Every Tuesday, Denver Gazette Rockies beat writer Danielle Allentuck takes you around Major League Baseball:
What they said
"I'm here to show who Zac Veen is. That's plain and simple. I'm here to help the team win and I want to be a part of it."
—Veen, the Rockies' top prospect, told The Denver Gazette after his spring training debut
What I'm learning
"Chris P Bacon"
Pig roast anyone? Rockies chef Tyler Hines kept the tradition going, roasting a 50-pound pig named Chris P Bacon. (Get it?) Hines was at the Rockies complex until 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, returning 2 hours later to make sure the pig was cooked to perfection. Hines did his first roast in 2018, a 180-pound beast named "Wilbur" that required five people to carve. The goal, Hines said, is to get players excited and interested in nutrition.
Noah Davis, who started the Cactus League opener on Saturday, knows a thing or two about rock 'n' roll. His father Eric "Derek" Davis was a member of the band "Guttermouth" from 1988 to 2004. The band has released nine albums.
The more you know
New Rockies pitcher Brent Suter isn't just good at pitching. In addition to his environmental work and a position on the MLBPA executive board, Suter is also a master of impressions — specifically Jim Carrey — and a children's book writer.
What's on tap:
—Cactus League action is in full swing. Games are scheduled for every day, typically at 1:10 p.m. MST.
—The World Baseball Classic kicks off March 8.
—And Opening Day is officially within reach. The Rockies start their season in San Diego against the Padres on March 30.
On the backfields of Salt River Fields, a little black device keyed me into exactly what Germán Márquez was thinking.
Fastball down and away, the automated voice said. Then Márquez winded up and hit his spot, just like he called it.
The PitchCom earpiece, which is no longer than a cellphone and no wider than a Popsicle stick, attaches to the rim of a player's hat. Both the pitcher and the catcher have an attachment with buttons, allowing them to call the pitch and location. The buttons are customized for each player, and the pitcher attaches it to his hip, the catcher to his wrist. During spring training, three position players are also allowed to wear one so they can know what pitch is coming.
PitchCom was legalized a year ago, but this year it's taken on added importance because of the pitch clock, which gives pitchers only 15 seconds to start their windup, 20 if a man is on base.
There's no time to linger and shake off a call from a catcher. With the technology, a pitcher can hear the call from the catcher as they are walking around the mound and respond immediately without being in position.
Márquez is experimenting with calling his own pitches — as he did in that live batting practice — but most Rockies' pitchers first are trying to get adjusted to the device. Kyle Freeland, for example, didn't use it at all last season.
"I'm a person who is very visual with my stuff," Freeland said after using the device for the first time on Sunday. "I like seeing the sign from the catcher, picturing shapes of pitches in my head into the zone. I'm going to have to be able to work with that and tweak that with PitchCom."
As with all new things, there will be complications. Take this scene Sunday: catcher Brian Serven was the last batter up in the bottom of the third. The Rockies switched pitchers, with Daniel Bard replacing Freeland. By the time Serven ran back to the dugout, put on his mountain of gear and ran back out, the clock was already winding down. Bard threw a warm-up pitch with less than 30 seconds on the clock, a violation under the new rules, and a ball was added before the inning began.
Both Serven and Bard understand this is how it is and they need to, in their words, suck it up and deal. Both are also hoping Major League Baseball will see that this is a potential problem and will make the adjustments necessary.
"I know the rules are what they are. (If) it’s Bard, if I make the last out of the eighth inning and I have to go talk to Bard about how we are going to work the ninth, we might need 20 more seconds," Serven told The Denver Gazette.
"Closers already take a lot of time to get loose, and in the ninth inning they already gave us an extra mound inning, but is it too much of a stretch to maybe add 20 seconds? We’ll have to monitor it and see what the league thinks."
A batter will also get an automatic strike if they aren't in the box by the eight-second mark. Charlie Blackmon was victim to this in his first at-bat of the spring on Sunday.
Five Rockies position battles to monitor:
1. Outfield: Yonathan Daza, Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon are on the team. Who joins them is the biggest question mark. Nolan Jones, Michael Toglia, Sean Bouchard, Cole Tucker and Brenton Doyle are in contention for two bench spots. That number drops to just one if Randal Grichuk is healthy for Opening Day.
2. Backup infielder: Brendan Rodgers and Ezequiel Tovar will start at second and shortstop, respectively. The backup spot is between Alan Trejo and Harold Castro. Castro has the edge, given his versatility and experience. He can play every position and has a career batting average of .271 in 420 at-bats in parts of five seasons for the Tigers.
3. Bullpen: Five spots are essentially a given, but the Rockies have some room to work within the last four. Will flame-thrower Justin Lawrence earn a role? Will Jake Bird be healthy? Will the newcomer Nick Mears and his 4-seam curveball get a shot? And what about Logan Allen and Noah Davis, two starters who could be considered as relievers?
4. Rotation: Are Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, José Ureña, Austin Gomber and Ryan Feltner the five? Or can Peter Lambert, who has pitched in only two major league games since 2019, sneak in there? Lambert's changeup looked great Monday in his first spring start.
5. Catcher placement: Elias Díaz and Brian Serven are heading to Denver. Willie McIver is going to Albuquerque. But where are Drew Romo, Hunter Goodman and the rest of the gang being shipped off to? The Rockies are deep here, but must do some careful maneuvering to make sure someone isn't blocked.