Torrealba named backup catcher over Hernandez

Torrealba named backup catcher over Hernandez
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies will attempt to recapture some of the leadership that catcher Yorvit Torrealba displayed during the team's playoff years in 2007 and 2009.

The Rockies decided Thursday that Torrealba will be the backup to Wilin Rosario. The club also told Ramon Hernandez -- who was signed before last season as the starter but battled injuries and ended up as Rosario's backup -- that he will be designated for assignment Friday.

The Rockies did not announce their Opening Day roster Thursday, the last day of Cactus League play, but did reveal two moves: the backup catcher and the decision to start incumbent Chris Nelson at third base and send prospect Nolan Arenado to Triple-A Colorado Springs. There is still a backup infield slot, with speculation centering on Reid Brignac, obtained early in camp from the Rays for a player to be named, over switch-hitter Jonathan Herrera, who has a Minor League option and doesn't have to be exposed to other clubs through waivers to be sent down.

Torrealba, 34, was seen as a positive influence over pitchers and had some clutch hits during his first run with the Rockies (2006-09). He had success with the Padres (2010) and Rangers (2011-12). But last season, the Rangers went with Mike Napoli as their starter and Torrealba struggled while being forced into backup duty for the first time in years. He hit .236 in 49 games with the Rangers, .214 in 10 games with the Blue Jays, and had five hitless games with the Brewers.

Ready to accept a backup role to Rosario, who hit 28 home runs last year, Torrealba signed a Minor League deal with the Rockies this winter. By making the team, he will get a $900,000 salary under a one-year contract.

The signing put Torrealba in competition with Hernandez, a friend from Venezuela and a former winter ball teammate. Torrealba sizzled this spring with a .526 batting average and one home run in 12 Cactus League games. Hernandez hit .148 this spring and .217 in a 2012 season interrupted early by a strained left hand and ended prematurely by a ruptured hamstring. The decision wasn't based purely on stats, though. The Rockies' deep knowledge of and affinity for what Torrealba has brought figured into the decision.

The Rockies were reportedly looking to make a trade involving Hernandez, who is set to make $3.2 million this year to complete a two-year contract, but nothing has materialized. By designating him, the Rockies have 10 days to trade or release Hernandez or outright him to the Minors.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.