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Rockies release Blake, eye youth for third base

Rockies release Blake, eye youth for third base

Rockies release Blake, eye youth for third base
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies unconditionally released third baseman Casey Blake on Tuesday, which most likely means the club will go young at the position to start the season.

Blake, 38, signed a $2 million, non-guaranteed contract with the club during the offseason, after his 2011 season with the Dodgers was shortened because of neck surgery. According to the contract, the Rockies owed Blake $491,000.

An 0-for-14 start to the spring and a neck injury that cost him a week put him behind. In the last several days, Blake had a two-hit game and a two-run homer. Blake finished the spring hitting .150 (3-for-20).

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"Once we made the decision that Casey was not going to make our club, we wanted to do what was best for him," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said in the club's press release. "It was an absolute pleasure to have Casey wear a Rockies uniform. His professionalism and work ethic were tremendous additions to our camp and we wish him the best of luck."

Blake has batted .264 with 264 doubles, 18 triples, 167 home runs and 616 RBIs in 1,265 career games with the Blue Jays, Twins, Indians and Dodgers. His reaction was gracious.

"I understand the decision," Blake said. "I appreciated the opportunity and wish them success."

Chris Nelson, 26, the Rockies' No. 1 Draft pick in 2004, has received ample opportunity at third base in camp and entered Tuesday with a .267 batting average, one home run and three RBIs.

The club also has been taking a longer look at Jordan Pacheco, 26, at third base. Pacheco, whose best defensive position has been catcher, entered his start at third on Tuesday with a .436 batting average, one home run and seven RBIs.

"We have younger alternatives that we like, that we will continue to evaluate," O'Dowd said.

It's not clear if the release of Blake will help the chances of utility man Jonathan Herrera, 27, to make the Opening Day roster. Herrera entered Tuesday hitting .385 this spring and has played multiple positions defensively. The only issue is Herrera has a Minor League option, which means he can be sent down without being exposed to other clubs via waivers.

Nelson and infielder-outfielder Eric Young Jr., 26, who entered Tuesday hitting .278 with six stolen bases and is battling for an Opening Day spot, have exhausted their Minor League options.

The departure of Blake could allow catching prospect Wilin Rosario, 23, to make the Opening Day roster. Having Rosario would allow Pacheco to be freed from from backup catching duties, and on days he doesn't start manager Jim Tracy could use him in offensive situations. Veteran non-roster candidate Wil Nieves, 34, is another backup catching possibility.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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