SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez has figured coming to camp lighter could help his durability after an injury-interrupted 2012 season. But he almost took going thin a little too far.
Hernandez missed 42 games early with a left hand strain -- more from the hazards of catching than conditioning -- but late in the year, he suffered a ruptured left hamstring that required surgery. Hernandez, who turns 37 on May 20, figured the only way he could give the Rockies more this year -- the end of a two-year, $6.4 million contract -- he couldn't play at the burly 230 pounds he carried into last season, which finished with a .217 batting average in just 52 games.
Not only did he want to be lighter for his hamstring, but he said the weight he was carrying was not good for his knees. He had a surgery to clean loose bodies from his left knee in 2009, and admitted he felt soreness there.
A frighteningly trim Hernandez showed up for winter ball in Venezuela, where he played a few games at first base and as a designated hitter.
"I went down to 210, which is definitely too light -- I hadn't weighed 210 since 1999, and I don't know how to play that light," he said. "But between 215 and 220 is good for my legs and my knees."
Also, it's good for Hernandez to be light on his feet, since he'll be moving around a little this spring. He is on the Venezuelan roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
"I always like to go," Hernandez said. "If I've got a chance to represent my country, especially at my age, it might be my last one, why not? I went to the last two. It's a great feeling when you listen to your anthem and the people in the stands from your country are wearing your flag. It's an exciting experience. If it's in your hands and you can do it, why miss it?"
Hernandez will be doing the back-and-forth between his national team and the Rockies, all while trying to hold onto his job. He was signed last year as the starter, but his injuries forced rookie Wilin Rosario into the fire as everyday catcher. Rosario struggled defensively, but set a Rockies rookie record with 28 home runs. If Rosario takes the forward steps the Rockies expect, Hernandez could be battling fellow veteran Yorvit Torrealba -- in camp under a Minor League contract -- for backup duty.
"This is the first time I've been around Ramon, but everybody speaks very highly of him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's a pro and he knows what the deal is. He's going out to compete, as well as Torrealba. Both of them have similar strengths. They're very veteran, very well-respected and can handle a staff."