It's speed vs. defense for final spot

It's speed vs. defense for final spot

MESA, Ariz. -- The diving catch in right field by Cory Sullivan on a line drive by the Cubs' Ryan Theriot in the fifth inning of an 8-6 Rockies loss Thursday was as predictable as it was dazzling.

Scott Podsednik's full day on the bases -- a single, two walks and two steals -- was another case of a guy doing what he does best. The contest between the two for the final outfield spot is strength (Sullivan's defense) vs. strength (Podsednik's speed).

Sullivan was the Rockies' starting center fielder for much of 2006, so he has the advantage of being a known commodity. Sullivan's 1-for-3 effort on Thursday lifted his spring average to .167, but Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said he's not being evaluated on his Spring Training numbers. Sullivan hit .286 in a late-season callup last year, and has a .281 average in 337 games with the Rockies.

Podsednik has given the Rockies much to consider. He has hit .355 with a sizzling .524 on-base percentage and eight steals. His frequent playing time is a test of his health, since muscle injuries limited him to 62 games last season with the White Sox.

The difference could be strategy. It also could be roster convenience -- Sullivan is signed for $1 million and would be expensive to hold in the Minors while Podsednik is in camp under a Minor League contract ($750,000 in the Majors).

"We've asked Scott to come in and turn it up a notch and steal bases and lay out for balls, and he's done all that," Hurdle said. "And we know Cory's consistently shown improvement over the course of his time in the organization. So it'll be one of the more challenging decisions we have to make."

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