DENVER -- By reaching an agreement with right-handed reliever Luis Vizciano on a two-year, $7.5 million contract Friday, the Rockies accomplished what general manager Dan O'Dowd called "our No. 1 goal going into this winter."
Looking to improve a club that won the National League pennant last season, the Rockies targeted the bullpen. By landing Vizcaino, 8-2 with a 4.30 ERA for the Yankees last season, the Rockies have bolstered the bullpen's ability to rack up strikeouts. That's important at Coors Field, where batted balls can be dangerous.
Vizcaino, 33, comes to the Rockies with a healthy 7.99 career strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. His rate dropped slightly last season (7.41) and his 43 walks were high in comparison to his history, but he pitched in a career-high 77 games and tied for the lead among Major League relievers in wins. Vizcaino also fanned 9.92 per nine in the NL West with the Diamondbacks in 2006.
Vizcaino complements left-handed setup man Brian Fuentes, who has fanned 9.98 per nine in his career. Fuentes' rate dropped to 8.22 last season as he battled command issues and a lat muscle injury.
Fuentes and Vizcaino will work ahead of closer Manny Corpas, who earned 19 saves after taking the job during the second half of the 2007 -- his first full season in the Majors.
"We really wanted to add that dimension to our bullpen, and we targeted Luis," O'Dowd said. "We'd like to see him have better command, and we believe he'll do that. We think Brian will have his command, too, and Manny Corpas has the kind of stuff to get hitters to swing and miss. We like strike-throwers, but we also want to be able to strike people out."
Vizcaino is durable, with at least 70 appearances in five of the last six seasons. His 360 appearances over the last five seasons are fourth-most among pitchers in the Majors over that span, behind Ray King (377), Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge (372 apiece). He has 485 career appearances with the Athletics, Brewers, White Sox, Diamondbacks and Yankees.
Vizcaino will earn salaries of $3.5 million in 2008 and 2009, and has a $500,000 buyout on a 2010 club option that could vest at $4 million if he appears in 135 games over the two seasons or 68 games in 2009.
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In other developments, O'Dowd acknowledged that Marcus Giles, Todd Walker and Jose Castillo are among possible second-base targets as the Rockies look for veteran competition at second base.
When Spring Training hits, the Rockies will have whatever veterans they sign compete with a group of in-house candidates but will have to carefully manage the innings. O'Dowd said prospect Jayson Nix will work primarily at second, Clint Barmes and Omar Quintanilla can work at various spots since the key for them is at-bats, and Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker will continue to work on learning second, but also work at their current positions. Stewart is primarily a third baseman and Baker plays the corner infield and outfield positions.
The Rockies have named former Major League manager Rene Lachemann as hitting coach at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Lachemann has been in baseball for 43 years. That time includes managerial stints with the Mariners (1981-83), Brewers (1984) and Marlins (1993-96). Lachemann's brothers, Marcel and Bill, have Major League coaching expereince. Marcel Lachemann is special assistant to the general manager with the Rockies.
The Rockies also officially announced the signings of five players with Major League experience to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
Three are left-handed relievers -- Micah Bowie (4-3, 4.55 ERA in 2007 with the Nationals), Chris George (7-11, 5.56 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque) and John Koronka (7-7, 5.69 ERA with the Rangers). Also signing were utility man Matt Kata (.222, three HRs, 16 RBIs with the Rangers) and catcher Mike Rose (.262, seven HRs, 36 RBIs at Triple-A Buffalo).
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.