Rosario's eyes opened by rough weekend

Rosario's eyes opened by rough weekend

Rosario's eyes opened by rough weekend
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario looked to be having a carefree Monday afternoon, shuffling around for ground balls at first base and leaping for line drives at third. But before he had a little fun, he listened as his bosses in no uncertain terms told him he needs to improve at job one.

After five passed balls during the first two games of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies this past weekend -- including a mind-boggling four during a 3-2 loss in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader -- manager Jim Tracy benched Rosario for Monday's opener of a three-game set with the Giants. Passed balls were part of game-winning rallies in both games Rosario caught against the Phillies.

"The message has to be very clear, and that is you can't catch like that," Tracy said. "It put us in a bad spot in two games that we had chances to win.

"We've got to be better than this. It won't work moving forward. It's got to get a helluva lot better. It's not fair to the club. It's not fair to the pitching staff. It's not fair for pitchers who want to bury a breaking ball with two strikes. I've seen a couple of them get left up in the zone, and there's part of me that's wondering why."

Rosario's hiatus, however, was short-lived, as Ramon Hernandez sustained a left hamstring strain while heading to first on his ground-rule double in the fourth inning. Rosario entered as a pinch-runner and took over behind the dish.

Rosario, 23, has 23 home runs, which leads National League catchers and is two behind Todd Helton's 1998 club rookie record and one behind Troy Tulowitzki's 2007 debut. But he also leads the Majors with 19 passed balls, and he is not asked to handle a knuckleball pitcher. The Mets' Josh Thole, who catches knuckleball master R.A. Dickey, is second with 16 passed balls.

Sunday's passed balls came on low balls over the plate -- pitches that simply must be handled.

Before hanging out at the infield corners during batting practice, Rosario spent time going over fundamentals with catching instructor Jerry Weinstein and veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez, who started against the Giants.

Rosario accepted the criticism.

"Right now, I'm trying to find a way to catch it better," Rosario said. "That was one of the toughest games I've ever had in the Major Leagues. We're working. That game showed that you need to work every day because sometimes you find something new."

However, Rosario admitted there was an extenuating circumstance.

The light standards at Citizens Bank Park extend into the infield and create some odd light and dark spots. A club official indicated Sunday that Rosario had not complained about the late-afternoon shadows on Sunday. However, Rosario admitted Monday he had difficulty seeing, not to mention some bad luck.

"The shadows were going away and coming back," Rosario said. "I wore sunglasses but in the eighth I took them off. But as soon as the umpire said, 'Play ball,' the shadows would go and the sun would come back. You can laugh, but it's tough. I didn't know what I was doing and I couldn't control the situation.

"But it happened. I learned about it and now I can keep working."

Passed balls weren't a problem for the Phillies, who played in the same shadows. And unsure fundamentals have been the bane of Rosario's catching all year. Add to that a brief period where his movement was compromised because he was playing through a left ankle sprain, and it has been a shaky defensive season.

It's time now for Rosario to make corrections and maintain a level of confidence that hasn't wavered despite the difficult times.

"You certainly don't want this to come to the point where it's a mental issue, where you create a problem for yourself," Tracy said.