SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Usually, if you mention the word “abuse” to a pitcher, he thinks of appearances in many different roles and the pain that goes with it, then he heads in the other direction. Miguel Batista just laughs and signs the contract.
Batista, who turns 42 on Feb. 19, is with the Colorado Rockies under a Minor League contract, hoping to earn a chance to do the same thing he has done during a lengthy Major League career, which began in 1992 and has had him in the Majors every season since 1996.
“This is what they told me,” a smiling Batista said. “I’m supposed to be the middle guy who eats up a lot of innings. They have a young pitching staff. They actually told me they needed somebody to take the abuse of throwing two innings today, one inning tomorrow, rest a day, two the next day. They know I’ve been doing this for many years.”
It’s the second straight year the Rockies have brought an ageless wonder to camp. Last year, it was Jamie Moyer, who began the season in the starting rotation but could not squeeze much quality out of a 49-year-old arm. In a way, Batista, who went 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA in 35 games (five starts) with the Mets and Braves last season, is every bit as impressive. A starter has a routine involving four games off between appearances. Batista is in his third decade of flowing freely between starting and relief roles.
“It’s something a lot of people ask me, but I can’t even tell you how I do it,” Batista said. “I know a guy who keeps the numbers who tells me I’m probably the best they’ve ever seen do that. The Yankees had Ramiro Mendoza, but after five years or so, he blew out. I cannot tell you how, but I know I can. That’s all I know.”
Weiss emphasizing double plays to his pitchers
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — New Rockies manager Walt Weiss admitted he has to learn his pitchers, who began working out with catchers on Tuesday afternoon. But Weiss was certain that the pitchers know where he stands.
Weiss spent a long big league career with the Athletics, Rockies, Marlins and Braves as a shortstop. Suffice to say, the double play was his favorite play. It still is.
“There’s nothing real revolutionary; a lot of organizations talk about the same thing,” said Weiss, who worked as a special front-office assistant with the Rockies from 2002-2008 before taking time off to be with family and coach his children. “But we’re really going to try to drive home the fact that we’re going to put the ball on the ground as a pitching staff. Good things happen when you do that.
“We’re going to get real good at turning double plays. Our infielders are going to do it well. Everything we do defensively is going to be geared toward turning double plays, turning two outs with a pitch. Pitchers will have to be able to identify how they do that individually.”
Weiss’ first day began with a meeting with pitchers and catchers during which he presented what he called a “clear vision” of his ground-ball-oriented managing philosophy. Beyond that, he operated quietly. Bench coach Tom Runnells organized the drills and the practice plan, and Weiss made it a point to allow the pitching coaches freedom.
Weiss said one of his biggest tasks is becoming acquainted with the players, some of whom he had never met or barely knew before arriving at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. That’s especially true of the pitchers.
“I’ve had to do a lot more homework on the pitching staff than the position players,” Weiss said. “Several of the position players, I’ve been around before — a few of the pitchers. That’s something I’m focusing on, spending some time and getting to know some of these guys.”
Fowler says contract agreement went smoothly
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Center fielder Dexter Fowler said Tuesday that the new two-year, $11.6 million contract he agreed to Monday happened smoothly, after he talked to Rockies chief baseball officer Dan O’Dowd about his role in the direction of the team.
“Dan and I talked about the plans, and he mentioned those to my agent,” Fowler said. “We’re going to keep building and try to make this team better.”
Fowler hit a career-best .300 and put up his best numbers in a number of offensive categories, plus he is a respected defender.
“Every day I try to go out and build on the day before and just continue to work hard,” Fowler said. “This is a platform for me. I believe God has put me here for a reason. I’ve just got to go out and keep working.”
Friedrich not concerned about back issue
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rockies left-hander Christian Friedrich’s rookie year in 2012 was shortened by a stress fracture of the lower back. Back issues are slowing the beginning of his ’13, but he said there is no reason to be alarmed.
“One morning two weeks ago, I woke up to go play catch … it wasn’t the same pain, just something where I had to take a step back so it could come down,” said Friedrich, who went 5-8 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts last season before being shelved. “The past five days, I’ve felt much better. I think I’m just a little slowed down. I’ll miss a bullpen or two at the most.”
Also, lefty Edwar Cabrera, who pitched well in the Minors but was schooled to the tune of 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA in two Major League starts, and non-roster lefty Erick Threets are on slightly delayed schedules because of issues that arose during their physicals.
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