DENVER -- The lack of high-profile trades or high-profile free-agent signings is an indication the Rockies are dependent on production from within. But some newcomers are expected to play roles in improving a team that went 66-96 last year.
The Rockies added experience in some key areas -- righty Kyle Kendrick for the starting rotation, Nick Hundley as catcher and Daniel Descalso to the bench. But with new general manager Jeff Bridich having seen and scouted many players during his time as senior player development director, the big additions may be under-the-radar pickups of young, hard-throwing relief pitchers. The Rockies did not acquire any 40-man Major League roster infielders or outfielders.
In the second installment of a series previewing Spring Training 2015, here is a look at some of the Rockies' new additions:
RHP Kendrick: Eight seasons pitching for the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, where the ball leaves real quick, earned Kendrick the opportunity to pitch at Coors Field, where bloopers fall in, balls fly out and runs pile up. However, Kendrick forces ground balls above the MLB average rate, and with three seasons of more than 180 innings, he knows how to battle through tough outings. He's an important addition to the starting rotation on a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
C Hundley: The 31-year-old's ability to handle a staff showed in the quick development of the Padres' staff in recent seasons. More importantly, after being traded to the Orioles last may, Hundley was part of a team that made an unexpected run to a division championship. The experience and the thirst to keep winning appealed to manager Walt Weiss to make the Rockies signed him to a two-year, $6.25 million deal.
INF Descalso: The Rockies have some promising infield bench types in Cristhian Adames and Rafael Ynoa, who followed up their big league debuts with strong performances in the Dominican Republic this winter. But Descalso, a .243 career hitter, provided valuable work for the Cardinals from 2010-14, which means he has done it for playoff teams.
RHP John Axford: A former Brewers closer, he began last season as the Indians' closer but lost the job during a rough stretch at the end of the season's first month. Axford finished the year pitching in important games for the Pirates. Although he is in camp under a Minor League deal, he is expected to be part of the late-inning bullpen as a setup man for LaTroy Hawkins.
RHP Jairo Diaz: In five late-season appearances last season with the Angels, Diaz displayed a 95- to 98-mph fastball. Before that, Diaz struck out 85 -- against 20 walks -- in 64 2/3 combined innings at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels. Diaz, who came in a trade for infielder Josh Rutledge, still has Minor League options, but could be a weapon if he clicks, either in camp or during the season.
RHP David Hale: Obtained from the Braves with fellow righty Gus Schlosser for two Minor League catchers, Hale went 4-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 45 get-your-feet-wet games last season. He did a little of everything, with six starts and 13 games finished. Hale, a ground-ball pitcher, will have a shot at a rotation spot. If he doesn't crack the starting five, he could work out of the bullpen or be depth at the Triple-A level.
RHP Schlosser: A righty who works from a sidearm delivery, Schlosser struggled in his big league debut last year (0-1, 7.64 ERA). But his 1.64 ground-ball outs to fly-ball outs during his 98-game Minor League career (67 starts) could make him useful at Coors Field, in either the rotation or the bullpen. Schlosser was non-tendered by the Braves (who sent him to Colorado, with the righty Hale for two Minor League catchers) and is a non-roster invitee.
RHP Jorge Rondon: The Cardinals didn't have room for Rondon at the end of last season and left him off their 40-man roster, but the Rockies claimed him off waivers, hoping his fastball average of 95.6 mph might be useful to them. At Triple-A Memphis last year, Rondon struck out 51 in 62 1/3 innings and earned 15 saves.
LHP Chris Rusin: Rusin (4-9, 4.97 ERA in 24 games, 23 starts, 2012-14), claimed from the Cubs at the end of last season, struck out 97 in 23 Triple-A starts last season. Rusin made two relief appearances with the Cubs last season.
RHP Rafael Betancourt: Rockies fans know him well. He has 57 saves in a Rockies uniform, but didn't pitch in the Majors last season because he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow late in 2013. Betancourt reports that he is able to throw a breaking ball -- something he couldn't do during a brief comeback at the Minor League level last year.
RHP Jorge Ortega: Ortega, a non-roster invitee, is seeking to control his mid-90s fastball and at times impressive slider. He made 14 appearances for the Tigers from 2012-14 (0-3, 5.74 ERA). After landing in Tigers manager Brad Ausmus' doghouse with four walks and a home run allowed in 1 1/3 innings against the Twins on April 26, he spent the rest of the year in Triple-A.