Rockies further pare roster by optioning Ynoa

Rockies further pare roster by optioning Ynoa

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies optioned utility man Rafael Ynoa to Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday to move closer to setting their 25-man Opening Day roster. The switch-hitting Ynoa hit .357 (15-for-42) with a .391 on-base percentage in Spring Training.

"He had a great spring," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We're just trying to put together a design of our roster as we break here. Unfortunately for 'Raffy,' he ended up being one of the odd men out, but certainly not because of performance. We know the type of player he is. We've been with him now for a few years. In my eyes, he continues to get better and better."

The Rockies are expected to carry 13 position players to open the season.

Colorado signed right-handed-hitting Ryan Raburn to a Minor League deal early in camp, with every intention of making him its fourth outfielder. Monday was the day Raburn could seek other opportunities if it was apparent the Rockies weren't going to place him on the 40-man Major League roster and guarantee in his $1.5 million salary, which appears to be a formality.

Raburn's presence seemingly put Ynoa and outfielder Brandon Barnes in competition for the same spot.

With two players at different positions, the decision often comes to roster structure more than spring performance. Barnes is hitting .289 this spring, with his better performances coming later than earlier. Although Weiss would not discuss how the Ynoa move affects other players -- since any injury could change plans -- it puts Barnes in a strong position to be the fifth outfielder. But there are other options, as first basemen Mark Reynolds and Ben Paulsen also play some left field.

Infield decisions appear to be falling into place. Optioning Ynoa appears to be a clear signal that rookie Trevor Story will debut on Opening Day as the starting shortstop, and switch-hitting Cristhian Adames will be the only middle-infield backup.

The other contest is for a backup role to catcher Nick Hundley. Dustin Garneau handled the job toward the end of last season. Tony Wolters, a waiver pickup from the Indians, has made a bid, in part because he can also play in the middle infield and would give the Rockies unique late-game options.

The Rockies also have a tight decision on the seven-man bullpen.

Christian Bergman and Chris Rusin share the swingman spot, with Bergman likely starting the season in the rotation but Rusin building his pitch count to switch places with Bergman. Unless there are surprises, set for the bullpen are left-handers Boone Logan and Jake McGee, and right-handers Jason Motte, Chad Qualls and Justin Miller (who is out of Minor League options and could be lost via waivers if he's not on the team).

This would leave one spot, with the apparent choices being between righties Miguel Castro and Scott Oberg. Castro would give the bullpen a power arm to replace that of Jairo Diaz, who underwent Tommy John surgery this month. Oberg was one of the better relievers in the league at stopping inherited runners from scoring last season.

Could there be surprise decisions? If so, they may center on non-roster lefties Yohan Flande and Jason Gurka, who saw time with the Rockies last season and came to this year's camp improved. Both provide depth.

Also, right-handed reliever Brian Schlitter was reassigned to Minor League camp Monday.

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.