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Colton Welker promoted from Triple-A following recovery from eye infection that shortened his Spring Training

Patrick Lyons Avatar
April 19, 2022

Colton Welker was poised to start 2022 with a bang after his first normal offseason in nearly three years. 

Then, life happened in the form of a bacterial virus in his right eye that sidelined him through the final week of Spring Training.

“I was definitely bummed, but it’s just the hand I was dealt,” Welker said of his time away from in-game action. “(There) was nothing I could really do about that.”

Welker takes prescription eye drops six times a day now. He used the same ones last season, but stopped at some point. “I’m just gonna stay on them,” the 4th round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft said Sunday morning.

With activity limited to work in the cage and ground balls, Welker didn’t face any live pitching during his recovery.

Once he did on April 7 for Triple-A Albuquerque, the 24-year-old appeared to be back to normal. His slash line of .375/.447/.594 in eight games with the Isotopes included five multi-hit performances, two home runs and seven runs batted in.

Welker was recalled from the Isotopes on Sunday once a right hand contusion necessitated a stint on the injured list for utility man Garrett Hampson.

On Saturday night, Welker lifted a solo shot for the ‘Topes while playing third base. A call was place around 11:30pm letting Welker know his services would be needed on the Rockies’ roster the next day and, at 6:30am, he was headed for Denver. 

Welker’s goal was to drop about 15 pounds in the offseason to be more of an athletic version of himself. He sounded the same confident self at Coors Field as he did at Salt River Fields a month ago.

“Just walking in here, I feel 100% more confident and comfortable,” he shared in mid-March. “So that’s definitely a huge step and just the beginning process of this. I’m just just gonna do whatever the team needs me to do to win games.”

Sep 24, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Colton Welker (4) fields the ball in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It remains to be seen how Bud Black will utilize his latest offensive addition. Considering it took until the eight day of the season for Alan Trejo to appear in his first game, the patience may need to be the key characteristic. 

Connor Joe is spending time at first base and left field while 1B C.J. Cron has enjoyed a few games as the team’s designated hitter. Ryan McMahon has been given a day off his feet at third base once already. It’s been two games for Kris Bryant in left field: once at DH on Sunday and once as a true off-day on Monday. 

All of these players are pieces to the same puzzle that include the 6’1” corner infielder.

“First base is completely natural now,” Welker said of his defensive abilities away from his natural position at the hot corner. “I consider first and third pretty equal now.”

Depending on whether he can be the same .310 hitter he’s shown during five-plus seasons in the minor leagues, there’s even a chance Welker could be utilized at DH. 

“That’s just another spot for guys in my position trying to find a (defensive) position,” he said of the universal designated hitter. “I think it’s good for everybody. It’s a little dangerous for the pitchers to be up there hitting. I think their job is to pitch and I think our job is to hit so I think that’s just how it should be.”

One of the biggest adjustments Welker needed to make in 2021 was to the altitude of ABQ and the Mile High City.

Following the cancelation of minor league baseball in 2020 and an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, he was thrust into playing time at 5,312 ft above sea level in New Mexico and 5,280 ft in Colorado. 

“You definitely got to warm your body up more. You definitely have to stretch more,” Welker said of managing the challenging environs. “You have to take better care because your recovery is shortened. Your body kind of aches every day. You feel every little thing.”

Between his rehab assignments and stops at altitude, Welker was only able to notch 179 plate appearances last year. Including another 38 to start this year isn’t much in total since the end of the 2019.

But Welker feels he’s ready and the Rockies think the same. Now we all get to find out if they’re right.

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