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Rockies Shuffle the Deck : Baseball: They send out players with probability of adding veteran pitchers Smith and Ruffin to staff.

March 27, 1993|From Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. — As expected, the Colorado Rockies sent spring-training sensation Roberto Mejia down to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday along with three other players.

The other players optioned to Colorado Springs were catcher Brad Ausmus, pitcher Keith Shepherd and first baseman Jay Gainer.

Outfielder Braulio Castillo was outrighted to Colorado Springs, and pitcher Calvin Jones was released.

The moves lowered the Rockies' spring roster to 33. They must get to 25 for the season opener April 5.

By removing Castillo and Jones from the 40-man major-league roster, the Rockies have two spots available to sign non-roster players. General manager Bob Gebhard confirmed Friday that pitchers Bryn Smith and Bruce Ruffin are likely to be added.

"Without tipping my hand, you can count Bryn Smith and Bruce Ruffin as having a pretty good chance to make this ballclub," Gebhard said. "For anybody in addition to Smith and Ruffin, we have to take people off the roster by various means. We have a definite problem in getting people off."

To open a spot, the Rockies would have to place a player on waivers, risking the chance of losing him for $20,000 to any of the 27 other major-league teams, or place a player on the 60-day disabled list.

Gebhard said Smith and Ruffin won't be added officially to the roster until just before the season opener.

More cuts are expected by early next week, Gebhard said. Most of the final cuts will affect pitchers; the Rockies have 16 pitchers and plan to open the season with 11.

The four players sent to Colorado Springs all are considered prospects who simply need more seasoning at the minor-league level, Gebhard said.

"I don't think I have to say anything about the impression Roberto Mejia has made on this camp," Gebhard said. "He was tremendously exciting here. We think he's going to be a major-league player for a long time, but he needs to go out and play right now."

Mejia, who played in Class A last season, was hitting .340 with a team-leading 13 runs batted in this spring.

Ausmus, who was battling for a backup catching job with the big-league club, hit .190 but was solid defensively.

"Ausmus is everything we expected him to be," Gebhard said. "But the fact is that Joe Girardi is going to do most of the catching, and we want Brad to go to Colorado Springs and get his four or five at-bats per day."

Shepherd, a right-hander, had been impressive this spring before being shelled on Thursday.

"We like him a lot and we think he's part of our future," the general manager said. "But at this time he does not fit into our 11-man pitching staff."

Gainer, acquired in a trade with San Diego last Sunday, had been expected to play at Colorado Springs.

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