Painfully: Utility Role Becomes a Problem Area for Rockies

The Rockies search for a utility infielder -- or two -- suffered a blow.

Shawn O'Malley, signed to a minor-league contract with an invite to camp, made a strong early impression in the bid to fill what had been the role of Alexi Amarista, but suffered a broken left hand on Friday, ending his opportunity to claim a big-league spot.

O'Malley will undergo surgery on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Pat Valaika, who had been an impact player off the bench a year ago when he played all four infield positions, left field and even served as a DH in inter-league play, has been sidelined by an oblique strain. He is expected to be out two to three weeks, putting his availability for the season opening series at the D-Backs March 29-31 in jeopardy.

Valaika appeared in 110 games last year, hitting .258 with 13 home runs in 182 at-bats. And he had surprising success as a pinch-hitter in his first full big-league season, hitting .328 in that role with four home runs and 16 RBI in 58 at-bats.

O'Malley spent parts of the 2014-16 seasons in the big leagues with the Dodgers (2014) and Mariners (2015-16), but was limited 33 minor league games last year. He underwent an emergency appendectomy during spring training, and then developed right shoulder tendinitis, which forced him onto the 60-day disabled list to open the season.

He has played all three outfield positions plus second base, third base and shortstop in his 124 major-league games, during which he compiled a .231 average.

"It is what it is," said O'Malley. "I was getting my legs under me and feeling better. 
(Friday) was the first day I felt everything was on target."

In the top of the third inning Friday, however, Carlos Puelo led off with a ground ball to the right side, and in the process of making a diving play and throwing out Puelo, O'Malley fell on his left hand and suffered the broken bone.

He said he hoped he would be able to be ready to play in games in "six to eight weeks." 

"It is what it is," he said. "I have to get healthy and keep going."

Tracy RingolsbyComment