Manager Bud Black had been hearing reports that infielder Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline, was swinging the bat well at the team’s alternate training site. Now he and the coaching staff are getting to see for themselves, with Rodgers in Houston taking batting practice as part of the team’s taxi squad.
Whether this means Rodgers is close to being called up to the active roster is one of several decisions the club is mulling.
Rodgers, 24, debuted last season but struggled through a right shoulder injury, batted .224 in 25 games and underwent surgery on his right labrum in July. He had a solid Summer Camp performance, but the Rockies decided against putting him on their season-opening roster. The right-handed-hitting Josh Fuentes made the team, but he was not used in a game before being sent down to the alternate site when the roster was reduced from 30 players to 28.
“He’ll be with us on the flight back to Denver, and we’re making decisions daily on our roster,” Black said on Tuesday before the finale of a two-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. “But the word is he’s doing very well. [Assistant general manager] Zach Wilson reports that he’s moving great. We’re past the shoulder woes. He feels 100 percent as far as his ability to play short, to play second and make all the throws without any discomfort in the arm, and offensively swinging the bat.”
Second baseman Ryan McMahon, a lefty hitter, entered Tuesday with a .222 batting average, three home runs and 29 strikeouts in 72 at-bats over his first 19 games. He can also play first base. Regular first baseman Daniel Murphy went into Tuesday's game in a 2-for-19 skid.
Rodgers is an option for a roster that could be reshaped.
The upheaval began on Monday, when the club placed catcher Elias Díaz on the restricted list for what it said was a violation of COVID-19 protocol. Díaz was sent home from Houston; as of Tuesday morning, those remaining were deemed healthy under testing protocols, and there is no timetable for Díaz's return. His absence reduces the number of active catchers from three to two (Tony Wolters and Drew Butera).
Right-hander Ashton Goudeau replaced Díaz on the active roster. A starter type, Goudeau is around to “provide multiple innings … 50, 60, 70 pitches if we needed that type of length," per Black.
Righty Jeff Hoffman, who had been the long reliever, shifted into a late-game role (and threw a scoreless eighth in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Astros) with righty Carlos Estévez unavailable after being hit on the back of the right hand by a line drive on Sunday. Estévez has avoided the injured list. Black said there is no timetable for Estévez's return, though he did play catch before Tuesday’s game.
The questions the Rockies face are:
• Will they carry an extra reliever, even when Estévez is deemed healthy enough for game action?
• Do they return to three catchers? If so, do they activate Díaz or call up left-handed-hitting Dom Nuñez, who debuted with 16 games last season and is at the alternate training site? (Another catcher on the Major League roster, Chris Rabago, is on the taxi squad in Houston.)
• Do they add Rodgers in hopes of jolting the offense, and adjust the pitching and/or catching accordingly?
David Dahl was a late scratch from Tuesday's finale at Minute Maid Park with tightness in his lower back. Sam Hilliard started in his place.
Gonzalez scheduled to throw
Right-hander Chi Chi González, who went on the IL with tendinitis in his right biceps after going three innings against the Giants on Aug. 3, was scheduled for a bullpen session at Coors Field on Tuesday. He was replaced in the rotation by Ryan Castellani (0-0, 1.04 ERA), who will make his third start on Wednesday night at home against the Astros.
The quick run-up to the season after the shutdown may have led to the right shoulder strain that has closer Wade Davis on the IL, said Black, who added that Davis is gaining strength but has not been cleared to begin throwing.
Davis converted saves in the final two games of the three-game season-opening series at Texas, but he was not available for two games in Oakland, even though the team was off the day before and the day after the series. Davis was placed on the IL after a messy blown save in the home opener against the Padres.
Davis began the shutdown in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the club trains, then returned to his home in upstate New York and prepared there before Summer Camp. He is one of many veteran pitchers who were injured after restarting the season.
“We, as a coaching staff and pitching staff, tried to prepare our guys to be ready for the season and that intensity of throwing in games at [a higher] count,” Black said. “And for some guys, it's hard to simulate that in intrasquad games.”