Rockies have built solid catching depth

Rockies have built solid catching depth

ST. LOUIS -- An emphasis on improving catching depth is paying off for the Rockies this season -- and there is even more quality behind what's appearing in the Majors.

Veteran Nick Hundley is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, and was out earlier with a concussion. But Tony Wolters, a pickup from the Indians organization who made the Rockies' Opening Day roster despite not having played above Double-A previously, ranks sixth in the Majors in called strikes above average (CSAA) despite playing part-time. That means he is among the elite at "framing," or enhancing the chance a borderline pitch is called a strike. Dustin Garneau has been dependable in two callups in Hundley's absence.

And the future is in good shape.

Tom Murphy, a third-round pick in the 2012 Draft and the Rockies' No. 9 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, has hit .294 with two home runs and 10 RBIs at Triple-A Albuquerque since recovering from his oblique injury. Also, No. 8 prospect Dom Nunez, playing at Class A Advanced Modesto at 21 as a converted infielder, went into Tuesday with a .269 batting average and a .389 on-base percentage, and has received high marks for leadership and defense.

"It's certainly something that five or six years ago as an organization, we decided to focus on," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "We have to be creative with it, too. A kid like Dom Nunez or a kid like Tony Wolters, they weren't brought into professional baseball as catchers, but scouts and other staff members saw things in them that made them think they'd be good leaders, good defensive catchers."

Many have pegged Murphy, 25, as a possible star because of his power -- three homers in 11 Major League games last year, combined with his start this year. Rene Lachemann, who coaches the catchers, stays in contact with Murphy via text and is monitoring his development defensively. The big, athletic Murphy operates from a more spread-out stance than ideal, but he is adapting.

"He's just getting back into playing right now, but when we left Spring Training, we talked about the basic fundamentals of catching, especially blocking balls," Lachemann said. "We're looking for Murph to have a good year down there."

Injury updates 

• Right-hander Jason Motte was in St. Louis for his annual charity event on Monday, then he rejoined Albuquerque on Tuesday for his injury rehab assignment for a right shoulder injury that has kept him out all season. Motte gave up a run and a hit and walked two in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday at Round Rock. Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Motte is working up to pitching on consecutive days.

• Lefty starter Jorge De La Rosa, on a rehab assignment for a left groin injury, will make a third rehab start for Albuquerque on Thursday. De La Rosa, seeking consistency, has a 3.52 ERA in two rehab starts but has lasted just 7 2/3 innings total.

"He's got to force swings, get quick outs, be more efficient, because when you have three-, four-inning starts, it wreaks havoc on the bullpen for an entire series," Weiss said.

• Righty reliever Miguel Castro, placed on the disabled list in late April with right shoulder inflammation, gave up a run on a Jurickson Prufar homer against Round Rock on Monday in his second rehab assignment for Albuquerque.

• Hundley is with the team in St. Louis. Weiss said his rehab will accelerate once he is able to swing a bat.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. 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.