Herrera impressing this spring

Herrera impressing this spring

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Utility man Jonathan Herrera could easily have figured the Rockies forgot about him after not calling him to the Majors last season and taking him off their 40-man Major League roster during the winter.

Even still, he re-signed with the Rockies on a Minor League contract, figuring they understood him better than anyone.

But they've never seen him like they've seen him this Spring Training.

Through 17 games this spring, Herrera is hitting .421 with five doubles and seven RBIs, and has a .489 on-base percentage. Always considered a dependable guy with the glove in the infield, Herrera has gone to the outfield and made spectacular plays.

The Rockies have Melvin Mora for the utility role. But the switch-hitting Herrera has worked himself into position to be remembered should the Rockies need reinforcement.

"I'm trying to play a bunch of positions, with the same attitude -- with confidence, working hard and waiting for the opportunity again," said Herrera, 25.

Herrera joined the Rockies for 28 games in 2008, hitting .230 with a double, a triple and three RBIs. Last year, he hit a respectable .286 but Omar Quintanilla won the infield utility role. Herrera played 119 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs (.268, 2 HR, 33 RBIs). When the Rockies needed a multi-position sparkplug late in the year, they went with Eric Young Jr., who had learned to play in the outfield.

Several teams inquired about Herrera after the Rockies removed him from their big league roster, but he did not let last year's lack of opportunity sour him on the organization he has been with since signing out of Maracaibo, Venezuela, as a 17-year old.

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"I've been with this team my whole life, and that's why I signed again," he said. "It's hard to go to another team. They know you only by reports. They don't know about you personally, your attitude and how your are outside the field.

"Here, they know me. They know what I can do on the field. They know me outside the field."

It's not as if other teams don't want to know Herrera. He's caught the eye of several scouts, who say he could help several clubs at the Major League level.

Manager Jim Tracy refers to players like Herrera and Quintanilla, who is out for the better part of the next month with a left knee sprain, as "professional ball-catchers."

Herrera is showing outstanding range no matter where he plays. Scouts say he has range at shortstop comparable to many players with Major League jobs. He also made a diving stop at third base in his last outing, against the Reds at Goodyear, Ariz., on Monday.

He shocked the Rockies, as well as a friend from Venezuela, Royals catcher Manuel Pina, on March 10 by making a diving catch on a line drive in right field. He has never played the outfield as a pro, only in Venezuela at times during the winter. Pina was as surprised as anyone.

Herrera is regularly taking fly balls and talking to Rockies regular outfielder Carlos Gonzalez in an effort to expand his appeal.

"I came up to bat later and he said, 'I didn't know it was you,'" Herrera said.

Herrera hopes to no longer be overlooked when it comes to the Major Leagues.

"I don't want them to think twice to call me if something happens," Herrera said.

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