Rosario earns backup catcher slot on roster

Rosario earns backup catcher slot on roster

Rosario earns backup catcher slot on roster
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher Wilin Rosario's strong Spring Training has convinced the Rockies that he can learn on the job at the Major League level.

Rosario has earned a roster spot with a .391 batting average, three home runs, four doubles and 11 RBIs in 19 Spring Training games going into Sunday. The Rockies reassigned veteran backup catcher Wil Nieves to Triple-A Colorado Springs. The move means Rosario will learn behind veteran Ramon Hernandez.

The Rockies also reassigned veteran infielders Brendan Harris and Brandon Wood to Minor League camp, and optioned right-handed reliever Edgmer Escalona to the Minors. The Rockies still must determine a few bullpen positions. They also must determine whether to keep a pair of utility players, outfielder Eric Young Jr. and infielder Jonathan Herrera, or keep one of them and hold onto an extra reliever in the early days of the season.

Rosario, 23, spent most of last season at Double-A Tulsa but had a 16-game trial in the Majors at the end of the season (.204, 3 HR, 8 RBIs). The Rockies had signed Nieves, who has appeared in 282 Major League games since 2002, for protection in case Rosario did not make the progress offensively and defensively the Rockies were looking to see.

Because Hernandez turns 36 on May 20 and hasn't appeared in as many as 100 games since 2008, there should be a balance of playing time and learning time for Rosario.

A few days ago, Rockies manager Jim Tracy gave Rosario a passing grade on his progress.

"Defensively is the thing over the last several days that I've been most impressed with," Tracy said. "He's really cleaned up a lot of things from earlier in the spring. There was some sloppiness reminiscent of some of the things we saw in September last year.

"And his relationship with Ramon Hernandez -- I see that every morning -- has been intriguing to me."

Additionally, there could be more hitting opportunities for Rosario than many backup catchers. Third baseman Jordan Pacheco also is a catcher, which means Tracy is free to use either in a pinch-hitting role without fearing being left short behind the plate.

Nieves, 34, hit .381 in 16 games, with a home run and one RBI.

Harris, 31, hit .321 with two doubles and two RBIs. Wood, 27, after a strong start, hit .255 with four doubles, two triple and five RBIs. Escalona, 25, went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA with 12 strikeouts and four walks in eight spring appearances.

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.