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Woody Paige: Chris Iannetta could be last man standing from Colorado Rockies playoff teams

March 27, 2018 Updated: March 28, 2018 at 7:35 am
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Los Angeles Angels' Zack Cozart scores past Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta during the fourth inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Thursday, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Scottsdale, Ariz. - For six years Chris Iannetta assumed that the next time he'd wear a Rockies' jersey would be at an old-timers reunion.

"Once you get traded by a team, you figure you'll never go back. It doesn't happen much, especially after a long time gone.''

But the Rockies and Iannetta always will have Roctober, although those memories must be sweet and sour for the veteran player who will begin his 13th major league season Thursday night in Phoenix.

Chris didn't play a moment of the postseason in 2007, or again in 2009. Nevertheless, "That was an incredible time, and I had a great run in Colorado,'' Iannetta said while lounging in front of his locker one morning during spring training.

That afternoon he hammered two home runs.

For the Rockies.

Colorado Rockies 2018 Baseball
This is a 2018 photo of Chris Iannetta of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. This image reflects the Rockies active roster as of Feb. 22, 2018 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) 

Chris Iannetta is back ... and back behind the plate as the Rox starting catcher.

On April 8, during the Rockies' first home weekend series, Iannetta will celebrate his 35th birthday.

He is the Rockies' Elder Statesman.

Iannetta has been the longest-tenured catcher in the Rockies' quarter-century history. This will be his seventh season in Denver. He was brought to the bigs late in 2006 and stuck full time the next year. Chris was traded to the Angels in November 2011 for pitcher Tyler Atwood, spent four seasons with the Angels, then signed with the Mariners a season, last year hooked on with the Diamondbacks, who defeated the Rockies in the wild-card game.

From last season's camp to this, Iannetta moved from one clubhouse at the Talking Stick facility to the other. Chris, a free agent for the third time, didn't expect to rejoin the Rockies, who had traded for another veteran catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, on Aug. 25. But Lucroy, whose contract expired, declined to accept the Rockies' offer.

"We were looking at possible teams I could fit in with,'' Iannetta said, ''but the Rockies weren't in the mix until it looked like Lucroy wasn't coming back. They reached out, and I knew it would be a great situation.'' Especially when he signed a two-year deal, with a third-year team option, for $8.5 million.

I asked Iannetta bluntly if he intended to retire after two-three more seasons. "Let's see how this one turns out. I think I've got a lot left to give the game.''

Manager Bud Black told me Iannetta will make an ideal manager if he chooses to stay in baseball. However, the Rhode Island native does have options. He and former L.A. teammate Vernon Wells own a successful Napa Valley winery - JACK (for their kids' initials).

Iannetta, a career .231 hitter known for his glove and management of pitchers, has given the Rockies a good game in the spring, hitting .333, with an .875 slugging percentage, nine RBIs and four home runs in 14 games.

His eyes become full-beam headlights when addressing the Rockies' pitching staff. "I was so impressed last season with their young starters, and they're back on it. I believe I can help them. The Rockies have put together an incredible bullpen. This was a playoff team last year, and I feel even stronger about where we are now.''

Chris is The Last Rox Standing from 2007.

Nobody else is left from that World Series team. Carlos Gonzalez, who also has returned to the Rockies, is the only other player remaining from the 2009 playoff club. "Pretty amazing,'' Iannetta said.

The number of '07 Rockies in baseball is dwindling, and Chris likely will be the only one playing in an opener this week. Matt Holliday, Seth Smith and Ubaldo Jimenez are unsigned free agents, and oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki is hurt (bone spur).

Iannetta was The Last Man Sitting in '07 and '09.

In his second season (after being drafted in the fourth round in 2004), Iannetta was the reserve for Yorvit Torrealba - and played in only 67 games. But his final five in September were during the unfathomable 21-of-22 victory stretch.

Manager Clint Hurdle used 24 players, but not Iannetta, in the postseason. After starting the majority of games the next two seasons, Iannetta did not appear in '09's three-game series loss to the Phillies.

But Iannetta finally gets another chance to play in the postseason with the Rockies.

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