SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez has figured coming to camp lighter could help his durability after an injury-interrupted 2012 season. But he almost took going thin a little too far.
Hernandez missed 42 games early with a left hand strain -- more from the hazards of catching than conditioning -- but late in the year, he suffered a ruptured left hamstring that required surgery. Hernandez, who turns 37 on May 20, figured the only way he could give the Rockies more this year -- the end of a two-year, $6.4 million contract -- he couldn't play at the burly 230 pounds he carried into last season, which finished with a .217 batting average in just 52 games.
Not only did he want to be lighter for his hamstring, but he said the weight he was carrying was not good for his knees. He had a surgery to clean loose bodies from his left knee in 2009, and admitted he felt soreness there.
A frighteningly trim Hernandez showed up for winter ball in Venezuela, where he played a few games at first base and as a designated hitter.
"I went down to 210, which is definitely too light -- I hadn't weighed 210 since 1999, and I don't know how to play that light," he said. "But between 215 and 220 is good for my legs and my knees."
Also, it's good for Hernandez to be light on his feet, since he'll be moving around a little this spring. He is on the Venezuelan roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
"I always like to go," Hernandez said. "If I've got a chance to represent my country, especially at my age, it might be my last one, why not? I went to the last two. It's a great feeling when you listen to your anthem and the people in the stands from your country are wearing your flag. It's an exciting experience. If it's in your hands and you can do it, why miss it?"
Hernandez will be doing the back-and-forth between his national team and the Rockies, all while trying to hold onto his job. He was signed last year as the starter, but his injuries forced rookie Wilin Rosario into the fire as everyday catcher. Rosario struggled defensively, but set a Rockies rookie record with 28 home runs. If Rosario takes the forward steps the Rockies expect, Hernandez could be battling fellow veteran Yorvit Torrealba -- in camp under a Minor League contract -- for backup duty.
"This is the first time I've been around Ramon, but everybody speaks very highly of him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's a pro and he knows what the deal is. He's going out to compete, as well as Torrealba. Both of them have similar strengths. They're very veteran, very well-respected and can handle a staff."
Ottavino hopes to keep spot on staff within grasp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Adam Ottavino caught the Rockies' eye with a strong performance in a relief role. This spring, he decided not to stray far from the Rockies' sight.
Last season, Ottavino was in contact with officials for the Italian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. But Ottavino, who went 5-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 53 relief appearances, thought better of signing up for periodic absences from Rockies Spring Training camp.
"I can't rest on what I did last year," Ottavino said. "Even though I did OK, I could have done better. There are always people pushing, other people coming. I wanted to make sure I had my spot, make sure I have a good year. This is a very important year for me. There were just too many variables involved."
Ottavino, 27, was a Cardinals first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, but before the Rockies claimed him off waivers last season, his only Major League experience was five games (three starts) for the Cardinals in 2010. Ottavino found a home in the Rockies' hybrid relief role, which asks a pitcher to face as few as one batter or pitch multiple innings depending on the situation.
Ideally, the Rockies will have three such pitchers when the season opens. They've brought in veteran Miguel Batista, who broke into the Majors in 1992 and if he makes the Rockies will be with his 13th team (12th if you count the Expos and the Nationals as one). Lefty Josh Outman is in the competition for the rotation, but is viewed as a hybrid option. Competitors for starting rotation spots could end up in the mix for the role.
Ottavino believes he can not only hold his spot, but advance as a pitcher.
"It's utilizing my split-changeup more and commanding my fastball more consistently," he said. "The games I did, I thrived and had success. The games when I didn't, I had a little bit more trouble because I became more of a breaking ball pitcher."
Chatwood looks to break out with tweaked mechanics
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood has spent most of his time in the Majors over the last two seasons relying on talent, but he hopes he has finally developed a reliable enough pitching motion to truly thrive.
Chatwood spent most of 2011 with the Angels (6-11, 4.75 ERA in 27 games, 25 starts), and bounced between the Majors and Minors last season with the Rockies (5-6, 5.43 in 19 games, 12 starts). If he can put into action the mechanical keys that the two rough seasons revealed, he could go from rotation filler to successful big-league starter.
"We started tweaking my windup early in the year," Chatwood said. "Me and Bo [McLaughlin, the Rockies' assistant pitching coach] started working on it throughout the whole year and it started clicking at the end. I started throwing the ball really well. My hands were separating too late, so it was pretty inconsistent. Now my hands are breaking at the right time, and it's a lot more consistent."
From his earliest bullpen sessions last year, the Rockies believed Chatwood, 23, had a bright future if he could spot his fastball properly. They tried to see if he could develop by pitching in relief, but wound up sending him down to work as a starter, and improve that way. By season's end, Chatwood was effective on both sides of the plate and unafraid to pitch inside. The next step is mixing offspeed pitches more effectively.
Chatwood can't do anything about one of the marks against him -- his height. But he said the notion that being roughly 5-foot-10 limits him, actually helps.
"Everybody's going to say something about that, but I feel I'm getting great angle right now, and downhill plane on everything," Chatwood said. "I don't think it's a bad thing. Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and he might be a little shorter than me. Roy Oswalt has had a pretty good career as well, and also Tim Hudson. You can name a bunch of guys. Craig Kimbrel from the Braves is not that tall. It's just more fuel to the fire, actually."
If he doesn't make the rotation, Chatwood could contribute in the hybrid middle relief role.
"He's got electric stuff," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "I would imagine over the course of his career he's going to be a candidate for a lot of things."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.