Arenado to realize dream of representing Team USA

Colorado slugger turned childhood disappointment into motivation to don his country's colors

Arenado to realize dream of representing Team USA

This time, Team USA called Nolan Arenado's name.

Being selected to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic allows Arenado, the Colorado Rockies' star third baseman, to finally realize a dream that was sparked when he was 13. Then a budding shortstop from Southern California, he enjoyed what he thought was a strong performance in a Junior Olympics tournament in Arizona. Afterward, organizers would choose an all-tournament team that carried with it an invitation to represent the U.S. in an international competition.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blackmon, Arenado HRs lead Rox vs. D-backs

Rusin allows hit in 2 innings; Arizona's Shipley gives up 3 runs in 1 2/3

Blackmon, Arenado HRs lead Rox vs. D-backs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado hit solo homers as the Rockies defeated the D-backs, 6-1, on Sunday in Cactus League play.

Blackmon's leadoff homer, off D-backs starter Braden Shipley, was familiar -- he had 10 leadoff homers last season and has 22 in his career. Arenado homered in the third off Tyler Jones.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Valaika homers as Rockies fall to White Sox

Valaika homers as Rockies fall to White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox claimed a 7-3 victory over the Rockies on Sunday at Camelback Ranch in a game featuring key moments from players competing for roster spots on their respective teams.

German Marquez started for the Rockies and pitched two scoreless innings while allowing two hits. The No. 73 prospect in MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 is competing for a spot in Colorado's rotation. Pat Valaika, fighting for a utility spot, homered off White Sox starter Jose Quintana in the second.

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Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Top prospect Rodgers gets spring game action

Rusin, being considered for Rockies rotation, throws two scoreless innings

Top prospect Rodgers gets spring game action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies created a buzz among those who follow prospects when they put shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the third overall pick in the 2015 Draft, on the lineup card in the sixth inning of Sunday's game against the White Sox at Glendale, Ariz.

The shock didn't bother him too badly. Rodgers doubled and scored during a 7-3 loss to the White Sox.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Busy McMahon eager for more with Rockies

Busy McMahon eager for more with Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies corner infield prospect Ryan McMahon was admittedly tired in November. But he wasn't burned out in the least.

McMahon played a full season at Double-A Hartford, which didn't have a home stadium and therefore spent the season on the road, then played in the Arizona Fall League. Then he rested. Briefly.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

CarGo believes Classic will jump-start season

More spring at-bats have led to better early production for Rockies star

CarGo believes Classic will jump-start season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez believes representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic could lead to a good start to the regular season.

The last time Gonzalez played in the Classic, which was in 2013, he hit .306 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .551 slugging percentage in 25 April games. He kept that going in May, posting a .308/.385/.607 line in 28 games.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Desmond makes big debut in Rockies' win

Desmond makes big debut in Rockies' win

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ian Desmond made his Rockies debut Saturday and went 3-for-3 with an RBI as Colorado beat Arizona, 8-4, in the Cactus League opener for both teams at Salt River Fields.

Desmond, who was signed by the Rockies in December to a five-year, $70 million free-agent deal, played first base, a new position for him.

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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

All spots in Rockies' batting order 'dangerous'

All spots in Rockies' batting order 'dangerous'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- No matter where he hits in the order, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story showed Saturday he can make the ball fly. His teammates showed that the batting order doesn't matter, either.

Hitting in the seventh spot against the D-backs in the Cactus League opener, Story launched Archie Bradley's first pitch of the fourth inning over the center-field wall during the 8-4 victory over the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. And eight of the Rockies' starting players reached base at least once -- seven with hits -- before substitutes finished the contest.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Holland cautious while building game strength

Holland cautious while building game strength

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While a nice crowd watched -- and wished -- during the Rockies' 8-4 Cactus League-opening victory over the D-backs on Saturday, new closer Greg Holland was on a practice field, quietly working toward making purple dreams come true.

Holland was signed to a one-year contract that guarantees him $7 million with heavy incentives and a vesting option for next season that could pay him at least $10 million and as much as $15 million in base salary. But he's also coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the 2016 season. So his progress happens with care.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tapia staying ready no matter where he lands

Tapia staying ready no matter where he lands

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfield prospect Raimel Tapia's job this spring is to prove he is ready, even if he's not needed.

Tapia, 23, who is the No. 90 prospect and one of five Rockies on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects, batted a combined .328 with a .361 on-base percentage at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque last season. The performance earned him a 22-game look-see in the Majors during which he hit .263 with a .293 OBP in 41 plate appearances.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Diaz on mend from surgery, faces batters

Diaz on mend from surgery, faces batters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reliever Jairo Diaz, whose right elbow injury last March was one of many reasons the Rockies' bullpen struggled last season, took a small but significant step Friday by facing hitters at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Diaz, 25, who possesses a fastball that averaged 97.3 mph while going 0-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 26 combined games with the Angels (2014) and Rockies (2015), said he should be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment by May. When ready, Diaz could add power to a bullpen that looks to improve from last season, when its 5.13 ERA was the highest in the Major Leagues.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arenado gets peek of Cuba

Rockies' third baseman vows to use status to serve in homeland

Arenado gets peek of Cuba

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado spent Thanksgiving losing himself -- as much as possible for a baseball star -- in his family's homeland of Cuba. He returned to the United States thankful.

Arenado's grandfather, Gerardo, was a political prisoner in Fidel Castro's Cuba. Arenado's father Fernando, his twin brother and 12-year-old cousin were allowed to come to the United States. Gerardo left Cuba and went to Spain, before later receiving a visa to come to America.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reynolds confident in return to Rockies

Reynolds confident in return to Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After compiling the highest batting average and on-base percentage of his career last season with the Rockies, Mark Reynolds waited for guaranteed Major League offers that didn't come. But he wasn't disappointed enough to leave the continent.

Reynolds, 33, turned down a $3 million offer to play in Korea and re-signed with the Rockies on a Minor League contract. He stands to make $1.5 million if he makes the Major League club, and an additional $2.5 million is available via performance bonuses.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Journeyman Cardullo eyes 1st Opening Day job

29-year-old rookie, who made MLB debut in '16, hoping to break camp with Rox

Journeyman Cardullo eyes 1st Opening Day job

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cast aside by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2012, Stephen Cardullo spent four years in the place where many baseball dreams have gone to die.

Independent baseball.

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Logan Newman is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Story wants to pen tale on defense

Story wants to pen tale on defense

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Any discussion of Rockies shortstop Trevor Story begins with home runs and segues to the bat after he hit 27 home runs as a rookie in 2016. But Story would like his glove to be in the conversation.

"I'm really prideful of my defense, probably more than offense," Story said. "It's huge, especially at shortstop. You've got to have a good defender there. I don't really just want to be good. I want to be one of the great shortstops."

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rusin's versatility a plus for Rockies

Rusin's versatility a plus for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Discussions of the potential Rockies' starting rotation often end with, 'By the way, there's Chris Rusin. Bullpen projections also shoehorn him in the same way.

The point, however, is not that the left-handed Rusin is not appreciated. It's that he's available for whatever the Rockies need.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bettis gets clean bill of health

Bettis gets clean bill of health

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis loves operating on the outskirts early in Spring Training. But his health report was in the spotlight for good reason Wednesday.

Bettis has periodic checkups since undergoing surgery for testicular cancer in late November. He had blood work done Tuesday, and Wednesday received good news.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies ready to compete with big spenders

Rockies ready to compete with big spenders

PHOENIX -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich hopes to follow the steps of the 2014 and '15 Royals and the '16 Indians as mid-market teams that reached the World Series.

Bridich, speaking Tuesday at Cactus League Media Day, didn't see the point in pronouncing the Rockies contenders after six straight sub-.500 seasons.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dahl, Parra battling for starting job in LF

22-year-old Dahl replaced injured Parra at position last season

Dahl, Parra battling for starting job in LF

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder David Dahl wants the triumphs of last year to give him confidence heading into this season. Gerardo Parra would like to forget 2016 as quickly as possible.

Each arrived at Spring Training 2017 trying to prove he is worthy of the Rockies' regular left-field job.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Amarista's versatility could be helpful to Rox

27-year-old has experience playing for new manager Black

Amarista's versatility could be helpful to Rox

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- By joining the Rockies, left-handed-hitting Alexi Amarista can continue doing a little bit of everything for manager Bud Black.

Amarista, 27, broke in with the Angels in 2011 but truly gained footing in 2012 after joining the Padres, then managed by Black, who was there through the first 65 games of 2015. With the Padres, Amarista played every position except first base and catcher, even ending up on the mound twice (although the first wasn't until June 17, 2015, the game after Black's departure).

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu added the 2016 National League batting title to his honors that include a Rockies Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013 and a Rawlings Gold Glove in 2014. Still, he's guaranteed to show up on any list of underrated players.

But he never cared about that before and doesn't intend to start now. The 2017 MLB Network listing of Top 10 Second Basemen Right Now rated him ninth.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arenado prepares for bout at the plate

Arenado prepares for bout at the plate

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado wants to come out ahead in more best vs. best matchups.

Arenado is recognized as one of the game's best players. He ranked 12th in MLB Network's recent ranking of baseball's Top 100 players. But he sees the next step as performing better against some of the best opposing pitchers, especially in the National League West.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Presidents Day a double holiday for Rockies

Monfort expresses enthusiasm for first day of full workouts

Presidents Day a double holiday for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With Presidents Day coinciding with Monday's first official full-squad workout of Rockies Spring Training (although many players have been at Salt River Fields for weeks), Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort stopped to reflect on the two holidays -- one on the calendar, one in the heart of baseball fans.

MLB.com asked Monfort to provide his main messages to Rockies fans going into the 2017 season:

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blackmon understands why trade rumors fly

Center fielder tapped into power last year with 29 HRs

Blackmon understands why trade rumors fly

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Charlie Blackmon appreciated the phone call from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, even though he didn't think it was necessary.

From the end of last season, speculation had flown that the depth of the Rockies' outfield and their needs in other areas meant the club would entertain trading Blackmon, the everyday center fielder since 2014. Speculation grew when the club signed Ian Desmond, who played center last season for the Rangers -- never mind that the Rockies said all along Desmond was going to play first base.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies' Murphy sticks with mitt that fits

Rookie catcher goes with basic black on Glove Day

Rockies' Murphy sticks with mitt that fits

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies rookie catcher Tom Murphy says sometimes you hurt the one you (g)love.

Murphy sized up his new Wilson catcher's mitt on Sunday at Salt River Fields. A new glove is always exciting for a ballplayer, even at age 25. But Murphy -- and his dad -- were maybe too excited when he received his first new glove while at Moore High School in Central Square, N.Y.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies' catching corps young but prepared

Rockies' catching corps young but prepared

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies catching prospect Jan Vazquez's highest experience level is at Triple-A Albuquerque -- for one game last season. He's spent most of the last two years at Double-A. So he's smart enough to listen to a wise, old catcher on keeping smooth behind the plates.

"It's almost as if you're thinking about what you're going to have for dinner that night," Tony Wolters told him while setting a pretend target. "'I'm going to eat a steak.' Then the ball comes and you catch it, nice and easy."

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rockies pitching prospect Gonzalez on his way

Rockies pitching prospect Gonzalez on his way

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed prospect Rayan Gonzalez is headed in a Major League direction, now that he has a handle on his best pitch -- a 94-96 mph fastball with natural cutter movement.

Gonzalez, 26, a 21st-round Draft pick in 2012 out of Bethune-Cookman College, posted a solid 49 strikeouts in 52 innings at Double-A Hartford last season, but his 23 walks were a concern. But Gonzalez put himself on the Major League radar in the Arizona Fall League with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 11 2/3 innings.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.