Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 1/31/12
It won't take much more than a quick look around this spring to recognize the new-meets-old dynamic that will likely determine how the Colorado Rockies bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season. When the team arrives in full at Salt River Fields Feb. 27, it will do so as a group very different than the one that showed up for camp in 2011 with designs on a spot in the postseason. In a departure from the organization's past practice, the Rockies parted with a trio of homegrown talents this winter, further advancing a roster overhaul. After dealing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland last season, the Rockies sent third baseman Ian Stewart to Chicago, catcher Chris Iannetta to Los Angeles and outfielder Seth Smith to Oakland this offseason. The return from those moves and a few free agent pick-ups make for a crowded camp and plenty of competition for roster spots, not to mention plenty of depth in case of injury. The dynamic isn't just one of new Rockies meeting old Rockies, however, but one of blending veterans with youth. The veterans figure to be well represented by the everyday lineup, with four regulars on the long side of 35. Meanwhile, the pitching staff is populated by young arms that are long on potential but short on experience. With young hurlers like Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood developing as major leaguers and prospects like catcher Wilin Rosario looking to make a leap, the role of veteran leadership on a club like the Rockies can't be overstated as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. First baseman Todd Helton and bench bat Jason Giambi return in the most senior leadership roles, and they're joined by several new but well-seasoned hands. Casey Blake, 38, will get the first crack at third base, 35-year-old Ramon Hernandez replaces Ianetta behind the plate, and 36-year-old Marco Scutaro, formerly with the Red Sox, brings experience and production to second base. The most notable of the Rockies' off-season imports, however, is outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who will be a relatively young 33 on opening day. An all-star with the Twins in 2011, Cuddyer comes to Colorado after a productive season with Minnesota -- 20 home runs and 70 RBI in a pitcher's park -- despite multiple injuries. The lineup remains anchored by familiar names: Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and first baseman Helton, but Cuddyer's reputation as a strong clubhouse presence may prove just as valuable. With such leadership, the Rockies undoubtedly hope to find the chemistry that eluded them in 2011, when they finished 73-89. The talent appears there, but chemistry will go a long way in determining if the talent can fulfill its potential. Meanwhile, the pitching corps is in the midst of an extreme youth movement. Jhoulys Chacin, the likely front man for the rotation while Jorge De La Rosa continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery, is all of 24 years old. Rotation candidates Pomeranz, Chatwood and Alex White also have yet to reach their 25th birthday. Jason Hammel, Juan Nicasio and Esmil Rogers are also in the mix for rotation spots, along with former Oakland pitchers Guillermo Moscoco and Josh Outman, who came over in the Smith deal. But the most interesting competitor for the rotation is 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who signed a minor-league contract in hopes of launching a comeback. Few teams made more changes this offseason than the Rockies, and the Cactus League should afford them time to begin meshing into a potential surprise team in the National League. Whos new: Casey Blake, 3B (free agent); Tyler Chatwood, SP (trade, Angels); Tyler Colvin, OF (trade, Cubs); Michael Cuddyer, OF (free agent); Ramon Hernandez, C (free agent); Guillermo Moscoso, SP (trade, Oakland); Jamie Moyer, SP (free agent); Josh Outman, SP (trade, Oakland); Marco Scutaro, 2B (trade, Boston); Chad Tracy (IF, trade, Texas). Whos gone: Aaron Cook, SP (free agent, Boston); Mark Ellis, 2B (free agent, Dodgers); Chris Iannetta, C (trade, Angels); Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B (free agent, Kansas City); Clayton Mortensen, P (trade, Boston); Greg Reynolds, RP, (trade, Texas); J.C. Romero, RP (free agent, St. Louis); Seth Smith, OF (trade, Oakland); Ryan Spilborghs, OF (free agent, Cleveland); Ian Stewart, 3B (trade, Cubs); Huston Street, RP (trade, San Diego); Casey Weathers, RP (trade, Cubs); Ty Wigginton, IF (trade, Philadelphia). Battle ground: With Ty Wigginton leaving as a free agent and Ian Stewart dealt to Chicago, the Rockies found themselves without an experienced third baseman. To fill the hole they took a chance on Casey Blake, a veteran who battled injuries last season. He wont go unchallenged, though, as prospect Nolan Arenado looks to have a shot at winning the starting job away. Second base seems settled with the acquisition of Marco Scutaro from Boston, but Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera and newcomer D.J. LeMahieu will want a shot at the position. Perhaps more complicated than any position battle is the logjam in the starting rotation, as at many as 10 candidates are in the running for four spots alongside Jhoulys Chacin. Health watch: Of prime concern medically for the Rockies is the rehab of Carlos Gonzalez's injured right wrist. The young star missed 33 games last season with multiple injuries. Reports say he's already back to baseball activity and will be ready for spring training. Blake played just 63 games last season due to back, elbow and neck issues. Juan Nicasio is expected to return somewhat miraculously in time for spring training after a line drive broke his neck last season, and he'll look to get back on track as one of Colorado's most promising starting pitchers, though the Rockies figure to take it slow with him. Finally, De La Rosa is expected to miss the start of the season, but could return from Tommy John surgery within a month or two. Sneak preview: At just 20 years old, Arenado has already made enough of an impression that he might get a shot at winning the job at third base in spring camp. But if not, he's still likely to turn some heads this spring after leading the minors last season with 122 RBI and earning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. Left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich may have a harder road to the majors given Colorado's wealth of pitchers at the moment, but he should get a few good looks in spring training and could position himself for a callup later in the year. Spring training info: Salt River Fields, 7555 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale. First workouts Feb. 20 (pitchers, catchers), Feb. 20 (full squad). First game: March 3. Tickets: Coloradorockies.com.
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