Tracy Ringolsby

Versatile Desmond ready to rock at first for Colorado

Veteran hopes to help new club with latest position change

Versatile Desmond ready to rock at first for Colorado

It has been six weeks since the Rockies inked Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract and announced that the former All-Star shortstop with the Nationals, who made the conversion to an All-Star center fielder last season with the Rangers, would make the move to first base this season.

Nothing has changed. Despite the ongoing speculation that Colorado is looking to move an outfielder to open a spot for Desmond and then sign a free agent -- Mark Trumbo having become the most mentioned of late -- to take over at first base, the Rox insist they are committed to Desmond at first base. And Desmond is definitely committed to making that move.

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"I have never shied away from a challenge," Desmond said. "Last year, going to the outfield, I felt like it was something I could do. I did as much work as I could to prepare myself to play at the Major League level. Not patting myself on the back, but it's not easy to learn a new position at the Major League level without any reps.

"Left field was good, because I got to go into Spring Training and I got to shag and practice, but I had never played center field, and then [38] games into the season, it was, 'Go play center.' It was a humbling experience, but a good challenge. That's similar to first base. I'm really excited."

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So are the Rockies. That's why they signed Desmond. They like his athleticism. They like the idea that over the course of a five-year contract, with an ever-changing roster due to the expected influx of prime prospects in a Minor League system that is getting the attention of the rest of baseball, Desmond has the type of talent that will always be a fit.

And right now, Desmond fits best at first base, which has become a passion for Desmond, who isn't taking the challenge of changing positions lightly.

"I have been working hard every single day with one glove, a first baseman's glove," Desmond said. "I haven't taken a ground ball or fly ball anywhere but first base. That's not to say in Spring Training if [Colorado manager] Bud [Black] says, 'We need you to take some grounders at short or third or left or center or right,' I won't, but right now, 100 percent of my focus is on being the best first baseman I can be."

Desmond has put in his time in the field, currently working out at the Rockies' Spring Training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., but having earlier worked out near his home in Florida at facilities at both Lakewood Ranch and the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Rockies introduce Desmond

Desmond has also put in time watching videos not only of top-flight first basemen, but also his new infield teammates.

"I watched Todd [Helton], [Don] Mattingly, J.T. [Snow], all those guys. And on top of that, I'm watching what [third baseman] Nolan [Arenado] is doing, [shortstop] Trevor [Story], [second baseman] DJ [LeMahieu]," said Desmond. "From Day 1, I understood there are intricacies. It's not an easy position. I'm passionate about this. I care, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to let the guys know they can throw it wherever they want. I'm going to do my best to be an asset for them."

Desmond paused -- momentarily.

"I know there is a lot on the line," he said. "I remember being a young kid, trying to make a name for myself in the Major Leagues. Trevor Story, for example, has one year in the big leagues. He wants to be a good shortstop. He wants to be the best. I want to help him with that. The only way I can do that is if I'm taking care of my job at first base. The same for Nolan and DJ. They are trying to become the greatest at what they do, and most of those plays end at first base. I want to be the one catching the ball for those guys. I want to be a security blanket for these guys."

The Rockies are confident Desmond can be just that. They watched his evolution as an outfielder after not signing with the Rangers until after Spring Training started last season. Desmond not only took over the left-field job, but he made an impressive move to center field midseason.

Bridich on Desmond

Colorado isn't worried about the fact that Desmond is not the prototypical middle-of-the-lineup first-base bat, nor that it has an outfield in which the three projected starters -- David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez -- along with Gerardo Parra are all left-handed hitters.

Given the offensive depth of the Rockies, Desmond most likely fits comfortably into the No. 7 slot in the lineup, and they are quick to point out that the left-handed-hitting outfielders, more than anything, provide lineup balance with Blackmon hitting first, Gonzalez third and Dahl most likely sixth, with right-handed hitters filling the rest of the spots.

It's not chiseled in stone. Nothing is in life. But it is the plan that Colorado has drawn up this offseason, and one the Rockies are excited to watch unfold starting next month in Spring Training.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.