Notes: Rockies put faith in Iannetta
Lopez's release shows club ready to bank on rookie
TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's cool for a young player to realize that players he grew up watching are as nice as they are good. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta is an even bigger fan of Javy Lopez. It led to a strange moment on Monday morning.Lopez congratulated Iannetta for essentially forcing him out of a job. The Rockies released Lopez, 36, mainly because of the dramatic growth Iannetta, 23, has demonstrated between his Major League trial at the end of last season and now. "I grew up watching him. From the first time I met him, he was one of the nicest guys," Iannetta said. "He immediately started teaching me how to break in a glove from the first day. "I was a little surprised when he said it to me. He told me good luck. At first, I didn't believe him. I thought he was messing with me." The move means, barring injury, Iannetta and Yorvit Torrealba, who has proven to be healthy after suffering through shoulder injuries last season, will be the Rockies' catchers. Torrealba was healthy enough this offseason for the Rockies to sign him to a one-year, $1.075 million contract. The reason the Rockies signed Lopez was they weren't sure what to expect from Iannetta, who hit .260 in a trial late last season but was raw in some areas. The Rockies were not going to keep Iannetta strictly as a backup. He needed to prove he could catch on a regular basis. "I've seen some improvement receiving," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. "We know he's got arm strength. The accuracy is there. At times, that's just going to be a work in progress for any young catcher. Most of the staff is back, so he's got experience there. "There's more confidence to his game calling. He made a lot of strides over the winter. He doesn't ask as many questions." Hurdle also said the Rockies are confident in their two other catchers -- 40-man roster member Alvin Colina, who made his Major League debut last season, and Geronimo Gil, who played 272 games for the Orioles 2001-05.
Right-hander Aaron Cook, who started the Rockies' 6-5 loss to the D-backs on Monday (5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 K) and threw to Iannetta, expressed full confidence."His confidence is really high right now," Cook said. "He's taking the time to talk to the starting pitchers. He knows his pitchers. For me, that's big. He knows what I'm trying to do, what I'm trying to accomplish. "He's got great makeup, he's a great receiver and he's got a cannon. What more could I ask for as a pitcher?" The Rockies have an unhappy history of young catchers displaying physical tools but collapsing mentally. There is less concern about Iannetta, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of North Carolina. Iannetta displays fire during games but knows how to keep from burning himself. "Everyone thinks I'm very serious, very intense, and I am when I'm playing," he said. "But I laugh at pretty much everything. I think I'm pretty laidback. The dumbest things make me laugh. So I guess it goes both ways. I'm intense when I have to be, but I'm pretty laidback otherwise." More moves: The Rockies sent nine players to Minor League camp on Monday. They are first baseman Joe Koshansky, third baseman Ian Stewart, shortstop Jonathan Herrera, second baseman Jayson Nix, and outfielders Jeff Salazar, Sean Barker, Matt Miller and Seth Smith. Most of them are likely to get action with the big club, especially on Spring Training road trips when veterans are often excused. On the Rox: Cook continued to work on his four-seam fastball and changeup on Monday. He said his delivery didn't feel right early, but Iannetta and pitching coach Bob Apodaca told him he didn't look far off track. "We're starting to get our innings built up, which is a big part of this time of spring," said Cook, whose five innings marked the longest appearance by a Rockies pitcher this spring. Hurdle said, "Aaron was very pitch efficient -- 68 pitches, five innings."... Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki grounded out hard to the mound in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance -- his first at-bat since being hit on the wrist with a pitch on Saturday. Hurdle said Tulowitzki went through a full batting practice and infield practice before the game and should be in the lineup on Tuesday against the Royals. ... Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt overcame a two-out triple to pitch a clean seventh inning -- his second straight positive performance after giving up four runs and six hits in hit first two innings this spring. "His strengths are his fastball and his curveball," Hurdle said. "There are times to work on some other things, but don't lose sight of what you need to do when you need to do it."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.