Rockies fill infield hole with Scutaro

Rockies fill infield hole with Scutaro

DENVER -- The Rockies settled one of their key offseason issues on Saturday by acquiring second baseman Marco Scutaro from the Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

Scutaro, 35, batted .299 with seven home runs, 54 RBIs and 59 runs scored last season while playing mostly at shortstop. With the Rockies he becomes the veteran second baseman to complement shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

In 10 seasons, Scutaro has a career .270 batting average and .338 on-base percentage in 1,103 games with the Mets, Athletics, Blue Jays and Red Sox.

Manager Jim Tracy could use Scutaro in the No. 2 spot behind speedy center fielder Dexter Fowler, or the two could flip-flop. General manager Dan O'Dowd sees Scutaro as a settling influence.

"He's a great option at the top of the lineup," O'Dowd said. "He's a very consistent player with a slow heartbeat who loves to play and is a great competitor."

Before the trade the Rockies were looking at a competition among former first-round Draft choice Chris Nelson; DJ LeMahieu, whom the Rockies obtained as part of the deal that sent third baseman Ian Stewart to the Cubs; and Jonathan Herrera, who started early last season but ended up a utility infielder.

Veteran Mark Ellis came over in a trade with the Athletics last season and solidified second base, but he signed with the Dodgers early in the offseason.

Scutaro is due to make $6 million this season, as the Red Sox picked up his contract option at the end of last season. The deal leaves the Red Sox without a starting shortstop, but they could use some of the money saved on Scutaro's contract to shore up their pitching.

Scutaro, a native of San Felipe, Venezuela, increases the number of his countrymen on the Rockies' 40-man Major League roster to eight -- Herrera, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and pitchers Rafael Betancourt, Jhoulys Chacin, Edgmer Escalona and Guillermo Moscoso.

Last season, Mortensen joined the Rockies in a trade with the Athletics and went 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 16 games, including six starts. He actually fared better in the Majors than at pitcher-unfriendly Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he went 2-8 with a 9.42 ERA in 15 starts.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.