Updated Eye on the Rockies: Looking at Future, Catcher Nunez Up, Iannetta Gone

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Chris Iannetta is the only player who has been a part of three Rockies teams to advance into the National League Divisional Series, including the 2007 team that lost to the Red Sox in the Rockies lone World Series appearance, as well as the 2009 and 2018 teams.

At the age of 36 and with the Rockies in the midst of a six-week slide into last place in the NL West, Iannetta's days with the Rockies came to an to an end.

Manager Bud Black announced Tuesday that Iannetta was released. Pospect Dom Nunez was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque, and inserted into the lineup for Tuesday's game against Arizona. Nunez has consistently been rated among the top defensive catchers in the minor leagues.

And even though the Rockies lost on Tuesday night, Nunez did add to his list of memories, delivering an eight-inning home run into the bullpen for his first big-league hit. He became the seventh player in franchise history to hit a home run in his MLB debut, the first since Trevor Story homered twice off Zack Greinke with the Diamondbacks on April 4, 2016 -- the season opener.

"He has been to spring training with us," said Black. "He knows what I expect. He knows what Mike (Redmond, bench coach and former catcher) expects. We think he is ready for the callenge. We feel he is ready to come up and show us what he can do."

The Rockies, who brought Iannetta back to the organziation prior to the 2018 season, knew that Iannetta would need to have a cutback in his playing time, but that also has started to take a toll on the team's other catcher, Tony Wolters, who is showing signs of wearing down, which played a part in the decision.

This also will give them more than 40 games to evaluate Nunez at the big-league level. A sixth-round draft choice of the Rockies out of Elk Grove (Ca.) High School in 2013, Nunez was an infielder initially, but was converted to a catcher in 2014. He has been considered one of the premiere defensive catchers in minor league baseball the last four seasons, and showed signs of potential offensive impact this year.

A left-handed hitter, like Wolters, Nunez's average has slipped from .263 to .244 since July 20, but he did hit a home run in each of his last two games, giving him 17 for the season. He has been playing alternating days with veteran big-league catcher Drew Butera, which is a role he would seemingly assume with the Rockies, providing Wolters more days off than he has been receiving.

Iannetta originally signed with the Rockies as a fourth-round draft choice out of the University of North Carolina in the 2004 First-Year Player draft. He made his debut with the Rockies in August of 2006, and was on the Opening Day roster in 2007, when the Rockies advanced to the World Series for the only time in their history, sweeping Philadelphia in three games in the NL Division Series and Arizona in four games in the NL Championship Series before being swept in four games by Boston in the World Series.

Traded to the Angels for pitcher Tyler Chatwood prior to the 2012 season, Iannetta also played for Seattle and Arizona before returning to the Rockies after signing a two-year, $8.5 million deal prior to the 2018 season.

The Rockies were 14-31 in games in which he caught this season, 11-26 in the games he started, and he had thrown out only two of 21 runners attempting to steal a base when he was behind the plate. The Rockies looked at his veteran presence as a calming factor for a relatively young team, but with the team having fallen from the No. 2 Wild Card in early July to 13th in the Wild Card race today, and with Iannetta's contract expiring at season's end, the decision was made to get a lengthy evaluation of Nunez to decide whether they will need to pursue a catcher in the off-season or can fill the need from within.

At the Plate

The growth of shortstop Trevor Story continues. Story had a double and two home runs on Monday, giving him 32 doubles and 27 home runs. It was the fourth game in his career that Story has had three extra-base hits. Story's .288 average ranks fourth among Rockies veterans, behind Charlie Blackmon (.322), Nolan Arenado (.305), and David Dahl (.302). Dahl is currently on the Injured List with a high ankle sprain, and not expected back for possibly another month.

On the Mound

The bullpen came up on the short end of an effort again on Monday night. Given a 6-3 lead to protect in the sixth inning, the relievers gave up five runs on seven hits, including Jake McGee replacing starter Peter Lambert to start the sixth inning, and departing three batters later with the score tied at 6-6. He gave up a solo shot to Jake Lamb to open the inning, and after Josh Rojas singled for his first big-league hit, a game-tying home run to Nick Ahmed.

FYI

The Rockies failed in a save situation for the second time in six opportunities against the Diamondbacks on Monday night. They are 8-6 against Arizona -- having lost the last four games after winning eight-in a row against Arizona. But the Diamondbacks are one of only three NL teams against which the Rockies have a winning record this year. St. Louis is the wild-card. The Rockies have yet to play the Cardinals. They will go to St. Louis for a four-game series Aug. 22-25, and then host the Cardinals for a three-game series Sept. 10-12.

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