Caution in Colorado
Just six games into the 2019 season and already there will be tough sledding ahead in the NL West for the Colorado Rockies. No, it’s not just the Dodgers, who have come out with bats blazing through the first six games (17 HR .298 BA). But rather on Friday night, the Rockies felt the sting of the injury bug as Daniel Murphy suffered a fracture to his left index finger. Murphy is the Rockies’ only major offseason acquisition and he will sit out four to six weeks. The Rockies now must turn to a group of unproven youngsters and a veteran to fill the void.
For manager Bud Black it is decision time. Whether to go with the hot bat or platoon at either position on the right side of the infield. Black and the Rockies have to weather the storm until Murphy returns. The schedule for April features National League powerhouses like the Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Brewers, and Dodgers. A tough gauntlet to navigate for sure with or without Murphy in the lineup.
Mark Reynolds signed a minor league deal with the Rockies this offseason and could be the answer at first base. He is two years removed from the 2017 season in which he posted 30 HR and 97 RBIs. Defensively, he plays a solid first base that will help maintain Black’s comfort level. His inconsistencies at the plate and strikeouts are certainly cause for concern. However, his power from the right side can catch a hot streak and Reynolds has the capability to impact several games.
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Ryan McMahon is also in the mix to rent time at first base in Murphy’s absence. McMahon entered 2019 battling speedster Garrett Hampson at second base. Now, Black will look to him to also fill the void at first base. McMahon has experience playing several infield positions and his left-handed bat will be inserted in the lineup more often than Reynolds. The opportunity for significant playing time is there for him, and the Colorado fans have been waiting to see on the field.
Pat Valaika joins the roster after being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque. Similar to McMahon, Valaika is utility player with a streaky bat. In 2017, he was a sparkplug off the bench as he led the majors with 16 pinch-hit RBIs. However, 2018 was not as kind as he struggled with a .156 BA in only 122 at-bats. He is fresh off the heels of an impressive spring training, hoping to parlay his Cactus League success into the regular season. Potentially “Patty Barrels” can impact the entire season, not just the time missed by Murphy.
Although it might be too soon to classify the month of April as shaping a season, it’s fairly close to that for the Rockies. After struggling in the state of Florida to start the season, they arrive back to Coors Field and the energy from their fans. If the Rockies hope to contend in the NL West they can’t wait much longer to wake up the bats. The next few weeks will determine which player or players will emerge with Murphy sidelined.