COL@LAD: Arenado's solo homer cuts the deficit to one

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado exited Saturday's split-squad game against the Indians in the sixth inning after being struck on the left hand by a pitch from Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber.

The Rockies announced at the park that Arenado has a bone contusion, and X-ray's taken later at the club's complex came back negative, leaving Arenado's status as day to day. 

Arenado, who hit a double in each of his first two at-bats against Cleveland, was hit by Kluber's pitch with no outs and two runners on base in the top of the sixth. After a brief chat with Rockies head trainer Keith Dugger on the field, Arenado left the game and was replaced by pinch-runner Angelys Nina.

In 16 Cactus League games this spring, the 22-year-old Arenado has hit .341 (14-for-41) with seven extra-base hits. Last season, the third baseman hit .267 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs in 133 games for Colorado, earning the National League Gold Glove Award at his position as a rookie.

Blackmon, Dickerson battling for outfield role

CHC@COL: Blackmon launches a walk-off homer to right

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-handed-hitting outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are linked, even if they were miles from one another Saturday.

They're competing for the same roster spot, which entails semi-regular starts, likely from the leadoff spot, in a center-field tandem with right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs. The one who isn't picked likely will be sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs for regular starts. It appears Brandon Barnes, a right-handed hitter and strong defender, has the inside position for the fifth outfield job.

On a split-squad Saturday, Blackmon started a home Spring Training game and went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against the Mariners while Dickerson went 3-for-6 with two RBIs against the Indians in Goodyear. In a sense, it was good for both. They're going for the same job, but the reality is all either can do now is prepare for the season.

More importantly, they have to stay sharp during the season, since playing time and even being in the Majors at a given moment is dependent on it.

"I'm not trying to be just a guy who is on the team," Blackmon said. "I want to be a really good player. That's what I'm working toward."

Dickerson said, "They know exactly what I can do. They know exactly what each one of us that's competing can do over a long season. Spring Training is to get ready for the season. It's not describing the player that we are."

Dickerson has the better spring stats -- .354 to Blackmon's .244. But Blackmon, 26, has an experience edge that is not being discounted. He has a .291 batting average and .321 OBP in 151 Major League games over three seasons, the first two abbreviated by foot injuries. Dickerson, 24, debuted last season and hit .263 with a .316 OBP in 69 games.

Blackmon is a natural center fielder, but Dickerson has made strides in his jumps and routes and looks comfortable.

"People always nagged on me about my defense, but I think I've got a pretty good track record and I can play any position in the outfield -- I have the speed and the tools to play it," Dickerson said.

In the best of worlds, both players will end up helping the Rockies this season. The challenge now is to keep that in mind.

"I want all my teammates to do well," Blackmon said. "I'm not really looking outside of myself. I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing, trying to do the best I can. I'm trying to win games and hope my teammates feel the same way."

Rockies' Wheeler regaining power stroke

COL@OAK: Wheeler extends lead with two-run shot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Tim Wheeler has rediscovered his power and worked his way back into the Rockies' consciousness.

A supplemental first-round Draft pick in 2009, Wheeler hit 33 homers at Double-A Tulsa in 2011 and set career highs in nearly every category. But the power disappeared after he suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand and missed two months in 2012. After he hit .262 with just five homers last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, the Rockies removed him from their 40-man roster in November.

On Saturday afternoon, the left-handed hitting Wheeler's fourth home run of the spring -- a three-run shot -- helped the Rockies to a 14-6 victory over the Indians in Goodyear. Wheeler has hit .395 in 38 at-bats.

Wheeler, 26, realizes he's on the outside looking in for the Opening Day roster, but he's gone from non-roster guy to a viable option to help the big club during the regular season.

"It is good for them to see that and know they can depend on me at some point, but I wasn't pressing at all to make that happen," Wheeler said. "There are not a lot of positives that come from pressing, but definitely negatives. Once you realize that, it's a little bit liberating."

The injury led to some bad habits.

"There was no real pain after it was fixed, but there's a period of time where you're building strength and bat speed, and I probably had a problem trying to create it," Wheeler said. "It's kind of a subconscious thing. It wasn't like I said, 'I'm going to go up and hit a homer.' You know it's there, but when you're trying to create it, it usually goes in the other direction."

Glenallen Hill, Wheeler's manager at Colorado Springs, said Wheeler has let go of unnecessary stress.

"It wouldn't matter if it was here or down in player development, he's come into Spring Training finally able to be himself, and not trying to be a .300 hitter, not trying to not strike out, not trying to hit for power," Hill said. "He's totally committed to getting his swing off. What happens after he gets his swing off, just happens. He's freed up in his mind."

Rockies manager Walt Weiss is aware of how far Wheeler has come.

"I'm really proud of the way he's transformed himself," Weiss said. "This guy was a first-round pick and fell on some tough times. He's battled through some things."

 

Rox backstop Williams knows 'D' is calling card

Jackson Williams was in the Giants' system prior to this season.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies quietly built catching depth during the offseason, and one of the quietest moves was picking up a strong defender in Jackson Williams, a former Giants Minor Leaguer.

Williams, 27, who was close to making the Giants' team last season, entered play Saturday batting .278 with two doubles and three RBIs this spring as a non-roster Rockies camper. While he isn't known for his offense -- a .219 career average with no year above .247 in the Minors -- he has lived up to his reputation as an above-average "catch-and-throw guy."

The Rockies haven't made a decision between Jordan Pacheco and Michael McKenry for the backup job to Wilin Rosario. But the most roster-friendly move would be for Pacheco to break with the club, since he is out of Minor League options. Then the Rockies can option McKenry to Triple-A Colorado Springs to work with Williams. Such a move could give the Rockies four catchers that they'd feel comfortable with in a Major League game, with the gifted Tommy Murphy working at Double-A Tulsa and trying to force his way into the big league picture.

Williams went from being on one team with an offensive catcher (the Giants' Buster Posey) to another (Rosario). But he embraces the fact defense is his calling card, and believes that trait will eventually give him his shot.

"When I got drafted [supplemental first round by the Giants out of the University of Oklahoma in 2007], catch-and-throw was always my forte," he said. "I've known that from the beginning, and it's what I take pride in.

"Buster is a once-in-a-lifetime player. Sure it was a little frustrating, because I want to play, but watching him, there were things I learned. He was drafted after me, but there are things you can learn from everybody. Same thing for Wilin -- the kind of year he had at the plate, there are things I can watch and learn."

Worth noting

• With two out in the top of the fifth inning of the 4-3 victory over the Mariners on Saturday, Weiss made a trip to the mound and called his infielders into a conference. The manager usually goes out for a pitching change, but in this case, there wasn't even a reliever throwing.

It turned out catcher Wilin Rosario had barked at plate umpire Stu Scheurwater on a pitch from lefty Brett Anderson that was called a ball. The mound conference continued until Scheurwater came to the mound, where Weiss had a chance to express his opinion.

"We had a little conversation out there," Weiss said, smiling. "I don't want to go into it too much, but that was the issue. I was trying to figure out what was going on back there."

Anderson, who bobbed and weaved around 12 hits to hold the Mariners to three runs in six innings, said, "There were a couple borderline pitches, and it was just the manager and catcher sticking up for me. Being new to the organization, that's always good to see that your players behind you and your manager are going to have your back. I witnessed that firsthand.

"I don't want to be in that situation where they have to do that, but there are times it needs to be done."

• With each strong outing, the issue with Rockies righty reliever Chad Bettis is not so much whether he'll make the team but how late in the game will he pitch. On Saturday, Bettis entered with the score tied in the ninth and struck out two in a perfect inning, and he is scoreless in eight spring outings. The Rockies won the game in the bottom of the inning.

Bettis, who turns 25 on April 26, went 1-3 with a 5.64 ERA as a starter and a reliever last season. But Weiss said he is not surprised at Bettis' rapid development.

"You never know, but absolutely I thought this guy had a chance to rise quick," Weiss said. "He's got the mentality. He's got the stuff. It was just a matter of getting his weapons in order. That's where he's at. He knows how to attack hitters. It's not just a random assortment of pitches."

• Non-roster outfielder Jason Pridie continued his strong spring with a double and a triple on a 3-for-4 day Saturday vs. Seattle. The double won the game in the ninth. Pridie, who has played in the Majors with the Twins, Mets, Phillies and Orioles, has hit .361 this spring and should provide depth.

"Defensively, he's a good outfielder, gets really good jumps, takes good routes and has life in the bat," Weiss said. "I didn't know much about him, quite frankly, coming into camp. I saw some video on him. But I had gotten word through the grapevine. Some people that I know that have been around him said this guy can hit. He's an interesting player."

• The Rockies on Saturday optioned right-handed reliever Rob Scahill to the Minors, and sent non-roster right-handers Brooks Brown and Greg Burke, outfielder-infielder Matt McBride, first baseman Ben Paulsen and infielder Rafael Ynoa to Minor League camp.