MIAMI -- Charlie Culberson was at second base Thursday afternoon for his first start of the season. But to earn that opportunity, he had to prove during Spring Training that he could play shortstop.
Culberson played second and the outfield last season. But by playing all the infield positions -- including short -- he was able to beat out Josh Rutledge and Paul Janish for what turned out to be the only backup infield job on this year's roster.
Culberson, who turns 25 on April 10, was a shortstop when the Giants made him a supplemental first-round pick out of Calhoun (Ga.) High school in 2007. He became a second baseman as he rose in the system. His best opportunity to break in was as a utility man, and playing shortstop enhances that. Glenallen Hill, his manager at Triple-A Colorado Springs last year, put him at short, in addition to giving him a few games in the outfield, to prepare him for any position in the Majors.
This spring, when manager Walt Weiss put him there, it turned out to be his best position.
"Last year, I played there for two months, and since I'm a little older, a little more mature and I know myself better, the transition to short was a lot easier for me," Culberson said. "It took me a couple of games to get used to it. The more I play it, I feel really good at second base but better at short. That's nice for me because it makes me more valuable to the team."
Culberson is happy he emerged from a competition that was tight until the end of camp.
"That's a good thing for the organization to have everyone doing well," he said. "All the guys had a great spring and definitely could've been on the team. I'm very happy I made the team, but I'm sure the Rockies really like seeing everyone do well and if something happens, other guys are there to do everything I do, too. It makes you step up to play and nothing's given to you."
Corey Dickerson, after an outstanding Spring Training, made his first start in center field and at the leadoff spot. Before Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon started twice and Drew Stubbs started once. Also, Michael Cuddyer moved from right field to first base, and Brandon Barnes took his first start, in right field.
"I feel good about the guys we were able to plug in," Weiss said. "I feel like there's no dropoff."
Belisle modifies workouts to gain efficiency
MIAMI -- Rockies righty reliever Matt Belisle is happy he didn't wait until the regular season to flip the switch.
Belisle struck out one during a smooth seventh inning in the Rockies' 6-5 victory over the Marlins on Wednesday night.
After Belisle went 5-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 72 appearances last season, concern arose that his workload -- 70-plus appearances in the last four seasons -- had permanently diminished his effectiveness. Belisle's four-seam fastball velocity has dropped noticeably, but he feels he can return to past effectiveness with a smarter plan involving changing speeds.
Belisle gave up six runs in his first five Spring Training appearances, but in the last five he gave up no runs and just two hits and one walk while striking out three.
"I try to act like the season begins about two weeks into Spring Training," said Belisle, 33. "I concentrate on getting things ready to go, then leaving it all out on the field. And I try to do it early in late spring, rather than turn on something on day one of the regular season."
A fastball that he once could sling at 94 mph topped out at 90 mph Wednesday. But he brought his curveball at 78-84 mph and his slider at 83, which enhanced the fastball that he did have.
Belisle hopes to maintain effectiveness during the season by modifying his daily workout regimen. Belisle has gone hard for many years, but has been talking to 41-year-old closer LaTroy Hawkins about how to be more efficient.
"I feel fantastic, and I've really been using Hawk to ask questions and gain insight," Belisle said. "He really knows how to recover and monitor his workload, listen to his body. There's no less intensity in the work output. It's understanding the work-recovery cycle, understanding the body more. It's being tougher, meaner, smarter, wiser."
CarGo fine after dizzy spell, dehydration
MIAMI -- Rockies All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was back in the lineup Thursday afternoon after leaving Wednesday night's game with dizziness and dehydration.
Of course, as Gonzalez mentioned after the game and manager Walt Weiss noted Thursday, accidentally swallowing his smokeless tobacco could not have helped.
"I talked to him last night after the game and he assured me he was fine and was going to be all right, so it's a nice name to write in a lineup," Weiss said. "He might've swallowed some dip or something. He landed hard, knocked the wind out of himself, swallowed some dip, dehydration, all those things were factors."