Advice from former mate benefits McKenry

Cuddyer tells Rockies catcher to be more aggressive against left-handers

Advice from former mate benefits McKenry

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies catcher Michael McKenry has displayed improvement against left-handed pitching, and he has former teammate Michael Cuddyer to thank.

In 250 career games, the right-handed-hitting McKenry has been more productive against right-handers (.250, .413 slugging percentage) than left-handers (.226, .393 slugging). But before Tuesday's game against the Angels, McKenry, who was not on the lineup card, was 4-for-5 with a double against lefty pitchers this spring. Cuddyer, now with the Mets, taught him to be more aggressive against left-handers.

"I've always been good with guys that throw a little harder," McKenry said. "Guys that manipulate speeds from the left side have always been a little tougher for me.

"I asked Michael Cuddyer about what he did, because he was so good at it. He was more aggressive. I can be a little too patient. The pitch on the black may be the best pitch I get against those guys."

McKenry's strong overall start (.385, .467 on-base percentage) adds to the possibility of the Rockies going into the season with three catchers, with Nick Hundley the regular, McKenry the backup and Wilin Rosario splitting his time at catcher, first base and designated hitter in Interleague Play.

McKenry's .299 batting average and .864 OPS in 29 road games last season isn't forgotten by the Rockies. The inability to produce offense on the road helped lead to the worst road finish in club history (21-60).

Keeping three catchers is one of many things manager Walt Weiss is considering as he puts together the Opening Day roster.

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The Rockies could afford to manipulate the roster because they don't need a fifth starter until April 14, the eighth regular-season game. Also, the Rockies tend to keep eight relievers because home games can burn the staff. However, nine of the first 12 games are on the road.

In addition to the possibility of three catchers, the Rockies will have to determine whether to make room for veteran righty Rafael Betancourt in the bullpen. Betancourt was the Rockies' closer before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013.

Barring injury, righties LaTroy Hawkins, John Axford and Adam Ottavino and lefties Rex Brothers and Boone Logan are set for late-game duty, and lefty Christian Friedrich (who is out of Minor League options) has demonstrated effectiveness as a matchup or middle-relief arm. That's six of either seven or eight spots. Betancourt and righties Brooks Brown, Jairo Diaz and Tommy Kahnle are prime candidates.

Also, the Rockies will be keeping an eye on infielder Rafael Ynoa, who was hitting .263 with three RBIs in 11 spring games entering Tuesday. Daniel Descalso, out with an oblique strain, is expected to be the prime middle infield utility man, but Ynoa could find a spot.

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.