C.J. Cron looking like a valuable addition for the Rockies
The Rockies didn’t sign any major league free agents during the offseason, but they might have struck gold with first baseman C.J. Cron.
He arrived in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal. He departed Salt River Fields on Tuesday as the club’s starting first baseman and what looks like a rejuvenated career.
Cron, 31, hit his fifth Cactus League home run Tuesday and has shown the Rockies that there is still thunder in his bat.
“We’ve looked at how his body was moving, and he seems to be healthy from the knee injury last year,” manager Bud Black said. “So physically, he’s in a good spot. We watched him in practice. Is the body firing? What’s the bat speed? How’s the defense?
“We’ve seen what we needed to see. We saw bat speed. We saw exit velocity. We saw him handling certain pitches you need to handle come April 1. Everything has lined up for him to be a productive hitter in our lineup.”
By making the roster, Cron gets a $1 million, one-year contract and can earn $1.4 million in performance bonuses for games played: $200,000 each for 50, 75, 100 and 125, and $300,000 apiece for 140 and 145. He would get a $500,000 one-time assignment bonus if he’s traded.
“I think it was a good opportunity for me here,” Cron said. “A chance to get some at-bats and prove to everyone that I can still play.”
Cron is playing for his fifth different team in as many seasons. Over seven seasons, he’s hit .257, highlighted by a 30-homer season with Tampa Bay in 2018. An injury to his left knee cap cut his 2020 season short after only 52 plate appearances with Detroit.
“I hurt the knee playing defense, so I knew it wouldn’t really affect my swing,” Cron said. “Just getting out on defense the first week or so felt odd. But I’m comfortable with it now. I’m confident that it’s good to go. Playing this whole spring with no problems has been good.”
Black said that while he believes both Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes are a bit better defensively at first base, Cron is, on a scouting scale “major league average.”
14 pitchers. Black confirmed Tuesday that Colorado will open the season Thursday with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on the 26-man roster. That means the Rockies will carry nine full-time relievers in the bullpen, although fifth starter Chi Chi Gonzalez might also be available in relief in the early going.
Here is the Rockies’ likely bullpen to begin the season: Closer Daniel Bard and fellow right-handers Tyler Kinley, Yency Almonte, Mychal Givens, Carlos Estevez, Jairo Diaz, Robert Stephenson and Jordan Sheffield. Ben Bowden is the lone lefty in the ‘pen.
Opening day lineup. Black understands that the season-opener is a special day but he’s also intent on beating the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw on Thursday. So he’ll choose matchups over sentimentality.
“You want to put your best group out there that you think is going to give you the best chance to get after their starter and win the game,” he said. “In most cases, it’s about the best group of players that you have on your roster at that time.”
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