For Rockies, the best bench ever?
The Denver Post
PEORIA, Ariz. – Jim Tracy was talking like a drill sergeant the other day in his Hi Corbett Field office: Left, right, left-right-left. Left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. The Rockies’ bench is loaded with both, from Jason Giambi and Seth Smith to Miguel Olivo, Ryan Spilborghs and Melvin Mora.
“Sitting there with a left-handed card of Smith and Giambi and a right-handed card of Olivo and Spilborghs . . . whew!” Tracy said. “You get into that predicament when you’re on the other side of the field and you’re picking and choosing bullpen members.
“I’ve got two bullets to fire sitting on my bench. You want a righty? I’ve got a pretty good left-handed hitter for you. You want a lefty? We’ve got a pretty good right-handed hitter for you. It’s hard to manage against that, really hard.”
The five backups who project to open the season would give the Rockies arguably the strongest bench in franchise history. Did we say arguably? Good luck finding anyone who would argue the point.
“On paper it is,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “Based on versatility and experience, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”
The cast of five – it’s conceivable, but unlikely that Eric Young Jr. could earn a utility job – includes a former American League MVP (Giambi), a two-time all-star (Mora), an outfielder who finished third in the majors in RBIs in 2009 among players with fewer than 350 at-bats (Smith) and a catcher (Olivo) who hit 23 home runs, three more than the Rockies’ franchise record for the position.
It’s no coincidence that the Rockies were able to assemble such a talented cast. File it under stuff happens when you make the playoffs twice in a span of three seasons. The franchise’s success, combined with Tracy’s steady hand and the front office’s growing reputation for treating players fairly, has turned Denver into a destination stop for role-playing veterans.
“It’s like a family here,” said Mora, who brought five gloves to spring training in anticipation of playing every position on the field but pitcher, catcher and first base. “When I talked to Tracy, he was honest with me from the beginning. He told me, ‘You can help us everywhere.’