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Culberson aiming for utility role off bench


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-handed-hitting Charlie Culberson batted .297 in 99 at-bats during a late-season callup with the Rockies last year, despite playing out of position.

A one-time supplemental first-round pick of the Giants, Culberson was an infielder who'd never played in the outfield -- until manager Glenallen Hill gave him three outfield appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs just before the Rockies summoned him. He appeared 27 times in the outfield and four times in the infield for the Rockies.

This year, Culberson, who turns 25 on April 10, has a shot at his first Opening Day roster spot as a utility infielder. Paul Janish, who has played with the Reds and Braves, is challenging for that spot as well. The Rockies are looking to replace Jonathan Herrera, who was traded to the Red Sox during the winter.

Culberson, who appeared in six games with the Giants in 2012 before being traded to the Rockies for second baseman Marco Scutaro, appreciates his time in the outfield even though he is more comfortable in the infield. He is most comfortable at second, but can play shortstop and third.

"It felt like I was playing a new game in the outfield, which is neat for me," Culberson said. "Here I am, 24 years old and had played baseball my whole life. It was fun, something I knew I could work on every day, taking different routes on different balls. It was a challenge, but it was a fun challenge.

"Ninety-five percent of the time I was in the outfield last year. I had a couple of starts at second and it did feel weird going back."

Culberson spends some time in the outfield during batting practice, but can concentrate on his more familiar positions and try to establish himself in the Majors.

"At the point and time I'm at in my career, I just have to keep working at all positions to stay in the big leagues," Culberson said. "If something happens and I'm able to get the opportunity to start, I'm going to take advantage of it. But today, I'm a utility guy, which is OK with me because we are at the top level."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. 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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