Sunday's starting pitcher, Drew Pomeranz, opened the season in the Minors so he could keep pitching on a five-day rotation during a stretch when the Rockies didn't need a fifth man. As expected, the Rockies recalled Pomeranz Sunday, and optioned catcher Jordan Pacheco to Triple-A Colorado Springs to make room on the roster.
"We have a specific plan in mind and [we had] a fairly lengthy conversation about the specifics of what we want him to do while he's there," manager Jim Tracy said. "What it boils down to is the bulk of his work will be at third base. What we've seen thus far strongly suggests that what he needs is repetitions. He needs is to be out there, play after play, and not getting a game every three days and being able to continue to react to the ball off the bat, and as a result of reacting to the ball off the bat, mentally recognizing what it was that took place beforehand."
Pacheco came to his first Rockies Spring Training camp in 2011 as a catcher, but he opened eyes with his bat, starting the season in Triple-A and earning a September callup. He began getting starts at third base in Triple-A the week prior to coming up, and of his 21 big league appearances last year, two were behind the plate, 13 at first, two at second, and seven at third. He spent more time in the infield this spring, and despite hopes of winning the backup catching job, he ended up winning a role as an infielder, in large part on the strength of his .339 (20-for-59) Cactus League clip, and was slated to share third base duties with Chris Nelson.
"There's just a little bit of indecisiveness in some of the situations," Tracy said. "It's completely understandable, because there needs to be additional reps in order to have that become completely instinctual behavior."
In the Rockies' long range plans, Pacheco remains a key cog on the 25-man roster, but by sending him down to Triple-A now, the club gets both Pacheco and Nelson more experience at third base than either could get by sharing the job together. The move is very much an investment of faith in Pacheco's future with the club.
"We serve two purposes here," Tracy said. "Pacheco gets regular reps at third base, Nelson gets some regular reps here at third base, and we give Pacheco an opportunity in an environment that's not quite as stressful. He doesn't have to feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders if he makes a mistake in Colorado Springs."
Pacheco was 2-for-10 with a triple through the first eight games of the season. He played three games at third and one game at first, starting once at each position. He made one error in five chances at third base, but Tracy wants him to develop instincts for the position.
"I don't see any problem with the kid fielding the ball -- none, zero," Tracy said. "A couple balls that were hit at him last night were bullets off the surface in front of him. [This move] has nothing to do with the capability of his hands and his hands working and fielding the ball. It's the quick decision. It's recognizing what's taking place before the pitch gets thrown and then saying to yourself, 'OK, if this happens, how do I react,' so it just becomes instinctive.
"Sorting out all that different information happens instantaneously at that position. That's what he needs work at, and that's where he needs the reps. Give the kid an opportunity to go do it for a while."