Rox prospects vying for open rotation spot

Gray's injury gives Marquez, Hoffman, Musgrave key opportunity

Rox prospects vying for open rotation spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- Call the next few days an extension of Spring Training for pitchers at Triple-A Albuquerque who are vying for the Rockies' rotation spot opened by the foot injury to righty Jon Gray.

Asked if the next start could be an audition for prospects like righties German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman, and lefty Harrison Musgrave, Rockies manager Bud Black said, "They know what's ahead of them -- they know there is probably a start coming up at the big league level, and they want to be that guy."

Here are the competitors:

• Marquez, who opened the season in the Rockies' bullpen but wasn't used, is scheduled for his first start Saturday night for Albuquerque at Tacoma. He has made one relief appearance at Triple-A since being sent down, and he is slated for 60 pitches Saturday, Black said.

• Hoffman, 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings over two starts, will face Tacoma on Sunday. "Hoffman's last start was fair -- he strung some pitches together, did fine, stuff was good," Black said.

• Musgrave entered Spring Training with little fanfare, but he nearly won a job. However, Musgrave has 5.19 ERA through two Triple-A starts, with the second being better than the first. "He pitched so well in Spring Training, but his first two starts have been a little variable," Black said.

Musgrave's first K of the spring

At any rate, Hoffman is rated the Rockies' No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Marquez is No. 4 and Musgrave has outperformed his No. 27 preseason ranking. The current staff includes lefty Kyle Freeland, the No. 6 prospect, and Antonio Senzatela, ranked No. 9. So the options are young and talented.

"You want as many options as possible, because that means, in most cases, the performance is there and it'll be a tough decision," Black said.

Worth noting

• Of course, Black could always go to experienced and dependable Chris Rusin, who threw 3 1/3 one-run innings and earned the win Thursday, when Gray was hurt. But Black said he feels comfortable with 45-60 pitches out of Rusin, and he likes Rusin's bullpen value.

• Outfielder David Dahl (stress reaction in sixth rib) joined the Rockies Friday night and is doing rehab work. He is running, throwing and weight training, and he will do some rotational work, turning the hips and torso, this week. His next bone scan is Friday, as the Rockies are being careful to make sure he doesn't irritate the rib.

"Honestly, I've been saying I'm ready to play," Dahl said. "But they said you can feel good, but it still might not be healed. They want to make sure the bone scan comes back and it shows it's healed.

"This is the type of injury that can keep coming back and be a nuisance the rest of the season. So we'll take our time and make sure it heals completely."

• Righty reliever Chad Qualls (right forearm tightness) has made two scoreless outings at Albuquerque. Black said he is moving toward readiness, but he needs to complete back-to-back outings with no problems before he can be activated.

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.