Catcher Iannetta’s bat a bonus for Rockies |

Catcher Iannetta’s bat a bonus for Rockies

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) ” Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta came up as a defensive presence, but the Rockies are now relying more on his power.

The numbers show why: He drove in 65 runs in 2008, the most ever by a Rockies catcher.

“He is earning his way,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. “He has worked really hard and very diligently. He has made some dramatic improvement in his plate presence. He has raw power.”

Iannetta, a fourth-round pick by Colorado in 2004, quickly moved up with ability to manage hurlers and block pitches. Baseball America called him the best defensive catcher in the California League and the 13th best prospect overall in 2005. He has made only one error in 181 career major league games.

His bat took awhile to get going at the major league level, however.

Although his average was only at .264 last season, his production improved, not only with the 65 RBIs but with 42 of his 88 hits going for extra bases, including 18 homers and 22 doubles.

“It was a good feeling being able to contribute last year. Hopefully that continues,” Iannetta said. “I felt a lot more comfortable. I had more consistent playing time. That was the biggest thing. Instead of playing once every five days, I was playing two or three days in a row and getting consistency behind the plate and at the plate.”

Iannetta stayed with the Rockies throughout 2008, the first season he didn’t play a game in the minors.

Being optioned to Colorado Springs in 2007 might have actually been the turning point for Iannetta. He had only one hit in his previous 32 plate appearances when the Rockies sent him down.

“When we had to move him out he handled it very professionally,” Hurdle said. “He probably got better from it. That is always something you draw to and get better from. He didn’t get bitter. He got down there and get better. He has used that experience as self-motivation, where he knows where he has been and he knows where he wants to go.”

Iannetta came back with more pop in his bat, delivering a .390 on-base percentage in 2008.

“I try not to focus on the end results. When I get up to the plate I am just trying to get the barrel on the ball and make solid contact,” Iannetta said, “After that it is out of my control. You can square the ball and hit a line drive and get out or you can get jammed and blow up the bat and get a base hit. I just focus on staying at an even pace.”

The Rockies like what they see, but they’ll miss him for a couple of weeks when he catches for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic starting next week.

Iannetta’s .249 career batting average and defensive skills were just what Team USA coaches wanted, and what the Rockies expect to have when they get him back.

“They don’t give those spots away on USA Team,” Hurdle said. “He has caught some attention in the industry and he has caught out attention.”

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