PHOENIX -- The Rockies got two strong performances Friday from a pair of pitchers vying to make the rotation when the club opens its season in Milwaukee on April 1.
Rule 5 Draft pick Danny Rosenbaum pitched two innings of one hit ball against the Brewers, keeping a clean 0.00 ERA in his two Cactus League appearances.
"I was just trying to do what they're trying to establish here, just working quick and trying to get ground balls," Rosenbaum said. "I made good pitches, and my curve ball was down."
Four of his six outs were on the ground, and he's feeling good about his progress, working with pitching coach Jim Wright and assistant pitching coach Bo McLaughlin on refining his mechanics.
The big challenge could be if the Rockies see him as a better fit in the bullpen than in the rotation. As a Rule 5 player, the Rockies could lose him for $25,000 to his old club, the Nationals, if he's not on the Opening Day roster.
"I've started my whole career," the 25-year-old left-hander said. "It's going to be different coming out of the 'pen, but I got to [relieve in the instructional league] a couple times. It's pitching, so it's the same game."
Chris Volstad followed Rosenbaum on Friday, pitching three innings and allowing one run on two hits, elevating his spring ERA to 1.80.
"I've been working on pounding the bottom of the zone, especially that sinker," said the 6-foot-8 right-hander. "I felt good with that. I threw good changeups. The curve ball still needed a little bit of work. I'm trying to get a better feel on that. But overall, a good outing. I'll take that."
Volstad has played parts of five seasons in the Majors, four with Florida and last year with the Cubs. He was with the Royals for a month in the offseason before signing a Minor League contract with the Rockies and coming to camp as a non-roster invitee. He sees himself squarely in the fifth-starter mix, easily the most competitive battle the Rockies entertain this spring, with at least a half-dozen viable contenders.
"That's what I need to tell myself, whether it's true or not," Volstad said of his presence in the thick of the competition. "Whether if other people believe it, I don't know, but I'm definitely telling myself that and going out there and trying to prove that."
He has at least one believer where it counts in manager Walt Weiss.
"That's why we brought him in, to compete for that spot," Weiss said of Volstad's standing. "His strength is he's able to sink the ball. He's got to be at the bottom of the zone with that sinker. If he can do that he'll be effective, because he'll get a lot of groundballs. He's got heavy sink."
Chacin struggles in last outing before Classic
PHOENIX -- After a scoreless and efficient two innings in his first Spring Training outing, Jhoulys Chacin suffered a bit of a setback in his second outing -- and his final appearance before leaving to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic for up to 17 days.
Whether the setback is tied to a bruised right toe remains to be seen, though Chacin dismissed the suggestion, explaining he simply let his game unravel Saturday as A's hitters patiently worked counts against him.
"I lost my focus a little bit in the second inning after the walk [to Seth Smith]," Chacin said. "I was just trying to make my pitches. That's what happens when you get behind in counts. If you don't get ahead, you have to throw something in the middle."
It looked plausible that Chacin's wheels came off even earlier in the second. His sore toe has been at its worst when he has to run on his toes, and Brandon Moss, the first batter in the second inning, hit a dribbler to Chacin's right, forcing him to run toward the line to make the play and catch Moss at first. Chacin shook his foot after the play, and proceeded to walk a man and then hit a batter before retiring the next two to escape the inning unscathed.
"He seemed to be okay," manager Walt Weiss said. "We wouldn't have ran him out there if he wasn't. He got his work in. He got in a tough situation there in the third inning. He got in tough counts against the middle of their lineup and ended up getting hurt in that inning, but he's going to be fine."
In the third, he allowed an infield single and a walk before hanging a sinker to Josh Reddick that landed over the center-field fence for a three-run homer.
"I was trying to sink down and away and the ball just stayed in the middle," Chacin said.
It took only 18 pitches for Chacin to throw two innings of one-hit ball during his first Cactus League outing against the Cubs on Tuesday. But he had 18 pitches in the second inning alone Saturday, ending up in the high 40s and leaving in the middle of the third after retiring Yoenis Cespedes with a strikeout.
"My arm's really good," Chacin said. "I was trying a lot of things. Today my changeup was really good. That's the thing I was happy with. I'll just keep working and try to get ready for the season. Everything's good."
The Rockies will be knocking on a wooden rabbit's foot in hopes that when Chacin toes the rubber for Venezuela, he can keep focused on maintaining his form without worrying about his big toe.
"Even though we won't be around him, we'll keep a close eye on him," Weiss said. "We'll be in close contact with Wilson Alvarez, the [Venezuelan] pitching coach.
"I told him to go enjoy it. It's an honor for him to be pitching for his country. It'll be a good experience for him. He'll be pitching in some high pressure games."
Arenado opening eyes with bat, arm and glove
PHOENIX -- Though the early projections are for Nolan Arenado to start the season at Triple-A as the last rung after four years climbing the Minors, his .364 Cactus League average -- with power aplenty -- has been making enough noise in camp to force his way into the discussion as the Rockies shape their roster.
"I think it's safe to say he's made a good impression," manager Walt Weiss said after Saturday's 6-3 loss to the A's. "There's a ways to go this spring, but I think he showed up ready to go."
Arenado accounted for all three Rockies runs, bouncing a three-run homer of a billboard beyond the left field-fence to pull Colorado within 5-3. Even without sending the ball out of the park in the sixth for his second spring round-tripper, Arenado had a pair of loud outs. He sent a deep fly to left in the first inning before it died on the warning track in Seth Smith's glove, and drove another that pinned Coco Crisp against the center field wall in the fourth, 410 feet from home.
"He's got a good swing," Weiss said. "The bat's on path early. He stays through the ball. A nice approach at the plate."
His glove and arm are showing up as well, as evidenced when the 21-year-old third baseman initiated a triple play against the Reds on Thursday.
With Chris Nelson (.301 in 2012) penciled in at third, the challenge is finding space for Arenado on a jam-packed roster that might already have four versatile players who can play two or three positions apiece -- two of whom hit in the .290s last year and two who hit .300 or better -- occupying four available bench slots. As Arenado continues to progress, he's likely to land where he can play every day come April 1, either in Triple-A or on a differently configured Rockies roster.
Fowler nursing sore ankle, should return Sunday
PHOENIX -- Dexter Fowler is getting some early rest after rolling his ankle in a collision with left fielder Matt McBride in Thursday's win over the Reds. Fowler came out for a pinch-hitter a half inning later when his turn at the plate came up. He missed Friday's game, as originally planned, and was also scratched for Saturday's tilt.
Both Fowler and head athletic trainer Keith Dugger describe the ankle as "sore," and neither have been concerned beyond a common sense precautionary approach to Cactus League play.
"I think we'll probably be smart and give him a break [Friday]," Dugger said on Friday. "He'll probably be in [Saturday]."
But the revised plan had Fowler sitting out Friday, resuming training on Saturday, and back in the lineup at home on Sunday.
"No use rushing back in," Fowler said. "Might as well get it strong for the season and play 162 [regular-season games]."
The Rockies bench is deep with potential starters at every position, so even during the regular season, though Fowler could play through a rolled ankle, there's no shortage of options behind him.
"It's not swollen, it's just sore," Fowler said. "I did it three times last year. They probably want to see me running around before they throw me in the lineup."
With Carlos Gonzalez in left and Michael Cuddyer in right, the Rockies bench is likely to feature Eric Young Jr. (.316, 14 steals in 98 games last year) and Tyler Colvin (.290, 18 homers, 72 RBI in 136 games), both more than capable in center, and each embodying elements Walt Weiss wants in his lineup as often as possible -- speed and power.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.