The Rockies on Thursday designated minor league infielder Ryan Wheeler for assignment, according to a team announcement. The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for Pedro Hernandez, who will start for Colorado in its series finale against the Cubs.
Wheeler, 26, is struggling at Triple-A Colorado Springs, hitting just .239/.289/.325 in 229 plate appearances. His OPS is almost 200 points lower than it was last season. Wheeler perhaps became expendable due to the re-emergence of Josh Rutledge, who has made the most of limited plate appearances, as overall infield depth. Meanwhile, Ben Paulsen is having a monster season for the Sky Sox and made a positive impression on the big league club in his brief cup of coffee, suggesting he could see a role as a backup first baseman when the need arises in the future.
It didn't help Wheeler's case that the Rockies have a glutton of left-handed bats (the aforementioned Paulsen being one), most of whom have performed better than Wheeler -- a .227/.264/.330 hitter in 106 plate appearances for Colorado -- when given the opportunity. If Wheeler clears waivers, he'll wind up back in Colorado Springs, but there is a chance a team could gobble him up given that he's still relatively young and owns a career minor league line of .305/.363/.464.
Hernandez, a 25-year-old left-hander, owns a 7.57 ERA in 60⅔ big league innings with the Twins and White Sox. He has not been much better for Colorado Springs this season, posting 6.14 ERA in 85 innings. He's a classic pitch-to-contact guy whose success will be predicated on whether he can limit walks. The problem is, he's exhibited rather extreme fly-ball tendencies through out his minor and major league career. That won't fly long-term with the Rockies, but fortunately his promotion is purely for the purpose of a spot start to replace Tyler Matzek, who was used in rather head-scratching fasion in the 16th inning of the team's 4-3 loss on Tuesday.
To make room on the 25-man roster for Hernandez, the Rockies optioned Rob Scahill back to Triple-A. Scahill picked up a win in relief in the Rockies' 6-4 victory on Wednesday by tossing a scoreless ninth inning.