The best case scenario for the Colorado Rockies to reach .500 for the season took a major hit Thursday morning. News on two of their best young players is disappointing as the pair appear headed for a season-long stint on the injury list.

Brendan Rodgers left Tuesday’s Cactus League exhibition against the Texas Rangers after dislocating his left shoulder diving for a ground ball at Surprise Stadium. His shoulder was popped back into place before being aided off the field by Rehab Coordinator Scott Murayama.

“Results were — to put it bluntly — not what we had hoped for. A little bit more damaged (labrum) than we thought,” manager Bud Black said of the injury. “There’s a scenario where he’s potentially headed towards surgery and that will be a timeline where it cuts into a lot of the season.”

The hope was Rodgers would be sidelined for a much shorter period of time. Last summer, teammate Yonathan Daza missed about four weeks and 22 games last summer with a shoulder separation. However, no two injuries to similar areas of the body, like snowflakes, are never alike.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the health of Lucas Gilbreath’s left elbow is not where he or the club had hoped it would be. Following PRP injections late last season and a successful offseason of rest and training, there was confidence he’d be able to resume his role as the Rockies top lefty in the bullpen.

“We’ve kind of had some stuff come up again,” Gilbreath shared with DNVR Rockies. “Right now, there’s a variety of things on the table. I think we’re still kind of optimistic in a sense, but we’re likely looking towards something like Tommy John (surgery) and missing some significant time….”

With zero red flags throughout his winter, Gilbreath felt the discomfort midway through his second bullpen session of the spring. Despite the optimism, the 26-year-old mentioned that he’s likely headed for surgery in the next couple of weeks.

So, What Now?

The loss of a Gold Glove Award winning second baseman — in the first year in which defensivee ability at that position is more vital than any season in the last decade because of the ban on shifting, no less — is a crucial blow to a club looking to build a strong base for future success.

Rodgers, 26, was set for a pivotal season, according to owner Dick Monfort, with three years remaining until his free agency. His role with the club going forward becomes unclear if he indeed misses significant games for the third time in the last four seasons. 

Options for Black are quite bountiful. Alan Trejo is the obvious option to move from his natural position of shortstop over to second base. Non-roster invitees like Cole Tucker and Coco Montes could also be in line to replace Rodgers on the Opening Day roster.

Perhaps the best second baseman with Colorado right now is their starting third baseman Ryan McMahon. In 2021, McMahon was Gold Glove Award finalist at third base while also placing third for most defensive runs saved at second base, according to the Fielding Bible. 

Should McMahon slide to the other side of the diamond, third base becomes open for Elehuris Montero and Nolan Jones, two more young players whose potential as big leaguers is still undetermined.

It’s also logical to think McMahon could shuttle back and forth between the two positions to create better matchups for his manager depending on the handedness of the opposing starting pitcher. For example, when the starter is left-handed, right-handed hitting Trejo could start at second base with McMahon at the hot corner; a right-handed starter could prompt Black to put McMahon at second and insert left-handed hitting Jones at third base.

Black will have a lot of options with a roster of several players possessing position flexibility, but penciling Rodgers into the lineup 140 times a year would have been the preference.

As far as replacing Gilbreath, the hope that the Rockies would have two left-handed relievers in their bullpen for an entire season is still alive. Along with veteran Brent Suter, lefties Logan Allen, Fernando Abad and Ty Blach are three non-roster invitees with potential to break camp later this month.

Allen is the most intriguing name in that trio. Having spent parts of the past four seasons in the Majors with San Diego, Cleveland and Baltimore, Allen is still only 25 years old. Signed by Colorado to a minor league deal last August, he made six starts with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes before converting to reliever this spring.

If throwing left-handed isn’t a requirement for Black, the door is open for 40-man relievers Gavin Hollowell, Nick Mears and Blair Calvo. Others options are in the big league clubhouse at Salt River Fields, too.

For this group of players, more opportunities are typically viewed as positive, but not at the cost of losing cornerstone pieces like Rodgers and Gilbreath to injury.