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Rockies looking into Speier, Freel

Rockies looking into Speier, Freel

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DENVER -- The Rockies' quest to increase the competition during Spring Training could include two intriguing possibilities, onetime Colorado reliever Justin Speier and versatile right-handed hitter Ryan Freel.

The Rockies have been linked to multiple free-agent utility players and pitchers, either relievers or guys who could start or work the bullpen. They have two open spots on their 40-man Major League roster.

However, they haven't tipped their hand as to how or if they'll be filled. The club also has a history of signing veterans to Minor League deals and giving them fair opportunities. Outfielder Jay Payton and catcher Paul Lo Duca have taken the Rockies up on non-roster offers this week.

Speier, 36, went 4-2 with a 5.18 ERA in 41 games for the Angels last season before being released in August, with a little more than a year left on his three-year, $18 million contract.

Speier has come up in the Rockies' internal discussions. He was a standout setup man for the club from 2001-03, when he went 12-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 177 games.

The Rockies also have been talking to Freel, who turns 34 on March 8. Freel played for the Orioles, Cubs and Royals last season and hit .217 in 27 games. He signed with the Rangers toward the end of the campaign but requested his release when it was clear he would not be called up for the end of the season. Most of Freel's Major League action came with the Reds, for whom he hit .272 in 544 games from 2003-08.

Indications within and outside of the organization are that the Rockies will continue to stay in contact with free agents they've been linked to in the past, such as utility men Fernando Tatis, Robb Quinlan and Melvin Mora, as well as pitchers such as right-hander Tim Redding, who could compete for a rotation job or help the bullpen. The club also is monitoring comeback attempts by two hard-throwing righty relievers, Derrick Turnbow and Eric Gagne.

Part of the club's strategy is to monitor the market to see if a quality player falls into its price range.

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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