After a Test Run on Friday, Rockies Open Summer Camp at Coors on Saturday
Rockies manager Bud Black and his staff had a chance to check out the adjustments at Coors Field to accommodate a slightly-less-than-three-week Summer Camp on Friday afternoon.
Saturday, Summer Camp begins in earnest with Charlie Blackmon the only one of the 52 players on the Rockies workout list who won't be in uniform. Blackmon is one of three Rockies who tested positive for COVID 19. The other two, pitchers Ryan Castellani and Phillip Diehl, both have been clearance to put the uniform on and get ready for what's ahead.
And Black expects Blackmon to be given clearance in plenty of time to be ready for the opening of the 60-game schedule, which will be either July 23 or 24.
"I think Charlie will be ready," Black said in Zoom call with the media Friday.
He is confident the Big Three in the rotation will be a go. They have made a strong enough impression that Black said he is planning on German Marquez, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland to throw batting practice during Sunday's second workout.
They would seem likely to start the first three games of the season.
The biggest question to be answer in the next three weeks is the addition of a DH for National League teams this year. Matt Kemp, who played for Black when he managed San Diego, is the recent addition that could solve the problem.
Now, it's not set in stone. Kemp, 35, has a glossy resume in a big-league career that saw him spend 10 of his 14 seasons with the Dodgers, twice earning selection to the NL All-Star team. A career .285 hitter with 281 home runs, 1010 RBI and 183 stolen bases, he has been particularly hard on the Rockies -- .314 with 46 home runs and 156 at-bats.
He never, however, saw Coors Field or much of any big-league ballpark last year. He was released by Cincinnati after appearing in 20 games, in which he hit .200 with one home run and five RBI, and then appeared in eight games for the Mets' Triple-A Syracuse affiliate, hitting .235 with one home run and three RBI before being released.
He initially went to spring training on an invite with the Marlins this year, but after going 4-for-28 with 11 strikeouts before COVID-19 led to shutting down spring camps, he was not included on the Marlins 60-man Player Pool Roster.
Looking for a right-handed bat for a lineup with only two regulars who hit right-handed -- third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story -- the Rockies felt it was worth looking at Kemp Kemp, who could get time in the outfield as well as in the DH role.
“It’s a Minor League contract," general manager Jeff Bridich said during a media session earlier in the week. "It is an opportunity for him. He does not want to see an end to his long career anytime soon. He’s very much looking for an opportunity to contribute in any way he can contribute.”
Black is comfortable with Kemp's addition.
"He is super pumped to be with these guys," Black said.
Black is impressed with the mental and physical approach the players have taken toward getting back on the field.
"We went through a few things on the field and off the field and our interaction with the guys," said Black. "There is a great deal of excitement. They feel great physically. That's a good start.
"What they have done the last few months has put them in good physical condition to start this. That's the main thing, the physicality."
What will be a new experience -- particularly at Coors Field -- will be empty stands when the season starts.
"It is a curiosity of all of us, how it is going to be without fans," said Black. "We'll turn back the clock to A Ball or games we played as an amateur."
But what is difference this year is the TV ratings baseball expects to receive because fans won't be able to show up in person.
"I am sure the players will adjust quickly," he said. "They realize the games will be on television. They will have larger audiences than ever before. They will know they are being watched."