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Almonte making strong early impression

Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies put a pair of good pitching performances together to earn a 9-3 win over the D-backs on Wednesday.

Starting pitcher Tyler Anderson threw two innings of one-run ball in his spring debut. He allowed a pair of hits, but induced inning-ending double plays in each frame, including a comebacker to the mound on a cutter to Jake Lamb in the first.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies put a pair of good pitching performances together to earn a 9-3 win over the D-backs on Wednesday.

Starting pitcher Tyler Anderson threw two innings of one-run ball in his spring debut. He allowed a pair of hits, but induced inning-ending double plays in each frame, including a comebacker to the mound on a cutter to Jake Lamb in the first.

View Full Game Coverage

Yency Almonte followed Anderson, making a case to be considered in the first tier of reinforcements for the starting rotation. His efficiency and focus on glove side command earned him three scoreless, no-hit innings in his second Cactus League outing.

"He threw the ball great," manager Bud Black said of Almonte. "Good velocity with location. Good hard slider. Had some funny swings against big leaguers, which was nice to see."

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Almonte will likely start in Triple-A Albuquerque, but he showed the potential to be one of the two or three Triple-A starters ready to jump into the five-man big league rotation when needed.

"He's inching closer to that group of seven or eight guys," Black said. "It can happen fast when you're in Triple-A."

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Closer to first

Ryan McMahon may be in a position battle with the Rockies, but his only competition seems to be himself. So far, McMahon is winning. He's hitting .500 (7-for-14) with three doubles and three RBIs in four games through Wednesday's Cactus League action.

"He's getting closer," Black said. "There are indicators that he's getting closer to [handling big league pitching]. A very good Double-A season. Went to Triple-A and kept that going."

McMahon started his 2017 season at Double-A Hartford, where he hit .326 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 49 games. He played 70 games at Triple-A Albuquerque, hitting .374 with 14 homers and 56 RBIs. He struggled last season in a pair of stints with the Rockies, going 3-for-19 (.158) with a double and an RBI.

"Now, the challenge for him this spring is he'll be getting a lot of playing time," Black said. "We'll watch him to see bat speed, to see swings, to see approach, to see how he plays his defense at first, to see how he plays his defense at third."

The battle is essentially McMahon's to lose. He's penciled in as the everyday first baseman, with outfielder Ian Desmond taking his reps at first to back him up. Wednesday, McMahon made his first spring start at the hot corner with third baseman Nolan Arenado resting, and Desmond handled first.

Video: Ryan McMahon ready for bigger role in '18

Closer to third

Lest anyone panic about Charlie Blackmon buckling under the pressure of hitting third in the Rockies' Cactus League lineup, Black made it sound closer to a done deal that the power-hitting leadoff man will drop down in the order to maximize his production.

"We feel good about Charlie anywhere," Black said. "But the way our roster might be constructed there at the end, it might make the most sense for him to hit third with the potential of a couple guys on in front of him. Last year, getting 100 RBIs from the leadoff position, it's a pretty impressive year when you think about the bottom half of the order. It doesn't happen a lot for a guy who leads off. [The bottom of the order] gave Charlie some opportunities, and Charlie delivered. Things will become more clear as we move through March, but it might make sense to hit Charlie third."

Which righty can throw two?

Do-everything lefty Chris Rusin is the Rockies' main relief pitcher for more than three outs, but depending on how he is used, it would be advantageous to have a righty who can handle lengthened roles. Who would that be? Black will prepare for the situation.

"You might see Scott Oberg or Carlos Estevez when he gets back on the horse [Estevez is nursing a left side injury] potentially get stretched out to 40 pitches or so," Black said of his Cactus League plans. "And don't discount the starting pitcher group that, in the event that one of those guys doesn't make the rotation, we still could see one of those guys in the bullpen like we did last year when we started the season with German Marquez in the bullpen."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Colorado Rockies, Ryan McMahon