This time of year is usually a lot busier for Keith Dugger, head athletic trainer for the Colorado Rockies.
After an offseason that allows for more down time than allows in-season, Dugger typically settles into the rhythms of preparing for the grind of a 162-game season in February and March. This year, he’s been a lot more active than anyone could possibly have imagined with injuries coming one after another for the Rockies.
The depth of the roster was one thing that GM Bill Schmidt seemed to address and improved this offseason, especially when comparing the options between this year and last. That depth is getting tested in a major way right now with no less than six players expected to not be ready for Opening Day due to injuries.
With three weeks remaining until Colorado stands along the third base line at Petco Park in San Diego on March 30, there’s still more time for even more last-minute roster moves on the way.
Starting Pitcher (5)
LHP Kyle Freeland, RHP Germán Márquez, RHP José Ureña, RHP Ryan Feltner, LHP Austin Gomber
Other candidates: RHP Peter Lambert, RHP Karl Kauffman, RHP Noah Davis, RHP Connor Seabold, RHP Jeff Criswell, RHP T.J. Zeuch, LHP Josh Rogers
Injuries: LHP Ryan Rolison (rehabbing from shoulder surgery), RHP Antonio Senzatela
The starting rotation is the one place on the Rockies roster that hasn’t experienced any significant injuries since first reporting to Arizona. (Knock on wood, right now, wherever you’re at.)
Germán Márquez had a hiccup with a hamstring strain at the start of camp, forcing him to withdraw from representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. However, manager Bud Black maintains Márquez should be ready to start the year on time. The 28-year-old has made two appearances so far, and most recently threw 47 pitches over three innings against Team Mexico on March 9.
Though Ryan Rolison and Antonio Senzatela are the only ones not ready to start the season on time, this was expected and due to their recovery from season-ending injuries last year. Both men are still on track to return according to the timetables set by club.
The two unanswered questions at this point will be the identity of the Opening Day starter and the sixth-man in the rotation. The setback to Germán’s spring suggests Freeland will be in line for his third and record-setting start for the franchise.
Since it’s inevitable for someone in the rotation to suffer an injury during the season or needs a timeout in the form of a stint on the injured list – a demotion to Triple-A is also an option for starters like Gomber and Feltner – the identity of the sixth-starter is an important one until Senzatela returns as expected some time in May.
Peter Lambert is still a promising starting pitcher despite missing much of the last three seasons due to arm issues. Still only 25 years old, he may have the best upside of the options ticketed for Albuquerque.
RHP Daniel Bard, RHP Dinelson Lamet, RHP Pierce Johnson, LHP Brad Hand, LHP Brent Suter, RHP Justin Lawrence, RHP Nick Mears, LHP Logan Allen
Other candidates: RHP Blair Calvo, RHP Gavin Hollowell, LHP Ty Blach, LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Phillips Váldez, RHP Stephen Jones, RHP Matt Koch
Injuries: RHP Jake Bird (oblique strain), RHP Riley Pint (oblique strain), LHP Lucas Gilbreath (Tommy John surgery – out for the season), RHP Tyler Kinley (Tommy John surgery – expected to return after All-Star break)
The signing of veteran Brad Hand ensures Black will have at least two left-handed relievers in his bullpen following the loss of Lucas Gilbreath to Tommy John surgery.
What’s also on the table is a third lefty option for Black at his disposal. Logan Allen is a non-roster invitee who has put aside his days as a starting pitcher for a roll as a reliever. At only 25, Allen has the potential to give Colorado a trio of strong southpaws for the first time since Jake McGee, Chris Rusin and Mike Dunn combined for 192.2 innings during Black’s first season in Colorado back in 2017.
Elias Díaz, Brian Serven
Other candidates: Willie MacIver, Jonathan Morales
No change in personnel since pitchers and catchers reported to Salt River Fields on February 15. While Drew Romo has received the third-most playing time for catchers on the club behind Elias Díaz and Brian Serven, that’s not an indicator that he’d be next in line should either of the 40-man catchers go down with injury. Willie MacIver is still the next man up on the catching depth chart.
1B C.J. Cron, 2B Ryan McMahon, SS Ezequiel Tovar, 3B Mike Moustakas, 3B/1B Elehuris Montero, SS/2B Alan Trejo
Other candidates: 1B/RF Michael Toglia, IF/OF Cole Tucker, INF Coco Montes
Injuries: 2B Brendan Rodgers (shoulder surgery)
The strength of the infield looked to be the backbone for Colorado this season before a Brendan Rodgers’ backhand dive dislocated his shoulder and wiped out any hope the 2022 Gold Glove Award winner would take another step toward the spotlight.
Not only was it quickly decided that Ryan McMahon would move to second base, but Elehuris Montero and Nolan Jones – the other third basemen on the roster – would need to battle with veteran Mike Moustakas over the opening in the infield.
The 34-year-old Moustakas could begin the year in Triple-A Albuquerque in order to better prepare for the 162-game season, but there’s an even stronger chance Colorado will want to give him an opportunity before permanently turning over the keys to the hot corner to either Montero or Jones for the bulk of the year.
RF Kris Bryant, CF Yonathan Daza, RF/DH Charlie Blackmon, LF/RF/3B Nolan Jones, IF/OF Harold Castro
Other candidates: CF Brenton Doyle, RF/1B Michael Toglia, IF/OF Cole Tucker
Injuries: CF/RF Randal Grichuk (sports hernia surgery), LF/RF Sean Bouchard (left distal biceps rupture)
Despite falling short of acquiring an experienced left-handed hitter the lineup needed to pair with McMahon and Charlie Blackmon, Colorado has made room for two since the turn of the new year with the additions of Moustakas and Harold Castro.
News of Kris Bryant moving to right field doesn’t change up the Opening Day roster. It did mean Sean Bouchard’s big final month of 2022 would be rewarded with a start in his hometown of San Diego; that was until Bouchard exited Wednesday’s game in the first inning with a left distal biceps rupture that will require surgery and put him out of commission for the foreseeable future.
Until Charlie Blackmon is given one more Opening Day start in the field, expect either Nolan Jones or Harold Castro to get the nod in left field later this month in San Diego.
Even if young players like Michael Toglia, Nolan Jones, Brenton Doyle or even Elehuris Montero don’t make the Opening Day roster, it doesn’t mean any number of them – maybe even all – end up with significant at-bats over the course of the season.