Notes: Iannetta excited for opportunity

Notes: Iannetta excited for opportunity

PHOENIX -- Rockies history doesn't exactly scream support for anointing young catchers as saviors.

Remember Ben Petrick? He was the highly touted organization product -- athletic, fair-haired and polite to a fault -- who carried that catcher-of-the-future burden back in the late 1990s.

But when the mistake of trading Brent Mayne was made in the middle of the 2001 season, Petrick's inability to grab hold of the everyday job was one reason that season ended in disappointment, far from playoff contention.

Then there was J.D. Closser. Acquired as a Minor Leaguer in a deal for Mike Myers, he projected as an offensive catcher whom the Rockies hoped would acquire adequate defensive skills. But he didn't display much of either in a couple of trials at the big-league level, and was shipped elsewhere.

So the Rockies are doing it a little differently this season. No grand pronouncements. No great expectations unfairly pinned on a kid who will turn 24 a week after Opening Day, with all of 21 games and 77 at-bats of Major League experience.

But you can expect Chris Iannetta to get a chance to establish himself as the main man in what currently projects as a time-share situation behind the plate.

"This is his opportunity," manager Clint Hurdle said about Iannetta. "He is a quiet, confident kid who believes in his ability."

Hurdle knows from personal experience about the plights of a young, inexperienced catcher trying to establish himself at the Major League level. But that hasn't scared Hurdle away from giving Iannetta the opportunity to do just that. Especially after the month of Major League experience Iannetta received last September.

"He is much better than I was," Hurdle said. "And that time he spent here last year was invaluable."

Iannetta isn't oblivious to the opportunity in front of him -- complete with some Rookie of the Year candidate hype he shares with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. But then again, Iannetta, a level-headed mathematics major at the University of North Carolina, isn't getting too carried away with it, either.

"Number 1 was making the team," Iannetta said. "After that, it's just a matter of going out and winning. If I'm playing, if I'm not playing, as long as I'm contributing, that's all that matters.

"I haven't tried to pay much attention [to what's being written]. Obviously, I've heard about it. My parents are excited about it and my friends. They all tell me about those things. When things are going bad, I don't want to hear the bad stuff. So if things are going good, I shouldn't listen to too much of the good things."

But Iannetta clearly is more comfortable in his surroundings this spring than he was as a tentative September callup.

"Last year, I wasn't timid, but I was unsure of how much input I could throw at [the pitchers]," Iannetta said. "But this year, I can just throw it out there. They know I have their best interest in mind. I think they wanted me to take charge a little bit more. Last year, I didn't think I could, being plugged in so late. But this year, I have no problem mentioning things."

Still, the rigors of catching every day at Coors Field are well-established, so there should be enough playing time opportunity for veteran Yorvit Torrealba -- assuming a sprained ankle he suffered in Monday's 6-3 loss to the Oakland A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium doesn't linger.

"We like the skill set of the kid, and we like the leadership and drive the veteran brings; they're both going to play," Hurdle said. "They both feel they are going to do well and with good reason. They both want to show up for their teammates."

Torrealba could be out for a few days, however. He will be reevaluated on Tuesday, but said the injury is minor and that there is no doubt about being ready for Opening Day. The injury occurred when his left foot landed on A's first baseman Dan Johnson's foot, causing Torrealba to land awkwardly on his right foot, spraining the ankle. "It was more scary than anything," Torrealba said. "I thought I broke it at first, because it hurt so much. I have it taped, but I can move it. It should be fine. I'm not worried about it."

Rocky outing for Hirsh: The No. 4 spot in the rotation is his, but Jason Hirsh showed he is still a work in progress. Facing the A's projected regular lineup, Hirsh allowed six runs and six hits, including three loud home runs, in a six-inning outing that raised his spring ERA to 7.13.

Eric Chavez belted a long, two-run homer in a three-run first inning, and Milton Bradley and Nick Swisher (all left-handed hitters) added solo blasts in the third and fourth innings.

"He was not pitching ahead in the count enough," Hurdle said about Hirsh. "And one thing he is finding out is that he has to pitch inside with effectiveness. It's not always about throwing a strike, but you have to take away [the hitters'] ability to get comfortable at the plate. It's a learning experience for him. But you see things that are very interesting, and that you like."

In the Minors: Being sent down never is comfortable, especially for veterans with track records like relievers Matt Herges and Mike Gallo. But it is good for Triple-A Colorado Springs, which also has prospect types Ryan Speier, Josh Newman, Denny Bautista, Alex Arias, Zach McClellan and Juan Morillo. "It's the best bullpen, probably on paper, that we have had going into a Minor League season at that level," said Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson ... The Colorado Springs rotation includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Bobby Keppel and most likely, Brian Lawrence, who is regaining arm strength after undergoing shoulder surgery last year ... Left-hander Eric Dubose and right-handers Mike Esposito, Jon Asahina, Marc Kaiser, Sandy Kin and Emmanuel Ulloa will compete for the other spots, with the losers ending up at Double-A Tulsa. ... Left-hander Oscar Rivera, obtained from Yucatan of the Mexican League, has been placed on an arm strengthening program after struggling with the frequency of throwing while in Major League camp. "We're going to build him back up and take it slow," Gustafson said. "We'd like to see him in early May be ready to make a start for Colorado Springs." ... Third baseman Ian Stewart is concentrating on his swing, hitting balls the opposite way in Minor League camp. Even though Garrett Atkins is solidly the Rockies' third baseman, the organization is not looking at a position change for Stewart.

Up next: Rockies righty Josh Fogg will take on lefty Dana Eveland of the host Diamondbacks in Tucson, Ariz., on Tuesday at 2:05 p.m. MT.

Tony DeMarco is a contributor to Thomas Harding contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.