General Manager Bill Schmidt went to work last Tuesday afternoon when second baseman Brendan Rodgers was removed in the first inning with a dislocated shoulder that would ultimately end his season before it began.

Around the same time, Lucas Gilbreath felt something uncomfortable during a bullpen session that suggested the PRP injections and offseason of necessary rest and recovery would not allow him to avoid Tommy John surgery.

Schmidt picked up the phone and in a few days time, signed LHP Brad Hand to a one-year, $2 million deal and added IF Mike Moustakas on a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp.

“We took a blow with (Lucas) Gilbreath being injured and we felt as though we needed to solidify our bullpen with another left-handed pitcher,” Bud Black said following Sunday’s Cactus League exhibition. “He adds another veteran presence down there with (Dinelson) Lamet, (Pierce) Johnson and (Brent) Suter to go along with (Daniel) Bard. Experienced relievers, you’ve got to have them.”

Paired with waiver wire acquisition of Suter, the addition of Hand gives manager Bud Black two left-handed options in his bullpen that have a combined career earned run average of 3.58 over 1,113 innings.

Oct 29, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brad Hand (52) throws a pitch against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in game two of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado has not had any lefties throw 50 innings or more out of their pen since Jake McGee and Chris Rusin pitched to earned run averages north of 6.00 in 2018. (The previous year, they were both under 4.00 while over 50 innings.)

Hand is no stranger to the National League West. Before appearing in the 2022 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 32-year-old first rose to stardom with the San Diego Padres from 2016-18 where he was a two-time All-Star, thanks to a 2.66 ERA and 46 saves.

During those nearly three seasons with the Padres, Hand made eight appearances and gave up just one earned run (1.23 ERA). He walked one batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out Charlie Blackmon to earn the win for the Phillies against the Rockies on April 20 of last year. If all goes well for the 32-year-old, his deal could be worth as much as two years, $11.5 million.

Moustakas has less of a recent track record of success spending much of his last three seasons on the injured list with the Cincinnati Reds, but the three-time All-Star is feeling more like the 2019 version of himself who batted .254 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI.

Jul 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Mike Moustakas (9) waves to fans after hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

“I wanted to make sure I got healthy and found my way back to 100%,” Moustakas said on Sunday. “About halfway through (the offseason), I was like, ‘Okay, I’m good to go. I still got some years left in me and I know I can still play this game.’”

Moustakas missed time in 2022 with a left calf strain that limited his action to just 78 games and 252 at-bats where he posted a slash line of .214/.295/.345.

With Ryan McMahon set to move back to second base, Moustakas has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster as a third baseman, even if that costs playing time to youngsters like Elehuris Montero and Nolan Jones.

Position Changes

Besides a shift for McMahon to the opposite side of the infield, Kris Bryant is set to move to right field for 2023. The loss of Randal Grichuk to hernia surgery to start the season coupled with the defensive demands of right field over left field (the throw to third base is much further), placing the athletic Bryant in right is a natural fit. 

“It’s definitely kind of a big deal just because left-center there is like a graveyard. It’s huge.” Bryant said of the position change. “Maybe a little less ground to cover in right. Maybe a little bit easier on the body, I don’t know, but I’ve played both and feel pretty comfortable at both.”

Apr 19, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Kris Bryant (23) and center fielder Yonathan Daza (2) and right fielder Randal Grichuk (15) celebrate defeating the Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Though the 31-year-old has played twice as many games at third base than any other position during his eight seasons in the Majors, the move back to the infield is not in the cards. 

“Honestly, I think that would be a pretty tough thing to do. Maybe if I spent the whole offseason getting back into it… Who says we can’t start now and just go through some of it in the season, too,” Bryant shared before adding, “I think there’s guys that can definitely fill in there and a lot of extra infielders, a lot of guys that we brought in that are infielders and can play all over. So, it’s that next man up mentality.”

Center Field Scenarios

Yonathan Daza has been a relatively consistent player through his two full seasons in Colorado. He made strides last season by cutting down his strikeouts, drawing more walks and improving his power. Swimming was the secret last offseason, and Daza did more of that this offseason in hopes of improving upon his slugging.

“I’m going to be happy if I hit more homers this year,” he said when arriving for Spring Training. 

But truly, Daza is more focused on not making outs when at the plate. “I don’t care about hitting first or last. I don’t really care about that. I just want to get on base and score runs for the team.”

Sep 20, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies center fielder Yonathan Daza (2) slides safe at the home plate past San Francisco Giants catcher Joey Bart (21) in the ninth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the metrics suggest the 28-year-old took a small step back defensively, but he remains the Rockies best option in center field going into the season.

Daza loves playing at Coors Field despite the disadvantages he faces in the largest outfield in the National League, not to mention the negative impact it has on those defensive numbers.

“It’s way different,” Daza said of his role defensively in center field. “When we play on the road, I have a lot of chances to throw somebody out at home plate. In Denver, it’s a little bit harder. Obviously, in CF, there’s too much ground to cover. You don’t play shallow enough to get outs (or make plays) at home plate.”

For manager Bud Black, the best version of Daza is still developing. And it’s one that isn’t entirely locked in as a center fielder. 

“I think he’s a little bit better than average when you compare him to other Major League outfielders when it comes to all the tools at any of the positions,” manager Bud Black said of Daza. “I can say that with equal confidence whether it’s left, center or right.”

All of the other outfielders with big league experience are corner outfielders: Bryant, Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Jones, Sean Bouchard and Michael Toglia. Non-roster invitee Harold Castro can play in the corners, too. 

The one name worth watching in March is Brenton Doyle. Added to the 40-man roster in November following a season spent mostly at Double-A Hartford, the 24-year-old from Virginia has extension experience in center field, having spent all but one game in his pro career there.

Feb 24, 2023; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies center fielder Brenton Doyle (79) poses for photo day at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Doyle performed exceptionally well during nine games at Triple-A Albuquerque, slugging three home runs and driving in nine, thanks to a .389 batting average. 

If anything goes wrong with Daza or if Black feels the lineup needs more pop, Doyle will be the Rockies most viable option.

Diamond Details

Through the Rockies’ 11 games of Cactus League play, several players have been among the Spring Training leaders.

  • Zac Veen leads all of MLB with seven stolen bases. The 21-year-old stole 71 bases over 147 games when including his stint in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Kris Bryant has three home runs, most on the team. Only Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners has more.
  • Among qualified players, Cole Tucker leads Colorado with a .964 OPS. That mark is 12th-best this spring.
  • Elias Díaz and Harold Castro are both 7-for-15 with two extra base hits each.