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Rockies hope to overcome 'tough couple of weeks'

Dahl, Rusin, Bettis, Desmond won't be available by Opening Day
March 13, 2017

There has been a lot of optimism surrounding the Rockies this spring, with the club even being labeled a sleeper in the National League West. But then reality struck.• Two weeks ago, David Dahl was scratched from the lineup for a spring game. He has since been diagnosed with a

There has been a lot of optimism surrounding the Rockies this spring, with the club even being labeled a sleeper in the National League West. But then reality struck.
• Two weeks ago, David Dahl was scratched from the lineup for a spring game. He has since been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his sixth rib. The projected Opening Day left fielder, who made his Major League debut in the second half of last season and hit .315 with seven home runs in 63 games, won't be ready by then.
• Ten days ago, lefty Chris Rusin, likely the long man in the bullpen but also a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, was sidelined with an oblique injury. He was playing catch at a distance of 70 feet Monday, but with three weeks remaining until the season opens, he won't be in the rotation.
• On Friday, right-hander Chad Bettis, who was a team-best 14-8 last season and 8-2 at Coors Field, where Colorado was 12-2 in his starts, was diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. That will require eight weeks of chemotherapy. He might be ready by the All-Star break.

• And on Sunday, first baseman Ian Desmond, signed to a five-year, $70 million free-agent contract, suffered a fractured second metacarpal on his left hand when he was hit by a pitch from the Reds' Rookie Davis. Desmond will undergo surgery Wednesday, but there's no estimate on a return.
"It has been a tough couple of weeks," new manager Bud Black said.
The Rockies aren't about to panic, though.
Three weeks away from the 162-game demands of a regular season, Black understands the grind a team faces in pursuit of a postseason opportunity. This might be his first year with Colorado. It is not his first rodeo, however.
Black has been in the big leagues as a player, coach, scout or manager since September 1981. He has celebrated as part of the rotation of the 1985 World Series champion Royals.
And Black has watched guys on the other side celebrate -- as he did managing the 2007 Padres, who lost in extra innings of Game 163 while battling the Rockies for the NL Wild Card. He knows it's not all champagne celebrations, and he knows exactly how to approach these spring setbacks.
"It gives a lot of guys an opportunity to see what they can do," Black said. "It's why we have guys who can play multiple positions. We have players who are versatile, and we're going to take advantage of it."
Until Desmond returns, it's likely that Mark Reynolds, the primary first baseman a year ago recently signed to a Minor League deal in camp, will get the bulk of the time at first base.
"He's an athlete," Black said of Reynolds, a shortstop at the University of Virginia who came to the big leagues as a third baseman. "He has above-average hands. He's above average defensively. The guys are comfortable with him making plays, and so is he."
Gerardo Parra got time at first base late last season, but with Dahl's injury, he steps to the front of the line in the left-field battle, opening the door for him to rebound from a subpar 2016.
The pitching staff will be sorted out with the focus on the rotation where Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood are now the Big Three. A new name to watch in the battle for one of the other two spots is Antonio Senzatela, who was dominant in 4 1/3 innings against the Royals on Monday, impressing scouts with not only his pitches, but his pitching savvy.
Senzatela was limited to seven starts and a 4-1 record with a 1.82 ERA at Double-A Hartford last year because of a shoulder strain, but he has complete medical clearance this spring. Former No. 1 Draft choices Jeff Hoffman, acquired from the Blue Jays in July 2015 in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, and Kyle Freeland, a Denver native, are among others also pushing for a rotation spot.
"We have three weeks left in Spring Training to sort the roster out," said Black, "and these guys will be on the mend, getting ready to join us at some point during the season."
It's a season the Rockies hope will be worth remembering, even if they might like to forget the past couple of weeks.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com.