True evaluation begins with Rox spring opener

True evaluation begins with Rox spring opener

True evaluation begins with Rox spring opener
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For two weeks, Jim Tracy has refrained from making too much of what he's seen at Rockies camp. Not many specifics, nothing he wants to say stands out and, so, no additional pressure on any player.

That, he says, can wait until Spring Training games start, when players take the diamond and pitchers face a hitter in a different uniform. That day is Saturday.

After a busy offseason that featured a multitude of veteran signings and a clubhouse shakeup, the Rockies will open their Spring Training slate against the D-backs at 1:10 p.m. MT at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The game is sold out.

Most of the early attention will be paid toward Colorado's pitching staff, which remains uncertain from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Drew Pomeranz, who figures to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter this season, will start the game Saturday. He'll be followed by Josh Outman, Rob Scahill, Matt Reynolds, Zach Putnam and Dustin Molloken. Mike Ekstrom and Josh Roenicke may also throw.

"You have some experience in this clubhouse, especially with the position players," said veteran Jamie Moyer, who was signed as a non-roster invitee. "There's some youthfulness in the position player area, but as far as the starting pitching, it's pretty young -- some big arms, a lot of talent. But it's about how you get that talent and funnel it into a positive direction."

There are as many as 10 candidates for starting spots, with a couple hurlers who may end up as long men out of the bullpen.

"We're going to create pitching opportunities to get them out there in front of us as [much as] we possibly can, to be able to make accurate decisions as we go forward," Tracy said.

Saturday's game can be heard live on AM-850 KOA in Denver. The Rockies' first Spring Training game that can be seen on MLB.TV will be March 9 against the Athletics, while ROOT Sports will have its first broadcast on March 17 against the Dodgers.

Further intrigue as games get under way comes in the emergence of young players playing behind the veteran faces in Colorado's lineup. The Rockies added Marco Scutaro, Michael Cuddyer, Casey Blake, Jeremy Guthrie and Ramon Hernandez this offseason to bring a more established winning pedigree to the clubhouse.

Colorado is hoping those players can provide a spark for now, while also helping to usher in the team's future. With top prospects like Nolan Arenado playing behind Blake and Wilin Rosario behind Hernandez, the organization's brightest young stars get the chance to learn from and blossom under some of baseball's most established players.

"On and off the field, a lot of these younger kids remind me of myself where they just want to learn," veteran slugger Jason Giambi said. "They want to get better at the game."

Spring Training offers the club the chance to see if players can take the next step from bullpen sessions and live batting practice to real game scenarios. They'll find out if the ball is, in fact, popping off Dexter Fowler's bat like never before, if Christian Friedrich's buzzworthy bullpens can translate to games or if Juan Nicasio can take the next step forward in his recovery from a line drive that struck him in the head last season.

"We have a luxury here due to the atmosphere that's created in this Spring Training complex, you go out there to play an exhibition game, but the feeling with our Rockies nation that shows up and loves this baseball team and other people that come -- virtually the entire spring last year, the building was full -- you very much have a Major League environment for Cactus League games," Tracy said. "Our young people that we have here, that we're exposing and wanting them to see and have an opportunity to compete and figure some additional things out, that's a special entity that we now have."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.