Culberson takes swings, feeling better

Rockies utility infielder hasn't appeared in a game since March 8

Culberson takes swings, feeling better

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies utility infielder Charlie Culberson, who hasn't played since March 8 because of a disk issue in his lower back, took swings on Friday and reported feeling better.

A regular player in the Minors and when the Rockies called him up for infield and outfield duty in 2013 (.293 average in 47 games), Culberson was in the Majors for most of last season but struggled offensively in sporadic playing time (.195 average in 95 games). Culberson dealt with back issues last spring, but he said not being used to irregular playing time was the bigger problem.

"I got out of routine, not playing every day -- I was guilty of it," Culberson said. "It was a new role. I learned a lot, and know what I have to do to keep a good mindset."

The Rockies picked up Daniel Descalso, who's missing action with a right oblique problem, to fill the utility role. But Culberson began camp hitting .364 (4-for-11) with a double. Culberson, Rafael Ynoa and Cristhian Adames are infielders competing for an opportunity with the club, either at the beginning or during the season.

To make himself available, Culberson said he has to do extra preparation before play for the health of his back. The disk issue causes nerve pinching that affects the legs.

• Rockies catcher-first baseman Wilin Rosario returned to the club after missing five days because of the death of his grandfather.

• Outfielder Brandon Barnes, a key right-handed bat off the bench last season, is working through changes to his hitting style, such as a more pronounced leg kick to allow him to use his athletic ability when hitting.

"That was the point of my conversation with him at the end of last year," manager Walt Weiss said. "In the outfield, his athleticism shows up, almost daily. And in the box he was more of a static hitter; there was stiffness in his approach.

"He worked on it all winter. I told him the challenge is the conviction. When you have an 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, are you going to bail?"

• Right-handed veteran Rafael Betancourt checked out fine Friday, the morning after he suffered a contusion on the right side of his jaw when he was hit with a line drive.

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.