SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Martin went to McLennan (Texas) Community College in 2005 with a dream of making it in baseball, and options if it didn't come through.
But when his dream and his fallback fell apart, and four years of laboring just to pay bills turned out unfulfilling, Martin turned back to baseball. Almost miraculously, Martin, a 6-foot-7 relief pitcher, has a chance of realizing his Major League dream with the Rockies.
If he didn't sign in pro ball -- the Tigers had taken him in 2004 (18th round), and the Rockies selected him in 2005 (21st round) -- he would go to the University of Oklahoma, and if pro ball wasn't there at the end, he had an exciting dream.
"I really wanted to major in meteorology, and I wanted to chase tornadoes," he said. "I've chased a few, actually seen a couple in person. It's pretty intense. A lot of adrenaline you get."
Instead, Martin suffered a shoulder injury in 2005 that dissuaded the Rockies, who were going to track him all year before deciding whether to sign him, and seemingly ended his baseball dream. He wound up loading trucks for UPS, working (and disliking) working at Lowe's, then rolling fridges and washing machines on dollies for a warehouse called Texas Appliance. He wasn't moving toward meteorology or any type of rewarding career.
"There were times I needed to go to school, but I needed to work and make money and pay the bills," Martin said.
One day while working at Texas Appliance, his boss brought a ball and gloves and wanted to throw. The ball came out of Martin's hand with the old life. And the next day, he didn't hurt anymore. He thinks his body matured.
"When I was younger, I was skinny and throwing as hard as I am now," Martin said. "I don't think the shoulder was able to handle that much pressure or velocity. Over the years I gained weight and put muscle on."
In 2010, Martin signed with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association. The Red Sox saw him, worked him out a couple of times and signed him for the 2011 season. The maturity he learned in the real world helped him deal with baseball's ups and downs.
Last season, Martin began at Double-A Portland and went 2-0 without giving up a run in 12 relief appearances. The Sox called him to Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 30 relief appearances and along the way discovered a cut fastball that went with his fastball and slider.
The Rockies acquired Martin, 27, and lefty Franklin Morales for infielder Jonathan Herrera during the winter. Now Martin finds himself in competition for a relief role. Should Morales make the rotation instead of being used as a reliever, Martin could be competing with fellow non-roster invitees Manuel Corpas and Nick Masset, as well as prospects Rob Scahill and Chad Bettis, for a right-handed spot.
In 2 1/3 innings in this spring, Martin has given up no runs and one hit, while brandishing a 93-95 mph fastball.
"He's made a great early impression. People are talking about the fact that he's a strike-thrower, he's in the mid-90s, he's got real good angle, is a ground-ball guy -- a lot to like about him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
"I had friends that I saw on TV, like Logan Ondrusek of the Reds, who was my college roommate," Martin said. "I was like, I want to be in his shoes. Watching him and all my other friends that I knew, I definitely thought about making it happen."
McKenry working on thwarting basestealers
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies catcher Michael McKenry believes in his ability to stop runners from stealing bases, even if the numbers glare in the other direction.
McKenry, in Rockies camp under a Minor League contract, threw out 19 percent of runners attempting to steal (32 of 167) in the last three seasons with the Pirates. As a comparison, in Monday's 8-1 loss to the Mariners, McKenry started and gave up three stolen bases, but one was on a double-steal so he made just two throws.
It looks as if he'll have more chances early in camp. McKenry caught Monday because Jordan Pacheco, the projected backup for Wilin Rosario, has shoulder pain and will not swing the bat for a couple of days.
But McKenry, who turned 29 Tuesday, hasn't always struggled. Originally drafted by the Rockies in 2006, McKenry earned his debut with the club in 2010 by throwing out 23 of 80 (29 percent) at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"It's mechanical -- there have been a couple of things I've been doing the last couple of years that put me in bad spots," McKenry said. "When I was here the first time, I threw really well and even led all of baseball one year.
"It's keeping it simple. I play hard. I've got to throw hard. Sometimes we get a little out of sync and try to do more than we're capable of, or maybe you do something a way somebody is trying to teach you. I've been a little over-coachable at times when it comes to catching and throwing. I'm a good thrower. I have to believe that."
McKenry also is coming off surgery on his left knee. Camp has been an exercise in passing rehab milestones.
"I feel very sure," McKenry said. "It took some time when I first got here. I could still feel the scar tissue and I'd get the occasional scar tissue pop. I can feel that joint space.
"I started out with Knee Savers [the product catchers wear on the backs of their legs to alleviate pressure]. They're gone. Blocking is pretty much back to normal. Throwing is coming along. Early along, I got a lot of scar tissue planting on that foot, but it's better and I'm not as hesitant."
Rutledge contending with sprained ankle
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Josh Rutledge lost the Rockies' starting second-base job last season, and his early attempt at winning back at-bats has been slowed by a slight left ankle sprain.
Rutledge suffered the injury the second day of full-squad workouts and aggravated it while playing Saturday against the Reds.
"Better now than in the season, missing a whole bunch of time," Rutledge said. "The thing now is to not try to come back too quick on it, and there will still be plenty of time."
Rutledge jumped from Double-A Tulsa to the Majors in 2012 to replace injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and hit .274 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 73 games, but he hit .235 last season in 88 games and spent 38 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs. DJ LeMahieu ran with the starting second-base job after Rutledge struggled.
Now Rutledge wants to regain playing time. His history at short means he can be used as a utility middle infielder, but second is the place he wants to earn starts.
In other injury news, catcher Jordan Pacheco said an MRI on his ailing left shoulder revealed that the problem is fatigue.
"It's fine structurally; it's strong," Pacheco said. "You want to play every day and get your reps in Spring Training, but I played winter ball and I'm not too worried about it."
Tulo makes habit of starting season slimmer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki seems a little trimmer than most folks remember, it just depends on what you're remembering.
Tulowitzki, whose health is the key to the Rockies' dreams of contending in the National League West, is playing at 205-210 pounds. He noted that he usually reports in that range, but by season's end, he's at 215.
"I'm one of those rare players that gain weight during the season," Tulowitzki said. "The theory behind it is me being lighter in the beginning is going to help me with my legs. But I try to put on a little bit during the season. It's such a long, grueling season that I feel like I need that extra weight at times."
• Weiss said he is not concerned long term about first baseman Justin Morneau's stiff neck, which has kept him out of action since Friday. However, Morneau will not play in either of the Rockies' split-squad games Wednesday, against the Cubs at Mesa or against the Rangers at Surprise.
"March 4 or whatever it is, you've got a lot of time," Weiss said. "My feeling is hitters don't need many at-bats down here, especially guys that have been around for a while."
• The Rockies are careful not to put a timetable on right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder strain and inflammation) and are prepared for him to miss some starts early in the regular season. But Weiss said he is progressing positively. The hope is Chacin can return to long-toss in a couple of days and eventually work up to bullpen sessions.
"Sometimes with injuries you hit a plateau and stay there for a week or two, but it sounds like he's progressing nicely," Weiss said.