SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Michael Cuddyer said in a pregame interview Saturday that the Rockies will be better if they stay healthy. Well, three innings into a 4-3 exhibition loss to the Mariners, he and second baseman Josh Rutledge found themselves on an inevitable collision course.
Cuddyer's shoulder slammed into Rutledge's midsection. Luckily for all involved, Rutledge walked off the field, having simply had the wind knocked out of him. Cuddyer saw the crash coming in time to keep his head from making contact, and emerged unscathed.
The play resulted in a triple for Jesus Montero. And, because no one was hurt, it led to a quip from Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
"I told 'Cuddy' if that was the NFL, they would have fined him," Weiss said.
Rutledge, who hit .274 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs last year after being called up to play shortstop when Troy Tulowitkzi was injured, has moved to second and will be the Opening Day starter on Monday in Milwaukee.
"He just hit me in the right spot," Rutledge said. "I was just hoping he was OK."
Cuddyer said, "At the last second, I saw him -- I knew we were going to collide, but that's why I didn't dive. I didn't chance any of that."
Colvin victim of numbers game with Rox
SALT LAKE CITY -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said playing only occasionally is not the way for outfielder-first baseman Tyler Colvin to regain his 2012 swing.
Colvin, who was assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday, struck out 14 times in 46 spring at-bats and hit .167 -- this after hitting .290 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs in a breakout performance last season.
Much of Colvin's production came during consistent playing time that came because of injuries and slumps. The problem now is that Colvin is a backup outfielder and first baseman, and with Eric Young Jr. having earned outfield opportunities and Jordan Pacheco first in line at first base when Todd Helton sits, playing time to start the year would be inconsistent at best. Many starting players around baseball struggled in the spring, but they can work it out with regular at-bats.
"Tyler is a Major League player who had a good season last year," said Weiss, who set the roster Friday and discussed it before Saturday afternoon's exhibition finale against the Mariners at Spring Mobile Ballpark. "He scuffled in Spring Training, and he knows that. He's trying to iron some things out with his swing and this will be a chance for him to get consistent at-bats, as opposed to being up here and getting at-bats every once in a while, and not being able to really iron some things out with his swing.
"He needs to get himself right. We go with just the four outfielders and the extra infielder to protect ourselves in the infield."
The decision allowed the Rockies to keep an extra infielder in switch-hitting Jonathan Herrera, who seemed the odd man out when the club decided to keep versatile Reid Brignac for a utility role. Young is the only backup outfielder.
Brignac has appeared in the outfield three times, totaling 2 2/3 innings, in five Major League seasons. Also, Herrera has played the outfield during past Spring Trainings and during winter ball. In the fifth inning of Saturday's game, Weiss put Pacheco in left field.
One change from the Rockies' bench under previous manager Jim Tracy is the lack of a power hitter, a la Jason Giambi, now with the Indians. In 2009, Giambi had an impact en route to the playoffs. The last two years, the timing was off. In 2010, sometimes games would end without Giambi getting an opportunity because Tracy was saving him. Tracy used Giambi earlier last season, but sometimes the game would continue and Tracy had used his main weapon.
Until Colvin hits his way back to the Majors, Weiss can't play the power card.
The left-handed hitting Brignac has 10 total Major League homers, but had years of 24, 15 and 17 in the Minors. Pacheco hit .309 last year and appears able to come off the bench for a good at-bat, although power isn't his strong suit. Herrera can move runners and sacrifice, but doesn't offer power. Young's calling card is speed.
"There's some give-and-take," Weiss said. "We'll have some guys go up there and give us a professional at-bat, as opposed to hitting a long one with one swing but at the same time those guys swing and miss a lot, too."
Nelson misses finale with stomach ailment
SALT LAKE CITY -- Starting third baseman Chris Nelson missed Saturday's 4-3 exhibition game loss to the Mariners with what manager Walt Weiss described as a "stomach bug."
The hope is Nelson, who hit .301 last season in his first year as a regular, will be available on Monday when the season opens in Milwaukee.
"We bypassed Salt Lake with 'Nellie' and sent him to Milwaukee so he didn't pass that bug around," Weiss said. "We expect him to be ready to go on Monday." Reid Brignac started at third and went 1-for-1 with a walk against Mariners righty starter Brandon Mauer.
The left-handed hitting Brignac can spell Nelson at third when the Rockies are facing a particularly tough right-handed starter, and could be an option on Monday. Nelson has never faced Brewers Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo in a regular-season game, so history isn't part of the equation.
Torrealba to play mentor to Rosario
SALT LAKE CITY -- Yorvit Torrealba, whose contract was purchased by the Rockies at the end of Spring Training, said he is ready to play the mentor role to second-year catcher Wilin Rosario.
Torrealba, 34, a starter until last season, when he bounced among the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers, said he brings, "Experience, I think. I know Wilin is going to play most of the time and I want to help him out as much as I can.
"Hopefully his defense can be as good as his offense. I think he can do the job, but I will be there when they need me."
During his first tour with the Rockies, from 2006-09, at times the Rockies wanted to phase Chris Iannetta into the catching job. However, Torrealba beat back those challenges and was a leader of playoff teams in 2007 and 2009.
"We know who he is and knew exactly who he was when we brought him in," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He brings a lot of positive energy. He knows his role and how important it is for Wilin to develop."
The Rockies let go of veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez to keep Torrealba.
"Ramon is a great pro, too," Weiss said. "I had a lot of difficult meetings this week and that was a really tough one. He's a productive big league player. He's going to end up with another club and he'll help somebody. What Yorvit brings, and what he brought in the past here, was important for us."
Volstad aims to contribute as reliever
SALT LAKE CITY -- The lack of willingness to attack the strike zone with his power sinker was a criticism of right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad as he pitched below his potential as a starter with the Marlins and Cubs. But it appears the Rockies' decision to move him to the bullpen has enhanced him.
Volstad signed a Minor League contract with the Rockies to compete for a starting rotation spot, but was converted to relief at mid-camp.
"He really embraced it," Weiss said. "I wouldn't say he transformed himself, but he changed his approach and geared it toward that role, did everything we asked of him.
"I think he feels a lot more comfortable in that role. You've seen his velocity go up. You've seen him attack hitters, throw that hard two-seamer at the bottom of the zone. He did everything we asked of him. It was nice telling him he made our club."
Volstad joins right-handers Adam Ottavino and Edmer Escalona in a three-man middle relief rotation. Those pitchers will work on a rotation and will be responsible for getting the game to the back end of the bullpen. It's the positive that came out of last year's four-man rotation experiment. Those relievers, known back then as "piggy-backers," pitched well, especially Ottavino (5-1, 4.56 ERA in 53 games).
"Ottavino's a big-arm guy, his stuff is real good. He's got to be in good counts, like everybody else," Weiss said. "He's had success for us out of the bullpen before. Escalona is another big-arm guy that's got electric stuff. Those guys are going to be important for us to bridge that gap between starter and back end of the bullpen. I feel good about handing the ball off to those guys."
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.