GJ Rox ready for exhibition opener
The Grand Junction Rockies finally got under the lights Friday night at Suplizio Field in preparation for tonight’s exhibition game, at 6 p.m., against the Denver Generals, a team in the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League.
The Rockies took live batting practice after dark to get players familiar with hitting and fielding under the lights.
“The main thing is just getting a chance to use the lights,” Rockies manager Anthony Sanders said. “We haven’t been able to get under the lights since spring training, and for a lot of young kids from Latin America, this is their first night catching fly balls under the lights, so it was good.”
Pitchers also got some work in.
The Rockies top pick, Kyle Freeland, threw from flat ground for roughly 10 minutes. The left-hander, whom the Rockies took No. 8 overall, isn’t expected to be activated until mid-July, Rockies pitching coach Ryan Kibler said.
Kibler added that Carlos Polanco, a 20-year-old right-hander who spent two years with the Rockies’ Dominican Summer League affiliate, will get the start in the exhibition game.
Polanco threw 71 2/3 innings in 2013, finishing with a 4-6 record. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Polanco struck out 38 batters and walked 17 in that span, posting a 3.14 ERA and surrendering only two home runs.
“Polanco will go one, and we’re going to run just about every available reliever out there that we have,” Kibler said. “We don’t want to burn anyone out, get anyone injured here.”
Just how many relievers Grand Junction was going to have wasn’t clear until the past two days, Sanders said.
“If you would have asked me that a couple days ago, I would have told you the tryout camp was going to be huge because we’d be looking for arms,” Sanders said. “But we’ve had a lot of guys get in recently, and we’re going to give everyone an opportunity to throw one or two innings and just get these guys’ feet wet.”
Position players took reps as well.
Key players who practiced Friday included Rockies fourth-round pick and former Spartanburg Methodist College outfielder Wesley Rogers. Rogers, who was selected to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series all-tournament team, tweeted late Thursday night: “Just landed in grand junction ... Again #cantgetenoughofthisplace.”
Max George, the Rockies’ sixth-round pick, practiced with the team only a few hours after he was medically cleared. George signed with the Rockies out of Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora and was the second Colorado prep player selected in the 2014 draft.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, George demonstrated power beyond his size by hitting a home run well over the left-field fence.
“It’s kind of surreal,” George said. “This is what I wanted. I wanted to play in the Rockies’ organization. It’s just kind of an amazing feeling.
“They were my team as a kid. I’ve been going (to Coors Field) since ‘95 when it opened. So yeah, it’s kind of crazy to be in their system.”
Sanders said he’s going to rotate position players during the exhibition game in an effort to get everyone at-bats.
“I’m going to be as fair as I can with everyone here,” Sanders said. “By the end of the season, everyone is going to know if they can or can’t play. But they’re going to get an opportunity. Mainly, we’re just hoping we get through this game without anyone getting injured. Hopefully everyone gets an at-bat or two, throw as many pitches as we can and get our feet wet.
“I’m still trying to learn some of these guys’ names. I know a lot of these guys, obviously, from Arizona. But these new guys, trying to get to know them a little bit, and that’ll take some time.”
NOTE: The time of tonight’s game has been added to the original story.