Notes: Rodgers' 1st spring HR; Chi Chi deals

March 5th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rockies infielder Brendan Rodgers is regaining that warm, familiar feeling of being a trusted lineup member. And on Thursday, the feeling of hitting a home run returned.

A former top prospect finally getting a clear opportunity, Rodgers launched an opposite-field solo homer to right-center in the sixth inning of a 9-9 Cactus League tie with the Mariners at Peoria Stadium.

“It's been a long time coming -- definitely felt so good to get one on the board,” Rodgers said.

Drafted No. 3 overall in 2015, out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High School, Rodgers didn’t homer before the end of last year's Spring Training was canceled, nor did he in seven regular-season games. His last homer came on May 13, 2019, for Triple-A Albuquerque.

Rodgers’ Major League playing time in 2019 and '20 was irregular and curtailed by a right shoulder injury each year. But the trade of star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals has given the 24-year-old Rodgers a true chance this spring.

The preferred plan is for Rodgers to play second base, with Ryan McMahon moving to third. But Rodgers played third on Thursday.

“I’m definitely getting my shot more this year, getting at-bats, playing all over the place,” Rodgers said. “It's definitely a confidence booster. I mean, it's Spring Training, it's early, but you know, I’m taking those good, quality swings and those good, quality at-bats.”

Rodgers found his comfort during an uncomfortable moment. In Sunday's Cactus League opener, he fielded a grounder hit by the D-backs’ Ketel Marte, the first batter of the spring, and threw the ball wide to first base. An unsure player might have felt the need to make up for the error later.

Not Rodgers, not this time. He reacted with a quip to first baseman Josh Fuentes.

“I said, ‘Well, got that one out the way right away,’” Rodgers said.

Manager Bud Black sees a more confident and relaxed player in Rodgers, one who pulled off an impressive swing on a breaking ball against Seattle left-hander Anthony Misiewicz for a homer.

“He wants to show that he’s the guy,” Black said. “That was a really good swing, the home run the opposite way. That was a bullet, well hit, and he had a couple nice plays at third.”

González stakes a claim
With a rotation spot available if Antonio Senzatela’s slight right hamstring strain doesn’t heal before the season starts, Rockies right-hander Chi Chi González dispensed with experimentation and just pitched Thursday.

González, who signed a Minor League contract after getting non-tendered earlier in the winter, threw two scoreless innings against the Mariners by relying on his fastball. It was much different from his first Spring Training appearance on Sunday, when he worked on his offspeed pitches and gave up two runs in one inning against the D-backs.

“I’ve got to pitch as best as I can to get back on that ballclub,” González said. “That’s what I’ve got to attack guys with -- my best stuff -- and take it no different than in-season.”

Senzatela sustained the hamstring injury during conditioning drills on Monday. The hope is he will be ready to start the regular season, but the Rockies have to be ready in case. González and fellow right-handers Dereck Rodríguez and Ryan Castellani are rotation candidates.

From the left
Left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl had a 10.50 ERA in six games when he was optioned to the alternate training site for the final time last season, and he struggled Thursday. He allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning, giving up three straight home runs to Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager and Ty France in the third.

Lefty Ben Bowden, the Rockies' No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, pitched a perfect sixth inning.

“He's a guy that believes in his fastball, he believes in his stuff, and that goes a long way,” Black said.

Lefty Brian Gonzalez rebounded from a tough first spring outing (six runs allowed in two-thirds of an inning against the Dodgers on Monday). He had two strikeouts during a scoreless frame against the Mariners.

Worth noting
• Black said shortstop Trevor Story is scheduled for his first Cactus League action against the Brewers on Friday at Salt River Fields. Story arrived later to camp than he preferred and lost preparation time because he was affected by the winter storm and power outages at his Dallas-area home.

• Austin Gomber is scheduled to go three innings in Friday's start. The left-hander, who came from the Cardinals in the Arenado trade, threw two scoreless innings in his first spring outing against the D-backs on Sunday.