KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ian Desmond’s return to the Rockies is drawing near and his role could soon expand to playing shortstop.
Desmond, 31, coming back from a right calf strain for the second time this season, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday, playing first base. He will play again Friday night and then be evaluated. Desmond will probably play again Sunday for the Isotopes before rejoining the Rockies on Monday as they open a key nine-game homestand against Detroit.
“I feel good, and today was probably the hardest I have run, even going back to the last time (on the disabled list),” Desmond said. “I was really able to push myself, and today was pretty much going with all of the chains off.”
Desmond, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract to come to Colorado during the offseason, has played left field and first base for Colorado. He started for six full seasons at shortstop at Washington, making the All-Star Game in 2012, but manager Bud Black had repeatedly said that playing Desmond at short was probably not in the Rockies’ plans this season.
But those plans have changed. Desmond went through an extensive workout before Wednesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, a high-intensity workout that included taking grounders at short.
“The beauty of Ian is his versatility,” Black said. “He feels comfortable at first, feels comfortable in the outfield, and his natural position is shortstop. … Whether he plays there or not, we’ll see. But that’s always been an option that all of us have talked about.”
Despite Trevor Story’s struggles at the plate — he’s hitting .223 and has struck out 41 percent of the time with just a .420 slugging percentage — it’s certainly not a given that Desmond will supplant Story at short. However, Desmond could provide spots starts there while also playing first base and left field.
Mark Reynolds, 34, has been Colorado’s primary first baseman. and he has been very productive, hitting .277 with 26 home runs and 84 RBIs entering Wednesday night’s game. His production has dipped slightly since the all-star break. He hit .284 with a .513 slugging percentage before the break, and has batted .257 and slugged .496 since the break.
So the plan appears to utilize Desmond’s versatility.
“He’s going to move around the diamond,” Black said. “We are going to take each game as it comes and react accordingly.”
It has been a difficult season for Desmond. He broke his hand during spring training when he was hit by a pitch, forcing him to miss the first 25 games of the regular season. Then he strained his calf July 2 while playing left field against Arizona.
Desmond, 31 returned to the Rockies’ lineup on July 16 and was 7-for-23 before the lingering calf injury injury sidelined him again July 25. He has missed 24 games since but now he says he’s ready to roll.
“I can remember the press conference when I signed here, and this was the place we wanted to be,” he said. “This is the circumstance that we wanted, to be playing meaningful baseball coming down the stretch in late August and September. And we got it, so it’s up to us to us to go out there and play.”
Desmond is hitting .285 with five homers and 32 RBIs. Despite all of his missed time, he has 10 stolen bases, ranking second on the team behind Charlie Blackmon‘s 12.
Footnotes. Left-hander Tyler Anderson, out since June 25 with an injured left knee that required arthroscopic surgery, pitched three innings in a simulated game Wednesday, throwing 45 pitches. He also ran the bases. Black said Anderson checked out well, but there are plans to have Anderson throw at least one more simulated game before sending him out on a minor-league rehab assignment. … The Rockies sent minor-league outfielder Pedro González to Texas as the player to be named later to complete the July 30 trade for catcher Jonathan Lucroy.