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Close friends Torrealba, Hernandez fight for one spot

Close friends Torrealba, Hernandez fight for one spot

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yorvit Torrealba and Ramon Hernandez visit one another's homes in Florida during the offseason. They played winter ball together in Venezuela, where they grew up. They've passed many hours talking baseball, sharing their passion for the catcher position, and competing at dominoes.

They were together again Tuesday afternoon, with Torrealba, 34, starting for the Rockies against the Royals and Hernandez, 36, serving as backup. But this strange spring they realize they won't be together long. With second-year slugger Wilin Rosario entrenched as starter, there is room for just one of them.

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Hernandez is signed for $3.2 million this year to complete a two-year contract. Torrealba is under a Minor League deal. There has been talk of the Rockies trading Hernandez, but nothing has materialized. Torrealba, who was the starting catcher on Rockies teams that went to the postseason in 2007 and '09 and is back after spending time with the Padres, Rangers and Blue Jays, could ask out of his Minor League deal and find is own big league job.

"It is a weird situation that's hard," Torrealba said. "It would be nice if they could keep all three of us on the ballclub. All I do is wish him the best, and it's the same from him. We keep working hard."

Although Torrealba's situation is more tenuous because he doesn't have a Major League deal, the lack of catching depth industry-wide suggests there is room for both, somewhere.

"He'll be a Major Leaguer and I'll be a Major Leaguer, so we're here working hard and getting ready for the season," Hernandez said. "That's the way I see it. I realize they're trying to trade me, although I'd like to be here. I know Yorvit wants to be here. We'll see how it turns out. But to be honest with you, this doesn't feel like competition at all."

Torrealba was signed as protection in case Hernandez wasn't fully healthy after a 2012 season that was marred by a hand injury early and a ruptured hamstring at the end. But Hernandez reported to camp healthy at about 13 pounds lighter than last year to take some pressure off his legs. Both have been starters for much of their careers and are transitioning to backup roles, something Torrealba struggled with in Texas and Toronto last year.

Now they appear ready to help mentor a young catcher and offer their experience to pitchers trying to advance their thought processes.

"It's a little bit stressful, to be honest with you, because it is the first time I've been in a situation where I don't really know what to expect," Torrealba said. "But overall, I know I can help the team. So I'm having fun and doing my job. So far it's working. I'm having a really good spring, I feel healthy, way better than I did last year.

"In Texas, Mike Napoli had an unbelievable year the year before and in the postseason, so they decided to go with him and I wasn't playing much. Napoli deserved to play and I knew that, but it was tough because I was playing one every five or six games, but I learned."

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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