02/14/2013 6:45 PM ET
Volstad optimistic for turnaround in Colorado
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- All right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad could do was work out this winter as his career went nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
The Cubs released Volstad after he went 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA in a year that saw him spend significant time in Triple-A. The Royals signed Volstad in October, but dropped him in November. Finally, Volstad joined the Rockies last month on a Minor League contract with a salary of $1.5 million if he makes the Majors.
The last two years have been difficult for Volstad, who went 12-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 30 starts for the Marlins in 2010 but is 8-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 50 starts since. But at just 26, he reports he is healthy and full of hope with a new team that also has fallen on hard times recently. Volstad is a candidate for the starting rotation.
"I hit the gym really hard this offseason, kind of for that reason," Volstad said. "It was kind of awkward, not being in a spot and not knowing where you're going to end up. Ending up here is definitely the best thing that could've happened. I'm excited about it.
"Some of these guys are a couple years younger than I am -- I turned 26 last September, but I feel older than that for some reason, for the roller coaster I've been on. So far I fit in really well here. These guys are an awesome group, and you can tell they've been together for a while, push each other and hopefully are going to be here for a while."
What happened to Volstad, whom the Marlins traded to the Cubs in the deal for pitcher Carlos Zambrano, before last season? There has been talk of a shoulder issue, but Volstad has been a wire-to-wire starter each year -- granted, some of that time was in the Minors -- and reports no pain.
"It's a matter of relaxing and not overdoing it -- naturally throw downhill," said Volstad, who is listed at 6-foot-8. "The times when you're trying to make it move or trying to throw it too hard or you're thinking about being perfect where you need to throw the ball, you tighten up a little bit, you try too hard, you tense up and you're not going to have that natural whip in your arm or mechanics."
It could help that Mark Wiley, the Marlins' pitching coach when Volstad broke into the Majors in 2008, is the Rockies' new director of pitching operations and will be around throughout Spring Training.
"Being able to recall what we worked on then and what he remembered, I think it might be a little bit of an advantage, just in communication," Volstad said.
Rox acquire infielder Brignac in trade with Rays
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies, wanting another infield option with the versatility to play shortstop, acquired infielder Reid Brignac from the Rays on Thursday for cash and a player to be named.
Brignac, 27, a left-handed hitter, has compiled a .227 career batting average with 10 doubles and 67 RBIs in 256 games from 2009-12. His best year was 2010, when he hit .256 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs.
Brignac joins a group competing for backup infield spots that also includes Jonathan Herrera and DJ LeMahieu. Brignac is out of Minor League options, meaning he can't be sent down to the Minors without being exposed to other clubs via waivers. The Rays had recently designated Brignac for assignment.
To clear room on the 40-man Major League roster, the Rockies placed left-handed pitcher Edwar Cabrera on the 60-day disabled list with a left shoulder impingement.
Cabrera, who has racked up high strikeout totals in the Minors, made two starts for the Rockies last year, going 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA. Cabrera became ill during the winter in the Dominican Republic, and the ensuing delay in his throwing program led the Rockies to make the move.
Weiss values versatility in Rox batting order
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Asked if he had begun putting together his batting order, new Rockies manager Walt Weiss answered: "About 65 or 70 of them."
Since being hired in November, Weiss has discussed the value of versatility and is willing to ask players to be prepared to be flexible when it comes to a lineup spot.
Realistically, center fielder Dexter Fowler in the leadoff spot, left fielder Carlos Gonzalez hitting third and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki batting cleanup are expected to be constants. Beyond that, there could be much tweaking.
Second baseman Josh Rutledge's speed and his ability to handle the bat and third baseman/first baseman/catcher Jordan Pacheco's inside-out swing make them candidates for the second spot. How Weiss employs slugger types Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario, and where he places veteran first baseman Todd Helton, could be fluid.
"The thing I like is we've got some athletes, and we've got some versatile guys," said Weiss, whose willingness to be creative with his lineup is an offshoot from playing for Tony La Russa with the Athletics early in his career. "There's a nice combination of speed and power, and guys that are professional hitters. We'll mess around a little bit.
"There will be some moving parts in the lineup. When we start up, we may fall into patterns, but it comes down to communicating with guys. If there's something a little different, I'll mention it to them."
Weiss said he is open to looking at Rosario in the fifth position, where Helton has hit in recent years. Rosario hit 28 home runs as a rookie last year. Weiss said he has no qualms about putting a catcher at such a prime spot in the order, even though catchers have regular days off and the lineup may have to be shifted to accommodate that when he's not playing.
Torrealba hopes to stick in reunion with Rockies
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Many around the Rockies believe it's more than a coincidence that their 2007 World Series trip and their return to the postseason in 2009 occurred with Yorvit Torrealba as their primary catcher.
Some club officials have privately said it was a mistake to let Torrealba -- a firebrand who stands out on a reserved roster -- leave as a free agent after the 2009 season. He joined the Padres in 2010 and helped them to unexpected contention before they fell short. Torrealba also made a World Series trip with the Rangers in 2011.
Now Torrealba, who bounced to Texas, Toronto and Milwaukee last season, has a chance to reunite with the Rockies and hopefully help with a turnaround. Torrealba, 34, is back with the club under a Minor League contract.
"I didn't want to leave in the beginning," Torrealba said. "I decided I wanted to be back here, hopefully end my career here.
"I missed these guys, too. Keep in mind they're awesome in this clubhouse -- [Todd] Helton, 'Tulo,' [Troy Tulowitzki] all the guys, 'CarGo' [Carlos Gonzalez]. But I've got to make the team."
The Rockies have back their two catchers from last season, second-year man Wilin Rosario and veteran Ramon Hernandez, as well as versatile infielder Jordan Pacheco, who caught on a few occasions last year and is in camp with the catchers now.
Rosario's power has made him the incumbent starter, but he struggled defensively and that could reduce his playing time behind the plate. An increased number of Interleague games could allow the Rockies to use him as a designated hitter at American League parks.
Hernandez faces durability questions after missing considerable time last year with left hand and left hamstring injuries, and Pacheco could be needed at his other positions. If Torrealba plays well in camp, it could open the possibility of trading Hernandez to fill other needs.
If Torrealba makes the Rockies, he will have to become accustomed to the backup role. In between the team's playoff appearances, Torrealba battled shoulder problems and Chris Iannetta took over as catcher in 2008. The Rockies' original plan under then-manager Clint Hurdle was to move Torrealba to a backup role in 2009, but after Jim Tracy took over as manager, Torrealba played his way into the starting role.
"Obviously, you're getting older, you don't move the same, you don't hit the same, all you can do is just teach young guys -- that's how you become as a backup catcher," he said. "I never consider myself a backup because I really believe I can do the job playing every day. But there's going to be a year where I have to do it, no matter what. Maybe this is it, this is the year to do it."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.