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Rockies attempting to lock up Iannetta

Rockies attempting to lock up Iannetta

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Rockies' maintained faith in catcher Chris Iannetta despite his struggles in 2009. They're backing that faith in contract talks.

General manager Dan O'Dowd said Monday that the Rockies are discussing several contract structures, including a multiyear deal, with the arbitration-eligible Iannetta. The Rockies are also talking about more than one year with two other arbitration-eligible players -- closer Huston Street and second baseman Clint Barmes.

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The latter two were known to be discussing multiyear deals, but O'Dowd revealed the talks with Iannetta during Monday's first day of the Winter Meetings.

The club continues to talk to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who is a free agent and is testing the market to find a more favorable contract structure and playing opportunity. But the priority is Iannetta, who hit .264 with a .440 slugging percentage in 2008, but hit .228 last year and lost playing time (despite a .460 slugging percentage) to Torrealba in 2009.

Iannetta's big-swing potential is the reason the Rockies hope he can turn the corner. In the last two seasons, 75 of Iannetta's 134 hits have gone for extra bases. That number includes 34 home runs.

"We know that we're a better club if Chris can take the next step forward in his career," O'Dowd said. "We'd love to have Torre back for all the energy and passion that he brings, all those intangibles."

The Rockies are making contact with free-agent catchers Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas as options in case Torrealba goes elsewhere. The Rockies will first look to Iannetta -- a fourth-round Rockies Draft pick in 2004 -- to clearly establish himself as a No. 1 catcher. However, they need someone like Torrealba, who hit a career-best .291 in 2009, for protection.

"We have a unique situation, because some of the other jobs that are opening the game are for true No. 1's," O'Dowd said. "We still feel very strongly about Chris.

"It's not like we're looking for a pure backup guy, but it's not like we're looking for a No. 1 guy. We're kind of looking at a hybrid of a guy."

O'Dowd said Paul Phillips, who hit .311 in 17 games and is under a Minor League contract, also is an alternative behind the plate if the team can't find a more established catcher.

Left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, coming off a career year (16-9, 4.38 ERA), will likely be signed to a one-year deal. De La Rosa will be eligible for free agency after 2010. With a good year, he not only will be in line for a big contract but could find himself a Type B free agent. That would give him added leverage and allow the Rockies to receive a pick in the 2011 Draft as compensation should he leave.

In other developments:

• Right-hander Manuel Corpas, who was the team's closer in 2007, but has struggled with inconsistency and elbow issues since, will pitch for Escogido in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. Corpas underwent surgery to remove a bone chip, and a follow-up surgery to clear an infection, late last season.

After 10 days of working at the club's complex in the Dominican Republic, Corpas has been pronounced ready for game action.

Last season, the Rockies not only lost Corpas, but also went the whole year without right-hander Taylor Buchholz, who had a breakout performance in 2008. Buchholz, who underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, won't be ready at the start of the 2010 season.

"That's really big for us, getting Corpy back," O'Dowd said. "Buchholz, I feel great about, but it's going to take time." Rafael Betancourt, who handled the right-handed setup role in 2009, was expected to accept the Rockies' arbitration offer before Monday's 10 p.m. MT deadline. O'Dowd said he'd like to add one more experienced arm to the bullpen.

• Righty Jose Contreras, who joined the Rockies in a late-season trade with the White Sox and had an impact in the bullpen, is in Japan hoping to hook up with a team. But O'Dowd said the possibility is not as strong as original indications were. O'Dowd will talk with Contreras' agent this week for a clearer picture. Contreras could end up being the experienced reliever the Rockies want to add.

• O'Dowd said he believes there is hope that left-hander Greg Smith, who suffered a shoulder injury late last spring and never appeared in the Majors, could have an impact this year.

Smith came in the trade with the Athletics for outfielder Matt Holliday. The deal also brought the Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and closer Huston Street -- both impact players in the team's run to the playoffs.

Smith begins his throwing program next week, and will participate in the Rockies' medical minicamp at Coors Field in January.

• Left-handed reliever Franklin Morales has made three relief appearances in Venezuela, but he'll eventually start some games. O'Dowd said that's not an indication that his role with the Rockies is going to change.

"He's going to go back into our bullpen, but we want him to get games this winter as a starter form a development standpoint," O'Dowd said.

• The Rockies are among the teams that have expressed interest in left-handers Noah Lowry, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2007, and Justin Duchscherer, who missed 2009. But O'Dowd said the team is concerned about medical reports on both.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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