Ready to rock: GJ opens its season tonight in Ogden
After one week of practice and one exhibition game, the Grand Junction Rockies leave this morning for their first Pioneer League series of the season at Ogden, Utah.
Josh Mueller, who has the most pitching experience on the staff, spending last season at Class A Asheville (N.C.), will get the start at 7 tonight for the Rockies, facing right-hander Derek Cone.
Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said Mueller is up to an 80-pitch count as he continues to progress on his rehab assignment.
Mueller, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, made 27 appearances last season, 19 starts, going 6-7 with a 5.50 ERA. He started this season in Modesto (Calif.), the Rockies Class A Advanced team, going 1-0 in two starts with a 5.0 ERA.
He’s in Grand Junction on a rehab assignment because of a shoulder impingement. He was placed on the disabled list April 16 and went to extended spring training for rehabilitation.
Diaz said he’ll make lineup changes early in the season to give all of the Rockies reps.
“Everybody will get to play, some more than others,” he said Sunday after the final practice of minicamp. “We’ll put them in here and there, and everybody will get somewhat of a fair chance.”
Grand Junction added two more players Sunday, both of whom were playing for St. John’s University in the NCAA Super Regionals a week ago. The Red Storm, after beating North Carolina in the regionals, lost to Arizona in the super regional.
Middle infielder Matt Wessinger, the Rockies’ fifth-round draft pick, and right-handed pitcher Matt Carasiti, the club’s sixth-round pick, joined the club Sunday. Grand Junction has eight of the organization’s top 11 picks from this year’s draft, including the top four, on its roster.
“Once those kids are ready, they’ll get a lot of opportunity to play,” Diaz said of the draft picks, many of whom are right out of high school. “There’s an investment in them, and they’re talented. They’ll play a lot.”
The moves brought the Rockies’ roster to 38, and only 30 can be active each game, but the entire club will make the trip.
“It looks like an exciting club,” Diaz said. “We’ve got some speed, and we’ve definitely got power offensively. It depends on situational hitting. You can have all the speed and power in the world, if we don’t do a good job with situational hitting, those things don’t play a factor.
“With the young players, we have to keep pounding on it and polishing up their skills and mindset. If we get the situational hitting, we should be able to score a lot of runs. If not, you know the answer.
“With pitching, and some of the guys out of the draft not being ready, we’ll be short-handed starting out, but we can manage through it.”