Bernier Starts Over Where He Started -- With Rockies

Doug Bernier has joined the Rockies as a professional scout, returning to the organization where he began his career as a non-drafted free agent, a career that resulted in unusual longevity.

Undrafted college players like Bernier typically come and go from the game in a hurry, but Bernier persevered. His career spanned 16 seasons, most of it at the Triple-A level, and included a mere 83 plate appearances in the big leagues. The first four of those plate appearances came in one of the two games Bernier played for the Rockies in 2008 when he began accruing his 127 days of major league service time

Rockies assistant general manager for player personnel Jon Weil oversees the team’s professional scouting and added Bernier, 37, to his staff in the offseason.

“In all honesty, I was looking for a guy that fit that criteria of a young, grinding type of player that's played a lot of years, which would shorten his learning curve in professional scouting,” Weil said. “Meaning that he has a bank of players that he's played against for so many years. Doug, in my mind, fit that criteria perfectly.”

So around Thanksgiving, Weil called Brian Grieper, who is Bernier’s agent, opening the conversation with an almost apologetic statement.

“I said, 'Please don't be offended by this phone call, but I'm calling for Bernier,’ ” Weil said. “He said, 'Why would I be offended?' Well, I'm asking if he'd have any interest in being a scout not a player. And he said, 'You're not my first call in that regard.’ ”

Weil asked Grieper to see if Bernier had any interest in “transitioning into a different type of baseball career.” And if Bernier did, Weil suggested they talk and see where it leads. Bernier lives in Littleton, so the logistics were ideal.

“We connected on the phone,” Weil said. “We had a great conversation. Then we met at the ChopHouse and had lunch and had great baseball conversations. He was extremely impressive and everything we knew he would be.”

Weil said he had one more one-on-one meeting with Bernier. Additionally, Weil said he had phone interviews with about four other candidates but realized Bernier “was the perfect fit all along.” Weil hired Bernier in early January.

The Rockies signed Bernier, an infielder out of Oral Roberts, shortly after the 2002 amateur draft that June and sent him to Short-season Class A Tri-City. Bernier then spent two seasons at High Class A Visalia, two at Double-A Tulsa and two at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

The Rockies purchased Benier’s contract from Colorado Springs on June 17, 2008. He made his major league debut that night at Coors Field against the Indians, entering the game at second base in the eighth inning of a 10-2 win by the Rockies. Bernier replaced cleanup hitter Todd Helton with second baseman Jeff Baker taking over for Helton at first base. Bernier caught a pop fly in each of the two innings he played and didn’t bat.

In the first game of a June 19 doubleheader with the Indians, Bernier started at second base, batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing the entire game in the Rockies’ 6-3 win. Bernier was optioned to Colorado Springs the following day and left the Rockies as a minor league free agent after the 2008 season.

He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, spent 2009 with their Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre affiliate, and then moved on to the Pirates’ Triple-A Indianapolis farm club in 2010 before returning to the Yankees’ organization and two more years at Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

In 2013, Bernier joined the Twins’ organization as a minor league free agent. He spent three seasons there and got to Minnesota for 33 games in 2013 _ five years after making his major league debut with the Rockies _ seven in 2014 and four in 2015. Bernier played in 2016 and 2017 with the Rangers’ Triple-A Round Rock farm club.

Bernier hit .217 (15-for-69) in 46 games in the big leagues with four doubles, seven RBI and 12 runs scored. His first big-league hit was a double on July 22, 2013, at the Angels off Joe Blanton. And Bernier’s final hit in the majors was a two-run double on May 17, 2015, against Ernesto Frieri of the Rays.

Bernier’s career in the minors totaled 1,456 games where he hit .249/.346/.334 with 44 home runs and 60 stolen bases. Players like Bernier last that long because they know how to play the game right, respect and love the game, just as important, because they are good teammates and good examples for younger players.

Weil plans to expose Bernier to every full season league from Class A through Triple-A this year and then have him do major league coverage in September after the minor league seasons end.

“Professional scouting is the hardest level of scouting in my opinion, because you're not just going to a college and writing up two guys on a team,” Weil said. “You're writing up 25 guys on a team every single day, and the results of your evaluation are going to impact the major league club and/or your system immediately versus over some time. With amateur guys you can wait until they affect the big league level.

“So you need a guy with some level of experience as it relates to entry level guys. Having a guy that's played at every level for a long time and has studied the game to the extent that Doug has was a big fit.”

Bernier will have more projection involved in his pro scouting at the lower levels with less projection and more skill involved when scouting more experienced players. That will be by design, as Weil prefers to vary the experience of new professional scouts as a key part of their training.

“I think starting him out, giving him exposure to everything is going to help his development,” Weil said. “You put them in different levels of evaluative pressure to make sure he's evaluating at all different levels and seeing all different skill levels and different levels of projection. “

Jack EtkinComment