Blackmon confident he can clear spring hurdle
After injuries in March '12 and '13, outfielder showed potential in second half last year
DENVER -- With his ability to hit for average, impressive speed and power potential, outfielder Charlie Blackmon has shown enough that the Rockies are offering him a chance to earn extended playing time this season. But he first must clear an obstacle that has tripped him up the past two years:
Blackmon, 27, saw his 2012 spring camp cut short by a stress fracture in his right foot, and he appeared in just 42 Major League games that season. Last year, Blackmon suffered an infection in his right knee that cost him the first half of March and essentially scuttled his chance to win an Opening Day job.
Blackmon eventually earned two callups to the Majors and flourished the second time he was promoted, partly because of playing time -- 50 starts in his final 70 games. By season's end, he had built a .309 batting average and a .336 on-base percentage with six home runs, 17 doubles, two triples and 22 RBIs.
"It seems like I've been allergic to Spring Training so far," Blackmon said. "I'm going to go out there, take care of my business and do the preparation I need to do to stay healthy and play a long season."
The Rockies' trade of center fielder Dexter Fowler and decision to move Carlos Gonzalez from left to center opened up the possibility of playing time in left for Blackmon, a left-handed hitter. The Rockies also traded for the right-handed hitting Drew Stubbs, who played in right and center field for the Indians last season. Blackmon has more big league experience than his left-handed competition, Corey Dickerson, although Dickerson opened some eyes with five home runs, five triples and 13 doubles in just 194 at-bats in 2013.
Blackmon has played 151 games over three seasons and has hit .291 with a .321 on-base percentage, nine home runs and 39 RBIs. He has also stolen 94 bases in 489 Minor League games, which indicates that he runs well enough to hit leadoff. His time in the Majors in 2011 was shortened by a broken right foot.
"I would think that this year would be the best opportunity that I've had so far," Blackmon said. "Maybe it's because of who we got on the team. Maybe it's because of the fact I've played a little bit more at the big league level, and people know what I can do."
The Rockies called Blackmon up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 12 and he went 2-for-4 with a home run in an 8-2 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. However, he went 4-for-21 in his next 11 games and was sent back to Triple-A. But from July 8 to season's end, Blackmon batted .317 and had a .343 on-base percentage.
"When I do adjust to the competition, I've shown that I can be very successful," Blackmon said. "There was a point last year where I went from being a player who wasn't as comfortable as he could've been to a player who was comfortable, confident and playing very well."
It's also possible that Blackmon could develop into an everyday player. He hit .296 in 71 at-bats against left-handed pitchers last season.
"He can play all three outfield spots, he runs well, he's a good defender and he stood in there against some tough lefties and showed he can do that if needed," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's a valuable guy who really started coming into his own and found confidence last year. He put himself in a good spot."