Rockies Call Up Catcher Dom Nunez, Designate Veteran Chris Iannetta For Assignment

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 13: Dom Nunez #58 of the Colorado Rockies hits a solo home run for his first Major League hit in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on August 13, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin

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Rockies catcher Dom Nunez made his major league debut Tuesday night, the result of a roster decision that could have 2020 implications amid the rubble of this season.

Nunez, 24, homered for his first major league hit, the seventh player in franchise history to homer in his major league debut and the first since Trevor Story on April 4, 2016. Nunez took the roster spot of catcher Chris Iannetta, 36, who was designated for assignment.

“Moving forward we just felt where Chris was this season and potentially what we have going on here this last seven weeks, it was probably the time to see what Dom can do here,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.

Iannetta was in the final season of a two-year, $8.5 million contract and wasn’t going to be re-signed. (The deal includes a $4 million salary this season with a $750,000 buyout on a $4.25 million club option for 2020). Promoting Nunez from Triple-A Albuquerque allows the Rockies to evaluate him over the balance of the season and possibly determine whether he could back up Tony Wolters next year or whether it will be necessary to pursue a catcher in the offseason.

“Give Dom some exposure to the big league game, and put our eyes on Dom,” Black said. “He’s been in (major league) spring training now for a couple years with us. He knows our group. He knows our coaching staff, has caught every one of these pitchers at some point whether in spring training or the minor leagues.

“With Dom, I think he’s ready for the challenge. Talking to the Triple-A staff and our minor league people, they feel Dom’s ready to come up here and show what he can do.”

In 52 games this season, Iannetta hit .222 with a .728 OPS, six homers and 21 RBI. Since the All-Star break, Iannetta went 6-for-41. The Rockies were 14-31 in games in which Iannetta caught and 11-26 in games he started. Those were fewer lately as Wolters’ workload increased. Iannetta threw out just two of 21 runners attempting to steal a base while he was catching.

Nunez, drafted in the sixth round by the Rockies in 2013 out of Elk Grove (Calif.), began his career as an infielder and converted to catcher the following season. Rockies catching coordinator Mark Strittmatter has raved about Nunez’s receiving skills ever since he moved to the position. He hit well in 2015 at Low Class A Asheville – .282/.373/.448 with 13 homers and 53 RBI _ but then struggled offensively the next three seasons until he reached Triple-A Albuquerque this year.

In 61 games there, Nunez hit .244/.338/.405 with a career-high 17 home runs and 42 RBI. His average slipped from .263 on July 20, but Nunez did homer in each of his final two games at Albuquerque.

He was behind the plate Tuesday catching Jeff Hoffman, whom Nunez often caught at Albuquerque and who made a spot start for the Rockies. Hoffman took the turn of Jon Gray, who was scratched with left ankle soreness.

The start went horribly for Hoffman, who lasted two innings against Arizona and yielded seven runs on six hits, four of them home runs, as the Rockies fell 9-3, losing for the seventh time in eight games to drop their record to 53-67.

“Dom caught well, blocked well, really called a good game,” Black said. “If you go through it like we do and watch pitch selection, he did a nice job. It’s just that Jeff didn’t locate the pitches.

“Then he turned around a fastball from a guy that throws in the mid- to upper-90s, That was impressive.”

Nunez’s memorable swing came in the eighth. The left-handed hitter drove a 2-0 fastball clocked at 97.6 mph from right-hander Yoan Lopez an estimated 417 feet to right-center and into the Rockies' bullpen.

The ball was in a case in Nunez’s locker, given to him by bench coach Mike Redmond, who also instructs the catchers.

“He came in and shook my hand,” Nunez said. “And he goes, ‘Nobody can ever take this away from you.’ Everybody remembers their first hit. I mean it was a home run, so I guess a little bit more special.”

Iannetta holds the franchise record among catchers for games played (620), runs (252), hits (435), home runs (80), RBI (293) and walks (309).

The Rockies drafted Iannetta in the fourth round in 2004 out of the University of North Carolina. He made his major league debut Aug. 27, 2006, and played with the Rockies until they traded him to the Angels in November 2011 for pitcher Tyler Chatwood. In addition to the Angels, Iannetta also played with the Mariners and Diamondbacks before returning to the Rockies as a free agent prior to the 2018 season.

“He was always there, on my shoulder, being positive,” Wolters said. “He was like another dad to me, and he was always in my corner. He has zero ego, and he’s a big teddy bear, who’s been playing a long time and has a lot of information. I don’t think his career’s done.”

Iannetta played his final game for the Rockies on Saturday in an 8-5 loss at San Diego. His final hit for the Rockies and possibly for his career came in the seventh, a leadoff double against Craig Stammen. An inning later, Iannetta struck out swinging against Andres Munoz, ending the eighth with runners on first and second and possibly batting for the last time in the big leagues.

Outfielder Charlie Blackmon praised Iannetta as a veteran who “did a really good job of dealing with the emotions of the game. He was a consistent person emotionally. He didn’t get incredibly upset when things didn’t go his way, and he didn’t get overly excited when things did go his way. That made you feel he was always in control of what he was thinking and doing out there, and that rubbed off on everyone else.”


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Rockies catcher Dom Nunez made his major league debut Tuesday night, the result of a roster decision that could have 2020 implications amid the rubble of this season.

Nunez, 24, homered for his first major league hit, the seventh player in franchise history to homer in his major league debut and the first since Trevor Story on April 4, 2016. Nunez took the roster spot of catcher Chris Iannetta, 36, who was designated for assignment.

“Moving forward we just felt where Chris was this season and potentially what we have going on here this last seven weeks, it was probably the time to see what Dom can do here,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.

Iannetta was in the final season of a two-year, $8.5 million contract and wasn’t going to be re-signed. (The deal includes a $4 million salary this season with a $750,000 buyout on a $4.25 million club option for 2020). Promoting Nunez from Triple-A Albuquerque allows the Rockies to evaluate him over the balance of the season and possibly determine whether he could back up Tony Wolters next year or whether it will be necessary to pursue a catcher in the offseason.

“Give Dom some exposure to the big league game, and put our eyes on Dom,” Black said. “He’s been in (major league) spring training now for a couple years with us. He knows our group. He knows our coaching staff, has caught every one of these pitchers at some point whether in spring training or the minor leagues.

“With Dom, I think he’s ready for the challenge. Talking to the Triple-A staff and our minor league people, they feel Dom’s ready to come up here and show what he can do.”

In 52 games this season, Iannetta hit .222 with a .728 OPS, six homers and 21 RBI. Since the All-Star break, Iannetta went 6-for-41. The Rockies were 14-31 in games in which Iannetta caught and 11-26 in games he started. Those were fewer lately as Wolters’ workload increased. Iannetta threw out just two of 21 runners attempting to steal a base while he was catching.

Nunez, drafted in the sixth round by the Rockies in 2013 out of Elk Grove (Calif.), began his career as an infielder and converted to catcher the following season. Rockies catching coordinator Mark Strittmatter has raved about Nunez’s receiving skills ever since he moved to the position. He hit well in 2015 at Low Class A Asheville – .282/.373/.448 with 13 homers and 53 RBI _ but then struggled offensively the next three seasons until he reached Triple-A Albuquerque this year.

In 61 games there, Nunez hit .244/.338/.405 with a career-high 17 home runs and 42 RBI. His average slipped from .263 on July 20, but Nunez did homer in each of his final two games at Albuquerque.

He was behind the plate Tuesday catching Jeff Hoffman, whom Nunez often caught at Albuquerque and who made a spot start for the Rockies. Hoffman took the turn of Jon Gray, who was scratched with left ankle soreness.

The start went horribly for Hoffman, who lasted two innings against Arizona and yielded seven runs on six hits, four of them home runs, as the Rockies fell 9-3, losing for the seventh time in eight games to drop their record to 53-67.

“Dom caught well, blocked well, really called a good game,” Black said. “If you go through it like we do and watch pitch selection, he did a nice job. It’s just that Jeff didn’t locate the pitches.

“Then he turned around a fastball from a guy that throws in the mid- to upper-90s, That was impressive.”

Nunez’s memorable swing came in the eighth. The left-handed hitter drove a 2-0 fastball clocked at 97.6 mph from right-hander Yoan Lopez an estimated 417 feet to right-center and into the Rockies' bullpen.

The ball was in a case in Nunez’s locker, given to him by bench coach Mike Redmond, who also instructs the catchers.

“He came in and shook my hand,” Nunez said. “And he goes, ‘Nobody can ever take this away from you.’ Everybody remembers their first hit. I mean it was a home run, so I guess a little bit more special.”

Iannetta holds the franchise record among catchers for games played (620), runs (252), hits (435), home runs (80), RBI (293) and walks (309).

The Rockies drafted Iannetta in the fourth round in 2004 out of the University of North Carolina. He made his major league debut Aug. 27, 2006, and played with the Rockies until they traded him to the Angels in November 2011 for pitcher Tyler Chatwood. In addition to the Angels, Iannetta also played with the Mariners and Diamondbacks before returning to the Rockies as a free agent prior to the 2018 season.

“He was always there, on my shoulder, being positive,” Wolters said. “He was like another dad to me, and he was always in my corner. He has zero ego, and he’s a big teddy bear, who’s been playing a long time and has a lot of information. I don’t think his career’s done.”

Iannetta played his final game for the Rockies on Saturday in an 8-5 loss at San Diego. His final hit for the Rockies and possibly for his career came in the seventh, a leadoff double against Craig Stammen. An inning later, Iannetta struck out swinging against Andres Munoz, ending the eighth with runners on first and second and possibly batting for the last time in the big leagues.

Outfielder Charlie Blackmon praised Iannetta as a veteran who “did a really good job of dealing with the emotions of the game. He was a consistent person emotionally. He didn’t get incredibly upset when things didn’t go his way, and he didn’t get overly excited when things did go his way. That made you feel he was always in control of what he was thinking and doing out there, and that rubbed off on everyone else.”


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I have written about major league baseball regularly since 1982, beginning at the Kansas City Star through 1992 before moving Denver to work for the Rocky Mountain News ...