SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Ian Desmond no doubt was a big offseason acquisition for the Colorado Rockies, a proven offensive player who should flourish at Coors Field.
But after six full seasons as a shortstop for the Washington Nationals and one season as a center fielder for the Texas Rangers, how quickly can he learn to play first base?
“Being an athletic first baseman, I will be able to jump for balls a little better than an average first baseman,” Desmond said. “My hands are good enough to pick balls.”
Desmond hasn’t been known as a great defender. He had the most or second-most errors among National League shortstops five times, and his 12 errors in the outfield last year for Texas were the most among AL outfielders.
Still, he will be playing his third position at the big-league level, and not many players can claim this distinction.
Desmond will spend the spring trying to master the position.
“I don’t think there’s been a world championship team that hasn’t had a quality first baseman,” he said. “You can’t just stick anybody over there. Show me a world championship team with a subpar first baseman. It just doesn’t happen.”
Rockies manager Bud Black said his staff began discussing the matter as soon as the Rockies signed Desmond. Desmond even made an early three-day visit to Arizona to start work on his first-base defense, Black said.
“For me, it’s extremely low risk,” he said of Desmond’s move. “We’re talking about a great athlete, who was a middle-of-the-diamond player, who’s played shortstop, who’s played center field. If you look at that position and guys who play that position, it’s a huge advantage if you can defense, if you are a complete player. A lot of times the ball dug out of the dirt, the diving play in the hole, an athletic play on a bunt or a chopper that is turned into an out. Those are outs that go underrated at times in the course of a game.”
Black said he is convinced Desmond can be an above-average first baseman.
“The only thing he’s got to get through is the uncomfortable feeling of being at a new position. That’s it,” Black said.
Working with Desmond are coaches Ron Gideon and Stu Cole, “who are on him every day,” Black said. “But the best experience will be in-game. Spring training games will help, but the true test is when the season starts and it counts.”
– By MIKE TULUMELLO, AP Sports Writer
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