SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies third-base prospect Nolan Arenado found himself in the strange and disappointing place of hearing club officials compliment him and, in the same conversation, inform him that he did not make the Opening Day roster.
Arenado, who turns 22 on April 16, hit four home runs early in Spring Training before leveling out. He went into Thursday's Cactus League finale with the Brewers hitting .288. Incumbent Chris Nelson, who entered Thursday hitting .265 with homers in two of his final three games, will remain the starter.
"It definitely hurts, no question about it," Arenado said. "That wasn't their plan for me to make this team. I've just got to deal with it, so I'll go down to Triple-A and things go well. And I'll stay healthy. If both of those happen, I'll be back."
Arenado hasn't played above Double-A and had a 2012 season full of challenges, but he reported to camp more mature mentally, physically leaner and better defensively. Although he didn't keep up his early spring pace, he was more consistent over the length of camp than he was last year -- his first invitation to big league Spring Training -- and he pushed the decision to the final week.
The way the Rockies' lineup is constructed, if he had made it, he likely would have had to hit eighth, which is a tough spot for a young hitter. Pitchers don't typically give that spot much to hit, because they know they're facing a pitcher next. Arenado displayed patience throughout camp, but at Triple-A he will be able to revert to a power hitter's approach. The Rockies see him as a run producer in the future.
"I made my case for being in there," Arenado said. "I came ready, and I showed them what I've got.
"They said, 'Keep doing what you're doing. Keep working hard and find your way back here.'"
It was a good spring for Arenado, who emerged from early inconsistency to hit .285 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs for Tulsa last year, but it was not quite enough to force the Rockies into a decision with Nelson, who is out of Minor League options.
If the Rockies had kept Arenado and opted to send Nelson to the Minors, he would have been exposed to other teams through waivers. Trading Nelson was an option, but for the Rockies to receive the pitching they want, he would have to be part of a larger deal.
There are future payroll considerations as well. If Arenado is the type of talent who will enter the Majors and stick, the Rockies can delay his arbitration eligibility by holding him out of the Majors for a couple of months. Players with three years of service time can file for arbitration, and guys who have between two and three years can file as Super Two players if they rank in the top 22 percent of service time among this group. Keeping Arenado in the Minors long enough could give the Rockies another year on his arbitration clock.
De La Rosa has strong outing in Minor League game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While a healthy-size crowd watched the Rockies and Brewers play out the Cactus schedule Thursday, the important work -- as far as Rockies pitching was concerned -- was taking place away from the game, as lefty Jorge De La Rosa pitched in a Minor League tilt.De La Rosa threw against a D-Backs' Triple-A lineup and gave up one run and three hits in six innings. The Rockies will start De La Rosa against the Brewers on Tuesday night in the second regular-season game, and they wanted to keep opposing hitters from having a good look at him. "The last inning I got a little tired, but I finished good," De La Rosa said. The D-backs used a couple of Major Leaguers, including Jason Kubel and Miguel Montero. De La Rosa threw 81 pitches -- a sign of health after having his last Cactus League start scrapped because of left forearm tightness. De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John elbow surgery on the left side in June 2011 and was out until making three end-of-the-season starts last year (0-2, 9.82 ERA), struggled in his first two starts, but became progressively better. "I've started feeling like me again," said De La Rosa, who can touch 93 mph with his fastball -- slightly slower than before the injury -- and is happy with his breaking ball. "Last year was a tough year, but I'm back to finding me." De La Rosa said he has not experienced any issues with the elbow.
Torrealba named backup catcher over Hernandez
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies will attempt to recapture some of the leadership that catcher Yorvit Torrealba displayed during the team's playoff years in 2007 and 2009.The Rockies decided Thursday that Torrealba will be the backup to Wilin Rosario. The club also told Ramon Hernandez -- who was signed before last season as the starter but battled injuries and ended up as Rosario's backup -- that he will be designated for assignment Friday. The Rockies did not announce their Opening Day roster Thursday, the last day of Cactus League play, but did reveal two moves: the backup catcher and the decision to start incumbent Chris Nelson at third base and send prospect Nolan Arenado to Triple-A Colorado Springs. There is still a backup infield slot, with speculation centering on Reid Brignac, obtained early in camp from the Rays for a player to be named, over switch-hitter Jonathan Herrera, who has a Minor League option and doesn't have to be exposed to other clubs through waivers to be sent down. Torrealba, 34, was seen as a positive influence over pitchers and had some clutch hits during his first run with the Rockies (2006-09). He had success with the Padres (2010) and Rangers (2011-12). But last season, the Rangers went with Mike Napoli as their starter and Torrealba struggled while being forced into backup duty for the first time in years. He hit .236 in 49 games with the Rangers, .214 in 10 games with the Blue Jays, and had five hitless games with the Brewers. Ready to accept a backup role to Rosario, who hit 28 home runs last year, Torrealba signed a Minor League deal with the Rockies this winter. By making the team, he will get a $900,000 salary under a one-year contract. The signing put Torrealba in competition with Hernandez, a friend from Venezuela and a former winter ball teammate. Torrealba sizzled this spring with a .526 batting average and one home run in 12 Cactus League games. Hernandez hit .148 this spring and .217 in a 2012 season interrupted early by a strained left hand and ended prematurely by a ruptured hamstring. The decision wasn't based purely on stats, though. The Rockies' deep knowledge of and affinity for what Torrealba has brought figured into the decision. The Rockies were reportedly looking to make a trade involving Hernandez, who is set to make $3.2 million this year to complete a two-year contract, but nothing has materialized. By designating him, the Rockies have 10 days to trade or release Hernandez or outright him to the Minors.
Cook, Rockies' all-time wins leader, back with club
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies are bringing back right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook -- their career leader in starts, wins and losses -- on a Minor League contract.The deal was first reported by the Denver Post, and the club acknowledged Thursday there was an agreement. Cook, who declined to go to the Minors with the Phillies, will pitch at Triple-A Colorado Springs. A second-round Rockies pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Cook went 72-68 in 206 starts plus 32 relief appearances in 2002-2011. His time with the Rockies included an appearance in the 2008 All-Star Game. Cook went 4-11 with a 5.65 ERA in 18 starts for the Red Sox last season. Cook went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in six games, including three starts, with the Phillies this spring before becoming a free agent.
Nelson wins third-base job, aims for higher production
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Rockies third baseman Chris Nelson's spring focus went well beyond making a final push to retain his starting job.Nelson hit home runs in two of his final three Spring Training games to solidify the club's decision to send prospect Nolan Arenado to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Arenado hit four early spring homers and had a .400-plus average at one point. His average was a solid .288 going into Thursday's game -- good enough to fuel dreams, but not enough to force the Rockies to move Nelson, who is out of Minor League options. But the roster gymnastics of March weren't that important to Nelson, who has a leg kick in his swing mechanics that can always lead to slow spring starts. Last year, in 111 games as the Rockies' primary third baseman, Nelson hit .301 with nine home runs and 53 RBIs. Throughout the winter, new manager Walt Weiss and club front-office officials envisioned Nelson as capable of greater run production. Nelson, 27, believes he will produce more. "I feel pretty good right now, consistent at the plate right now," Nelson said. "Everybody has a goal number, but I just want to put together a good, full season. With our lineup, I don't want to be the weak link. I'm going to do my best to stay with everybody else." Nelson is expected to be the regular No. 8 hitter, which means he will have to exhibit patience and not chase pitches while hitting in front of the pitcher; however, he must be aggressive enough not to simply take walks and leave the success of an inning up to an overmatched No. 9 hitter. Nelson had a .352 on-base percentage last year but had just a .311 OBP while hitting eighth. "It has been an adjustment, but I feel comfortable and don't have a problem with it at all," Nelson said. Arenado, who turns 22 on April 16, is considered a potential power hitter and an important part of the Rockies' future lineup, but Nelson didn't look over his shoulder this spring and insists he won't let that happen. "I don't worry, just play my game," Nelson said. "If my game is not good enough, they can move in a different direction. But I think my game is good enough to play here."
Prospect Dickerson wins Abby Greer Award
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfield prospect Corey Dickerson, who followed up a strong 2012 season by hitting .360 this spring with eight RBIs, was announced Thursday as the winner of the Rockies' Abby Greer Award.Dickerson, 23, hit a combined .304 with 40 doubles and 22 homers at Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa last season, and was in Major League camp this year as a non-roster invitee. The award is named for Abby Greer, a young Rockies fan who lost her life in an accident while leaving Coors Field on Aug. 22, 2006.
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.