MIAMI -- The Rockies' decision to keep six outfielders leaves manager Walt Weiss with a playing-time challenge, but making it work will depend largely on how left-handed-hitting outfielders Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon hammer out their roles.
They'd be used as occasional starters, but the success of the roster configuration will depend largely on how one or both of them perform off the bench. It's the only way to justify having to divide playing time among six outfielders, four of whom -- Dickerson, Blackmon and right-handed hitters Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes -- are vying for starts and playing time in center field.
Dickerson had the stronger spring, with a .344 batting average and .500 slugging percentage, to Blackmon's .236 and .364. If the starts are based on spring performance, Blackmon could forge a role as a pinch-hitter -- and his history suggests he could do just that.
Last season, Blackmon hit .350 (7-for-20) with two doubles and three home runs in games in which he was a substitute. He hit .308 with a .400 on-base percentage in 15 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. Even if he doesn't get the starts, Blackmon believes he can produce.
"It's a mindset," Blackmon said. "That's the team saying, 'Hey, we want you in this spot at this time. That's a big deal to me. I take it very seriously and really lock it in. I prepare before the game for that situation.
"I don't know exactly what they're going to do, but Walt's done a great job of making sure everyone's sharp and gets the at-bats they need. I have confidence in him that he's going to get it done. It shows he's got confidence in us to put us on the team."
Blackmon has been around for parts of three seasons and has learned about coming off the bench. It was an area the Dickerson had to learn last year in his first big league action. Dickerson hit .267 as a substitute and .238 as a pinch-hitter. He had no walks, however, in the pinch-hit at-bats.
Dickerson's hot spring makes him a logical choice to start at times, but he also worked on being ready in situations off the bench.
"I do what I do before the game when I start; that's the routine I go with," Dickerson said. "I have success with that. I don't think doing extra helps. Sticking to the routine when you start, I think you'll be fine. But when you're not starting then you go do cage work and try to do too much, I find it gets in the way."