Garner hoping to make lasting impression

Garner hoping to make lasting impression

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Should Rockies outfield prospect Cole Garner complete the long journey to the Majors, it'll be a nice reunion with an old high-school teammate.

Garner was selected in the 26th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft out of La Quinta High School in Garden Grove, Calif., the same year the Rockies made third baseman Ian Stewart their first-round choice.

The Rockies placed Garner, a switch-hitter, on the 40-man Major League roster this winter for the first time, after he batted .313 with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs in his first Triple-A season at Colorado Springs. Garner made a good initial impression in Saturday's 8-7, Cactus League victory over the D-backs.

Garner went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored, and in the sixth inning threw out Tony Abreu, who was trying to stretch a hit into a double.

"I knew I would be able to play a lot of games and stuff; I played a good amount last spring, too," said Garner, an aggressive swinger who is working on strike zone discipline. "I was definitely a good start to the spring. You always want to start off that way."

Being an outfielder is not the easiest lot in the Rockies system. The team has depth at that position, and the plan going into Spring Training was for the team to open the regular season with just four pure outfielders. Utility man Ty Wigginton's versatility means the Rockies can save a spot for left-handed pinch-hitter Jason Giambi.

Still, Garner was happy the Rockies protected him this winter.

"I love the Rockies," Garner said. "It's familiar. It's comfortable. It was the best thing that could have happened.

"I guess the grass is always greener, but it's not. You never know. I know the Rockies, how they think about me and how I think about them."

That protection came in handy during a difficult offseason.

Playing in the Dominican Republic for two weeks, Garner suffered a right quadriceps injury. Then he came down with a parasitic illness and had to leave. The latter problem was the more serious.

"Before I got sick, I was ready to come back and play, and that took me a good 5-6 weeks to get to feeling really good," Garner said. "It was scary. I lost 12 pounds. I pretty much got it all back."