Vets, prospects spend offseason near Scottsdale

'Disneyland of Spring Training facilities' provides home for several Rockies

Vets, prospects spend offseason near Scottsdale

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder/first baseman Ben Paulsen calls the team's training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, "Disneyland of Spring Training facilities." He can also call it a second home.

Paulsen is one of a growing number of Rockies living in Scottsdale year-round. The players do their offseason training at the facility and have access to coaches and strength and conditioning staff. Paulsen's native Atlanta is nice -- and Colorado second baseman DJ LeMahieu and outfielder Charlie Blackmon still train there -- but he has figured Scottsdale is the place to be.

"The love of that area of Arizona started in 2011, when I started playing in the Arizona Fall League -- the weather in September, October and November," Paulsen said. "Then my parents came to Arizona, and they fell in love with it. And I'm fortunate because a couple of years ago, I met a woman, and she made the move that much easier."

Before the complex opened in 2011, many players -- Major Leaguers and prospects -- lived in Denver to train at Coors Field in the winter. The club has development programs for prospects and medical mini-camps for those coming off injuries.

But this winter, no Rockies lived in Denver. Established pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa and veteran first baseman Justin Morneau live in the area, as do roster hopefuls Paulsen and outfielder/first baseman Kyle Parker, as well as several Minor Leaguers not on the big league radar.

Outlook: Chacin, SP, COL

Late last season, Colorado converted right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis from reliever to starter. After five late-season starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Bettis moved from Lubbock, Texas, to Scottsdale to continue the transition.

"I worked with [Triple-A Albuquerque pitching coach] Darryl Scott, and [Rockies pitching coach] Steve Foster and [bullpen coach] Darren Holmes got here about a week ago," Bettis said. "You can't beat the facility, living here and working out every day."

The facility has helped with injury rehab, as well. Right-hander Eddie Butler, who dealt with shoulder issues last year, spent all but four weeks of the offseason in Scottsdale. Colorado also told Chacin, coming off a rotator cuff issue that limited him to 11 starts last year, they'd rather he stay in Scottsdale than pitch winter ball in Venezuela.

Top Prospects, Butler, COL

"It's all about baseball," said Parker, who is competing with fellow Clemson product Paulsen for a roster spot. "This is your job, your profession. You need to be out here and putting in work."

The Major League minimum salary was $500,000 last year ($507,500 this year), prorated for each day in the Majors. So guys who have been called up can afford it easier, as can some high Draft picks who saved bonus money.

Butler, a supplemental first-round Draft pick in 2012 who received 58 days' Major League service time last year and received a $1 million signing bonus, understands that it can be tough for Minor Leaguers who haven't made the Majors and didn't receive big Draft bonuses.

"Right now I'm living with family, but for the first half of the season, I was living in a hotel and racking up bills -- $80, $90, $100 a night adds up real quick," Butler said. "Some Minor League guys who are from here work out from 8-12, then go to a job at an athletic store or do coaching on the side. But you've got to take the hit now to get to where you want to be."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.