New Vegas Ballpark

In this, March 28, 2019, photo, workers continue construction on a new baseball park in Las Vegas. The park will be the home of the minor league Las Vegas Aviators. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Every Tuesday, Denver Gazette Rockies beat writer Danielle Allentuck takes you around Major League Baseball:

Around MLB

It's been a rough spring for injuries, and players participating in the World Baseball Classic got the worst of it. Mets superstar closer Edwin Díaz hurt his knee while celebrating Puerto Rico's win over the Dominican Republic on March 15. He suffered a torn patellar tendon and is likely out for the season. José Altuve has a fractured thumb and will miss 8 to 10 weeks for the Astros.

World Baseball Classic

Speaking of the WBC, the United States is heading to the finals Tuesday night. Rockies starter Kyle Freeland has pitched just once, striking out three in three innings during Team USA's first game of the tournament. Daniel Bard has pitched three times and showed a lack of control on Friday night. He was removed after 18 pitches before he could record an out and was credited for four earned runs.

Let's catch up

The Rockies signed Jurickson Profar to a one-year deal Sunday, a major league source told The Denver Gazette. He'll play left field, with Kris Bryant moving to right and Charlie Blackmon primarily used as the designated hitter.

Harold Castro, a non-roster invite, is making a cases to be on the Rockies' opening day roster. His versatility is his biggest asset. Castro can play everywhere and hit for average.

Lucas Gilbreath (Tommy John) and Brendan Rodgers (shoulder surgery) are likely out for the season, but both are planning to stick with the team. Gilbreath wants to study analytics (and go viral) while Rodgers hopes to take on a mentorship role.

Rockies Royals Baseball

Kansas City Royals' Jackie Bradley Jr., right, is tagged out by Colorado Rockies third baseman Aaron Schunk after hitting a double during the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

The kids get to play

While the big kids went to Las Vegas for the weekend, the Rockies gave their youngins a chance to play in major league spring training games. Benny Montgomery, 2021 first-round pick, and Jordan Beck, selected 38th overall in 2022, were among the prospects who got to play. Gabriel Hughes, their 2022 first-round pick, started Monday against the Dodgers. Jaden Hill, their second-round pick in 2021, gets his turn Tuesday against the Padres.


On tap

WBC Final: The U.S. face Japan in the final at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Opening Day: The Rockies head to San Diego on March 30 to open the season against the Padres. They'll play four games there before two games in Los Angelos to wrap up their first road trip.

Home opener: Coors Field opens for business on April 6 when the Rockies host the Nationals. Stick around for the end of the homestand to see the Cardinals and Nolan Arenado play April 10-12.


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MLB Insider: Is Las Vegas ready for a MLB team?

In Kris Bryant's mind, a major league baseball team in Las Vegas is going to happen.

Bryant, a Las Vegas native, has seen how the city has reacted to the Aces, Knights and Raiders. He thinks the reaction will be the same for a MLB team as well.

"I think it's a done deal," Bryant said from Salt River Fields on Friday before the Rockies departed to play two games in Las Vegas as part of big league weekend. "People are excited about sports there."

The attendance at this weekend's exhibition action reflected that — 7,982 people came out to watch a meaningless game on Saturday. Oakland, the team that's been mulling a move to the desert, averages only about 9,000 during a regular-season game.

The A's current lease at their stadium, the Coliseum, ends after the 2024 season. They've played there since 1968, and it has a reputation for being the worst in the league due to its lack of updates. Wild animals roam the stadium, including a reappearing opossum last season.

There's no question the A's need a new stadium. The only thing up in the air, though, is where it will be. At the start of spring training, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the A's have been working on funding for a stadium in Las Vegas. Their Triple-A team, the Aviators, already plays there and led the Pacific Coast League in attendance last year. The Aviators' stadium wouldn't work for a major league team — a roof, for one, would be needed — but they already have the beginnings of a fan base there.

They've also been exploring a new stadium in Oakland, but that's hit roadblocks. The A's reportedly have an interest in building a new stadium at Howard Terminal near the waterfront, but that's been stalled due to funding issues and affordable housing concerns.

For now, the A's are stuck. The team, in the meantime, has stopped spending. They will have the lowest payroll in MLB again this year, estimated to be just about $40 million. The Mets, the league's biggest spenders, will have two players making more individually than the entire A's team combined.

The Aces have made the playoffs all but one time since they moved to Las Vegas. The Knights have succeeded there since the NHL expansion and the Raiders have built up a fan base. Will the A's be the next to make their home there?

"I think it's very capable of handling major sports," Rockies' manager Bud Black said. "I think it's doable and I could see it happening."

WBC Baseball US Venezuela Baseball

United States' Trea Turner celebrates after he hit a go-ahead grand slam during the eighth inning of a World Baseball Classic game against Venezuela, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Miami. Tim Anderson, J.T. Realmuto and Bobby Witt Jr. scored on the play. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


The list

There's been a lot of talk about the WBC being meaningless and that MLB needs to step in before more players get hurt. But covering it for the first time has shown me those critics couldn't be more wrong. Here are some moments I'll remember from the 2023 WBC:

1. Trea Turner's grand slam: I love a jaw-dropping moment and this was the definition of one. His big swing propelled the U.S. to a 9-7 win over Venezuela to advance to the semifinals. The entire dugout went to home plate to greet their hero. Team USA is stacked with players who have won World Series and MVP awards, yet many have remarked that playing in the WBC has meant more to them than any accolade they've won.

2. Hanging out with Mexico fans during the last day of pool play: It was a rainy day in Scottsdale, and I knew that morning the Rockies game was going to be called off. So I did what any keen reporter does and found myself a new story. I sat in the stands with the Mexico fans and let me tell you, it was the most fun I've had at a game in a long time. If you think baseball is boring, you clearly aren't hanging out with the right kind of fans. They took every pitch personally. 

3. Shohei Ohtani playing in Japan again: Ohtani, the two-way megastar for the Angels, hadn't played in his home country since 2017. Almost 2000 days later, he returned to Japan to play in the WBC. "Ohtani is a god," one fan told the Associated Press at the Tokyo Dome. He did what he does, going 6-for-12 at the plate and striking out five in four innings pitched.

4. Duque Hebbert signs: The WBC turned into a life-changing opportunity for at least one player. Hebbert, representing Nicaragua, struck out Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez and Rafael Devers, three of MLB's biggest stars. Nicaragua fell 6-1 to the Dominican Republic and has since been eliminated, but Hebbert walked away with a life-changing opportunity. The Tigers signed him after the game ended. He even got a photo with Soto to remember the moment.

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