has to work on it.
"But if you look at Murph, he's got power, he's got arm strength. I love the way he calls the game."
Wolters was playing sparingly, usually in defensive situations.
While the catching is one reason the Rockies have had one of the Majors' best starting rotations for much of the season, the club needs more with the bat. The .620 OPS from that position ranked 26th in the Majors going into Tuesday.
The need for control
Wolters has made a highlight package's worth of defensive plays, but also has had a couple of major mistakes that came from trying to do too much with his sparse playing time. A throw to an uncovered third base (Nolan Arenado was in a shifted position) in a game at Arizona, and last week's inexplicable throw to second in a third strike at St. Louis (in a game when he made a standout play on an infield ball and cut down a basestealer at second) in the dirt are prime examples.
The good part is Wolters isn't tentative. His athletic ability can change games. Still, he realizes he must play under control.
"When you play random, you want to show out, but it's hard -- I made a really hard play and I made a really dumb play," Wolters said. "I have to keep reminding myself, 'You can show out, but keep the game slow.' Deep breath, know your information, and I can still show out."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.