SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. | When the regular season begins, Ian Desmond will be the oldest center fielders in the majors at 33. He’s OK with that and so are his teammates on the Colorado Rockies.
“He’s blessed,” Rockies left fielder David Dahl said Tuesday. “He’s a freak athlete. It’s a ‘getting better with age’ kind of thing. He’s a great athlete and takes care of his body and can run and in ’16, he was an All-Star there. We’re excited to have him out there.”
For the first time this spring, the Rockies’ outfield was aligned the way it’s projected for the regular season with Desmond in center, Charlie Blackmon in right field and David Dahl in left on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Desmond was an All-Star outfielder while with the Texas Rangers in 2016. He also was an All-Star shortstop in 2012 with the Washington Nationals. After playing primarily left field in 2017 and first base last year, Desmond will be in his third position in the last three years.
“I’m excited for the challenge,” Desmond said. “I embrace the challenge of it. I’m glad they have confidence in me to do it.”
“He’s motivated to play center,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He sees himself as a middle of the diamond defender — this guy grew up a shortstop and he sees the game from the center of the diamond.”
Desmond worked on his perspective on Sunday. After playing two days in a row this spring, he spent batting practice in center just watching balls off the bats to track them. It gave him a chance to not only rest his legs a little while working on his reads.
Desmond’s arm hasn’t been tested this spring but Black is confident the veteran will do fine.
“He has a powerful arm,” Black said. “When he was at shortstop, he was voted to have the best arm in the National League. He’s got a cannon.”
Desmond had to deal with injuries in 2017 and was limited to 95 games. He played in 160 games last season and Black says they’ll keep an eye on him as well as Blackmon, 32, who is moving from center to right.
“We think with Charlie, Ian, David, (Raimel) Tapia, (Noel) Cuevas, we feel we have a very solid defensive outfield,” Black said. “We’ll see. I’m extremely confident in Ian’s ability to play a very solid center field.”
Dahl, 24, doesn’t doubt Desmond’s ability to handle the move.
“I think Ian will be able to cover the ground in center and I’ll cover the ground in left and Charlie will do a good job in right so it’ll work out,” Dahl said.
Desmond knows he’ll have to be conscientious regarding the altitude in Denver and staying healthy.
“I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I just have to make sure I’m in tip-top shape.”
“You’re as young as you feel,” Black said. “With Ian, he’s running as well as he’s run the last number of years so physically he’s fine. He’s moving well and the range factor I think will be just fine.”
NOTES: The Rockies play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Monterrey, Mexico, on Saturday and Sunday. “The international part of MLB is growing,” Black said, noting there have been games in Japan, Australia and London. “I don’t know what the future holds but I’m thinking we’ll see more of this and someday maybe a team in Mexico.” The Rockies have yet to announce the travel squad but did say Blackmon, Cuevas and Tyler Anderson were among the players who will make the trip.