Outfielder Randal Grichuk has been ruled out for Opening Day, reports Danielle Allentuck of The Denver Gazette. The 31-year-old underwent sports hernia surgery in early February and was given a six-week estimated recovery timeline. That would have meant that he could have been back in action prior to the March 30 opener, but Allentuck relays that he’s only recently started doing full-day workouts. Once he gets into games, he’ll need a couple of weeks or so for his spring ramp-up and to get his timing down. He expects to be back in the middle of April.
There’s a couple of other issues in the club’s lineup, as Allentuck adds that outfielder Charlie Blackmon and first baseman C.J. Cron are each dealing with back issues. Blackmon left a game on March 10 with mid-back stiffness and it has lingered longer than expected. Cron, meanwhile, was scratched from Thursday’s game with back spasms. Allentuck reports that neither player is in jeopardy of missing Opening Day at the moment, but there’s also no timeline on their respective returns.
While none of these three players seems to be facing a significant absence, it will be a situation worth monitoring for the club in the early parts of the season. They are already down a couple of players, as second baseman Brendan Rodgers and outfielder Sean Bouchard each recently underwent surgeries that have the potential to be season-ending. With Grichuk slated to miss the first couple weeks of the schedule, the outfield will be without a second member. If Blackmon’s back issue doesn’t clear up soon, it might make the timing a bit awkward with Opening Day now just 11 days out.
Kris Bryant and Yonathan Daza should have two of the outfield jobs spoken for, with Blackmon perhaps in line for the third. Even if he’s healthy, the club will likely need someone else to take regular time out there, as Blackmon made more starts as the designated hitter last year than he did in the outfield. While Grichuk is out, it perhaps opens up a spot for someone like Nolan Jones, though he’s also in the mix for the third base job, with Ryan McMahon moving to second to cover for Rodgers. Michael Toglia is on the roster and could be an option, but the club could also look to selecting a non-roster invitee such as Harold Castro. The club’s 40-man roster is full but they could easily make room for someone like Castro by moving one of their injured players to the 60-day IL, such as Rodgers, Bouchard or Lucas Gilbreath.
Speaking of Gilbreath, the lefty recently spoke with Allentuck about his upcoming year. He won’t be able to participate as a player as he underwent Tommy John surgery this month, but he already seems to have plans for how to make use of the downtime. In addition to documenting his rehab process on social media, he’s going to work with the Rockies’ research and development team, learning analytics.
“I think for me being able to learn from them and even help them out would be fun,” Gilbreath said. The southpaw says he has a desire to work in a front office after his playing career is over. That’s likely a few years off as he’s only 27 and has had some solid results so far. He made 94 MLB appearances over the past two years with a 3.78 ERA. His 13.2% walk rate is certainly on the high side, but he also struck out 25% of batters faced and got grounders at a 45.7% clip. He should still have plenty opportunities ahead of him once he’s healthy, but it seems he’s using this setback to lay some groundwork for future opportunities.