Notes: Fuentes embraces veteran status

Notes: Fuentes embraces veteran status

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Looking at the Rockies' roster sparks a new feeling in left-handed closer Brian Fuentes.

"I feel old," Fuentes said with a smile. "I'm one of the older guys on the team."

But age is merely a number. The number in the age column (31), the one in the saves column over the last two seasons (61), and his number of All-Star Game selections the last two years (2) add up to Fuentes shouldering a leadership role with the bullpen.

The Rockies have LaTroy Hawkins as a setup man and several veterans under Minor League contracts trying to earn late-innings jobs, but many of the relievers in camp are young.

"I want the young guys to feel comfortable around me," Fuentes said. "It's nerve-wracking coming into a situation like that. I want them to feel as comfortable as possible. But I think a leadership role is leading by example. I'm not going to get up and give any rah-rah speeches or anything like that. I'm going to get up, do my job and let guys feed off that."

Fuentes insists his comfort level will not change even though he is entering a contract year. He'll earn $3.5 million this season to complete a two-year, $5.5 million deal, and will be eligible for arbitration. He said his is not aware of contract talks or plans for such discussions.

Negotiations or not, Fuentes and the Rockies can avoid a different set of distractions by breaking recent tradition and being competitive. In past years as the Rockies have fallen toward the bottom of the National League West, Fuentes' name has surfaced in reports of possible trades.

"In my mind, I've signed a two-year deal and it's only been a year," he said. "There's no need to talk about another year or a deal until my year is finished up. I know sometimes things get extended before that, but that's not really for me to worry about.

"I can keep it out of my mind. Whether the media can is a different story. I'm going to be asked about it quite a bit, I'm sure. It seems every year at the trading deadline my name seems to be floating around somewhere. I didn't let it affect me then, and hopefully I'll remain the same."

Not in town yet: Not in camp as of late Thursday afternoon were pitchers Taylor Buchholz, Manuel Corpas, Brian Lawrence, Ramon Ramirez, Tom Martin, Franklin Morales and Oscar Rivera, and catchers Edwin Bellorin, Alvin Colina, Geronimo Gil and Yorvit Torrealba. In some cases, bad weather in the East and a computer problem that affects visas in Venezuela are among the reasons some of the players had not arrived.

Players underwent physicals on Thursday. The first official workout for pitchers and catchers is Friday afternoon.

Studying up: Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez intrigues the Rockies. After three years of posting double figures in wins, Lopez went 9-18 with the Orioles last season. The Rockies obtained him in a trade for a pair of Minor Leaguers.

Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said he has seen video of Lopez last season and intends to watch tape of his better years, but at this point he is just as interested in what Lopez has to say.

"The first few days, I'm just going to watch and ask some probing questions and find out what he thinks," Apodaca said. "What was the problem he had last year, if it was physical, if it was mechanical, whatever. The last thing I'm going to do is come in and say, 'This is what we need to do.' Because I think we need to take a step back and see what kind of frame of mind they're in, what kind of shape they're in.

"Then I think that we'll both learn more, especially me, by sitting down and finding out what they think their goals are, how they plan on achieving them, and work from there."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.