This week, Ian Desmond inched closer to getting back onto the field with the Colorado Rockies. Desmond picked up a bat and was taking practice cuts for the first time since fracturing a bone in his left hand in a March 12 spring training game, according to MLB.com.
Nothing is set in stone, but it sounds like Desmond could begin playing in big-league games by the end of April. Thomas Harding said on Mile High Sports radio Wednesday that Desmond would be available “probably by the end of the month.”
That’s good news for the Rockies, who’ve jumped out to a 10-6 record despite injuries to Desmond, outfielder David Dahl (ribs), catcher Tom Murphy (forearm) and, most recently, pitching ace Jon Gray (foot).
What’s not entirely clear is where Rockies manager Bud Black will plug Desmond into the lineup when he does come back. Desmond, who got five years and $70 million from Colorado this summer, was signed to play first base. The problem — if you want to call it a problem — is that Mark Reynolds, who the Rockies brought back on a minor-league deal, has been tremendous filling in for Desmond at the position.
Reynolds is hitting .291, slugging .564, and has four home runs and a team-high 12 RBI to start the year. Can Black afford to take Reynolds’ bat out of the lineup when so many of the Rockies’ other position players are struggling at the plate?
“He’s going to play a lot of first base,” Black said, per MLB.com earlier this week. “We signed Ian knowing that his versatility was paramount. We look forward to that not only this year but the coming years.”
Ahhhh, there’s that word: versatility. Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said it about a dozen times at Desmond’s introductory press conference. Desmond has played shortstop and outfield in the past. He spent the better part of seven seasons at shortstop for the Washington Nationals, then converted to the outfield — making starts in center and left — with the Rangers in 2016. Don’t be surprised if Desmond fills in at any of those spots for Colorado this year.
Second-year shortstop Trevor Story is off to a slow start. He’s batting .135 and striking out four in every 10 trips to the plate. Desmond could find playing time there.
Desmond also provides depth in the outfield. Gerardo Parra, who’s batting .300, is having a nice year so far. Desmond could sub for him if Black wants to get an extra right-handed bat into the lineup.
Finally, Desmond is an option if Black wants to give Carlos Gonzalez the night off, or if Black wants to sit Nolan Arenado down for a game. (Reynolds could slide back to his old position at third, and Desmond could play first in that scenario.)
Black is going to have a lot of options to choose from when Desmond does make his return. There might be some difficult decisions, but that’s a good problem to have.
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