Wheeler expected to provide power in a pinch

Wheeler expected to provide power in a pinch

DENVER -- There wasn't a spot for left-handed-hitting corner infielder Ryan Wheeler when Spring Training ended, but now he stands to be called upon in big spots with the Rockies.

Wheeler, 25, who has hit for power much of his Minor League career, was recalled Friday from Triple-A Colorado Springs to replace utility infielder Josh Rutledge, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a viral infection.

This spring, the Rockies tested Wheeler in a late-innings pinch-hit role, and he responded by hitting .339 with two home runs, seven RBIs and six doubles in 56 at-bats. But the decision to keep six outfielders to start the year meant the Rockies didn't need his services. At Colorado Springs, Wheeler hit .247 with six doubles, three home runs, nine RBIs and 10 runs. In his last five games, he went 8-for-23 with two home runs and four RBIs.

"I enjoyed that role during Spring Training," said Wheeler, who has had brief callups with the D-backs in 2012 and the Rockies last season (.233, one homer, 17 RBIs in 78 games). "There were a lot of games where they gave me that one at-bat, and it was to prepare me for a role during the regular season. I'm comfortable going up there, being aggressive and facing a guy that throws hard."

Returning to the Pacific Coast League for a third straight season might have helped Wheeler learn to make adjustments.

"A lot of the teams know who I am, a lot of the coaches I've played against," Wheeler said. "It's been interesting to see the coaches and catchers. I know the guys now. I'll walk up and say hi to them. I'll get a base hit on a pitch that they thought should have beaten me and they'll say, 'Man, were you looking for that or something?'

"It's more thinking. The guys in Triple-A are obviously good and they know how to make adjustments. But I don't want to be too well-known in Triple-A."

If Wheeler can provide power off the bench, it would be something the Rockies haven't had since they employed Jason Giambi from 2009-12.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.