Wolters making push for Rockies roster

Wolters making push for Rockies roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Asked Sunday about catcher/utility player Tony Wolters, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the simple words any surprise roster candidate relishes: "He's still in camp."

Just as camps were beginning, the Indians designated Wolters for assignment, after having converted him from middle infield to catcher in 2013. The Rockies claimed him off waivers, reintroduced the infield positions and watched him impress. He went 2-for-3 with two RBI doubles in Sunday's 8-6 win over the D-backs to lift his batting average to .407.

Wolters' 2nd RBI double

It was the third start at catcher for Wolters, who entered Sunday with 24 innings behind the plate, as well as 29 innings at second base and three at shortstop. To make the Opening Day squad as backup to veteran catcher Nick Hundley, Wolters, 23, will have to beat out full-time catcher Dustin Garneau, who has hit .182 but was 2-for-3 in his last start. Garneau, 28, was the club's backup toward the end of last season. The Rockies are unlikely to carry both Garneau and Wolters, who are on the Major League roster. Non-roster candidate Jackson Williams also remains in camp.

Among position players, backup catcher and one bench spot -- likley between outfielder Brandon Barnes and infielder/outfielder Rafael Ynoa -- are up for grabs.

The ability to both catch and play middle infield is hard to find. Jordan Pacheco, now with the Reds, played some second and other positions in addition to catcher a few years back. It's intriguing enough for Weiss to keep looking at Wolters.

"He's had a great camp, and it's a unique skill set," Weiss said.

Wolters' 1st RBI double

Wolters was slowed the last two seasons by issues with his left knee, and hit .249 in 2014 and .209 in '15, playing a total 159 games in two years. But Wolters has thrown out 88 of 132 (.667) attempted basestealers in his career, and he had the knee repaired during the winter. Now he is happy to play all his positions.

"Catching has made me a better infielder, slowed the game down," said Wolters, a third-round pick by the Indians out of Rancho Buena Vista (Calif.) High School in 2010. "But I love catching, love running the tempo, and throwing guys out is my favorite thing to do. I love the feeling, like you're the captain out there. But I also love shortstop or catching. Whatever position I'm at, I feel I'm going to be really good at it."

Worth noting

• Righty reliever Scott Oberg, possibly competing with hard-throwing righty Miguel Castro for a bullpen spot, stranded 31 of the 39 runners he inherited last season -- an effectiveness that ranked 10th in the National League.

"Scotty was one of those guys I went to in those situations last year, and he performed very well," Weiss said. "It's a skill, and not all guys are comfortable in that situation."

By keeping a fastball and slider in good locations, Oberg forced eight double-play grounders and earned 55.2 percent of his outs on the ground.

• Righty reliever Adam Ottavino, hoping to return at midseason from Tommy John surgery, will throw his second bullpen session of camp on Monday.

• Sunday was the first of three straight Rockies games vs. the D-backs -- before the teams open the regular season with a three-game series starting April 4.

"It's kind of weird," Weiss said. "If I had my say, it wouldn't be that way. But I don't want to make too much of it. In the division in general, we play so much. That's another thing I would change."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.