SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Former star Rockies outfielder Ellis Burks joined the team for Spring Training workouts on Monday as a special instructor, and Burks said he hopes it can evolve into a regular role with the organization.
Burks' 1996 season with the Rockies was one for the ages, when he led the league in slugging percentage at .639 and runs scored at 142, and finished third in National League Most Valuable Player balloting. He served as a special assistant with the Indians for four years, and he has served as a guest instructor in the Reds' camp.
Burks appeared at Rockies Fest this winter and has stayed in touch with the front office and manager Walt Weiss.
"I'd like to look at it as more than just a trial basis," Burks said. "I'd like to be back in the organization. I had so much fun in Denver with the Rockies, and to be affiliated with them would be great."
It's a continuation of the team's effort under Weiss, who played with the Rockies during his career, to reach out to players who were part of the early Rockies teams that were successful. Weiss himself was a special assistant at one point.
Pitcher Pedro Astacio, who worked with the team's pitchers last spring and on some occasions during road trips, also joined the squad on Friday. Eric Young served as a special instructor last spring and now is full-time as first base coach, and Vinny Castilla has spent years as a special assistant.
Rockies owner/chairman/CEO Dick Monfort said 1997 MVP and one of the Rockies' greatest stars, former outfielder Larry Walker, also will join the Rockies as a special instructor during Spring Training.
Rox not reviving interest in free agent Santana
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A Rockies official on Monday denied that the team was interested in free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana.
With the Rockies awaiting MRI results on righty Jhoulys Chacin, CBS Sports reported that Colorado was "the latest team to check in" on Santana, who has been seeking a multiyear contract similar to the one that onetime Rox righty Ubaldo Jimenez signed with the Orioles at four years and $48 million.
The hope is Chacin's right shoulder-biceps issue is not serious enough for the Rockies to need to make a signing. The official said the club reached out to Santana early in the free-agency process, but it backed away and does not have renewed interest for several reasons.
The Rockies went into last winter looking to keep the payroll at around $95 million and are up against that figure now. Additionally, the Rockies value Draft picks and would have to give up one to sign Santana, who turned down a qualifying offer from his former team, the Royals, that would have given him $14 million for one year.
Santana has the high strikeout-to-walk ratio the Rockies like, but he also gives up fly balls and home runs -- an American League-leading 39 with the Angels in 2012 and 26 last season. That was one of the reasons the Rockies went in a different direction for starting pitching -- trading with the Athletics for lefty Brett Anderson -- during the offseason.
Rockies know it's crucial not to rush Chacin
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin said Monday his throwing biceps/shoulder felt better after a couple days of rest, and he is convinced an MRI will not reveal a significant injury.
The Rockies announced Sunday that Chacin would be shut down for about a week, and the team insists it will give Chacin the time he needs to heal and rebuild his throwing program. Having Chacin in the season-opening rotation comes secondary to making sure he is ready for the long haul.
"I'm feeling fine," Chacin said. "I've got a lot of confidence that I'll be ready.
"If I can throw a bullpen, I can pitch in a game. And I'm not a guy that has to go one inning, two innings, three innings. I can go from two innings to four, and four to six."
Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa said part of his job as a staff veteran is to help Chacin avoid the urge to rush back too quickly.
"It's OK if he loses two or three games at the beginning of the season, because we need him for more than that," De La Rosa said. "We'll be happy when he joins us, but we have to make sure he's ready.
"We have a lot of good pitching, but we definitely need him to be with the team. I think he's our ace, and he helped the team a lot last year. He could help us to be in good position this year. We need to make sure he's ready to compete when he comes back."
Stubbs embraces competition in center field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies have the potential to make center field a two-man job, but right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs wants to prove he can handle as much of it as possible.
Stubbs, 29, is in the Rockies' plans for ample playing time after the team traded for him and avoided arbitration with a $4.1 million contract. However, the preponderance of his stats with the Reds (2009-12) and Indians (2014) -- a .226 batting average against righties, as opposed to .274 against lefties -- points toward a platoon opportunity for the Rockies, who have younger lefty hitters Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson also pushing for at-bats.
But Stubbs has worked on a swing that would serve him well from either side, and his history shows a glimmer that he can succeed. He hit .262 against righties in 2010, his first full season.
"I've struggled offensively the past couple years, but it's something I've done before. I'm going to get back to basics and get back to where I was when I first came into the league," Stubbs said. "I know I'm capable of hitting right-handed pitching, whoever they may throw out there. I'm really excited to get out there and show everybody what I'm capable of."
The decision to put Stubbs in center increased his comfort level.
The Rockies toyed with moving Carlos Gonzalez to center from left, which would have left a big group of outfielders -- right-handed-hitting Brandon Barnes, in addition to Stubbs, Blackmon and Dickerson -- to compete for left field. That might not have been best for Stubbs, who played right for the Indians last season and admitted the adjustment was difficult. Stubbs has never played left in the Majors.
"I hoped for that," Stubbs said about the opportunity in center. "That's the position where I'm most comfortable. Up until last year, I'd played it my whole career. From a defensive standpoint, that's where I bring the most value to the team. Now that I'm going to get the opportunity to try to win that job.
"Competition is great. It's healthy. It brings the best out of everybody as long as everyone understands the framework of it. I've gotten to know these guys that are call competing for similar spots. There's no ill will or anything. Just enjoy the competition."
• Right-handers Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, recent top picks who are already on the Major League radar, threw fastballs and changeups during live batting practice Monday.
Butler, who hit triple figures on his fastball in his first and last Minor League starts last year, threw his fastball and changeup with two-seam and four-seam grips, which give him four pitches instead of two. Gray, who exceeded 100 mph regularly at the University of Oklahoma, earned high marks from hitters he faced with deceptive motion that enhances and already potent fastball.
• Weiss discussed what he wants to see from the pair. "Pitchability -- they showed that last year at the Minor League level. For young power arms, it's a rarity. You don't see guys fill up the strike zone like they did. I know all about the power. The ability to pitch with it, and stay in good counts with it, that's the way they have to pitch at this level."