Wigginton provides versatility across diamond

Wigginton provides versatility across diamond

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As he joins his sixth team in 10 big league seasons, Ty Wigginton has earned the title of baseball journeyman. With Wigginton, however, the Rockies have a player who can be a journeyman in the course of a single game. Wigginton brings four gloves to the park and has routinely played five different positions per season since he broke into the Majors with the Mets in 2002.

Wigginton came to the Majors as a second baseman, quickly learned the craft of handling the hot corner at third, and has played first base in addition to shortstop and the outfield. While he may seem like a man without a country, he's found a way to feel at home wherever he is on the field.

"Since I've started moving around positions, I've really learned to keep it simple," Wigginton said before working out at Salt River Fields on Saturday. "A ground ball is a ground ball; it doesn't matter where it is. A fly ball is a fly ball. You got to catch them both, and you got to throw them somewhere. I think you just keep it simple and maybe not get caught up in some of the footwork that goes on at each position."

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Though he downplays his versatility and the challenge of keeping a strong defensive team like the Rockies up to par at a variety of positions, Wigginton is respected for both his glove and his bat -- he's a career .267 hitter and averages 22 homers every 162 games -- by baseball lifers with the pedigree to appreciate both.

"This guy can play at second, and he probably turns a double play as good as I did, and he's a lot tougher than I was," Rockies infield coach Rich Dauer said. Dauer played second base for the Orioles in the days when they defined defensive excellence, and he still holds a pair of single-season fielding records for second basemen, so it's high praise coming from him. "He plays third base real well. First is an easy position for him, and you can put him in the outfield too. He brings us exactly what we need in today's kind of baseball."

The relationship works both ways, and the Rockies bring Wigginton something he's never really sniffed over the past nine seasons: a legitimate chance to play in the postseason.

"That was the main reason I signed here, was to play meaningful games late in the season and to get to play into October," Wigginton said. "I've got very high expectations. So far this spring, everything about being in Colorado has exceeded my expectations. I'm enjoying every single day out there."

Wigginton's versatility gives the Rockies a variety of answers for any number of questions that the season can impose on a team, all in one roster spot. He's expected to see time at first base when Todd Helton needs a breather. He gives the club stability at second and third, where injuries and offensive production have plagued the club in the past, and he could work his way into the right field mix, where the Rockies start the season without a returning everyday player.

"The Colorado Rockies are a very, very good team and they're very close to going to that next level, but we haven't gone to that next level, at least since I've been here," Dauer said."They were in the World Series in 2007. But in order to be a quality team you need to be there every year. This is the kind of guy that will put us over the hump."

Wigginton should fit in with players like Jason Giambi, Ryan Spilborghs, Seth Smith, and Eric Young, Jr. He can be an essential weapon on a well-armed bench, and he's going to push his teammates to prove that they should be in the lineup instead of him on any day of the week. While reigning Gold-Glovers like shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left fielder Carlos Gonzalez may not have to look over their shoulders, the rest of the team is on notice with Wigginton's arrival.

"There's nobody on this team now that can slack off and just pretend they have a job," Dauer said. "Ty brings us an ability to play any position and makes us a much better team. We have a tremendous defense in the outfield and the infield, and you don't have to do a lot. You get to what you get to and you make that play, and that's all we count. And with the bat, I can see that right now he's going to be an offensive weapon."

Wigginton's versatility can be attributed, in part, to his ability to remain flexible from day to day, to take the steps to be prepared for any circumstance, and to approach his role with an open mind that expands his options, rather than limits them.

"The way I look at it, I come into a spring and obviously my goal is to first and foremost make a team, and then number two, go out and play it the right way," the 33-year-old Wigginton said. "I've never been a guy who wants to set goals. I believe that goals can hinder you. Especially numbers-wise. Just go out and play the game the right way and do whatever you can to help your team win."

In four Cactus League games, Wigginton has already played first, third, and right field, and he's settled in quickly as a solid presence in a clubhouse known for its chemistry.Though he stopped packing the catcher's mitt he used sparingly in the Minors, he's ready to suit up if it helps his teammates on the field or in their heads.

"Wherever they need me, I got a glove, and I'll go there and give it my best shot," Wigginton said. "I've never caught in the big leagues. I've had the gear on a couple times, and we hit a walkoff, so maybe I'll just have to throw the gear on to help us out one time."

About the only place the Rockies don't have Wigginton penciled in for prospective duty is on the mound, but if they think he's got the stuff to help, Wigginton is ready to answer Colorado's call.

Owen Perkins is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.