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Rockies turn to Hundley, son of a coach, to guide pitchers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Nick Hundley started last season in San Diego, finished it in Baltimore and then signed with Colorado.

A dizzying year for the veteran catcher? Not so much for the son of a college football coach.

“That’s something I’m used to,” Hundley said Monday. “I went to four elementary schools, four high schools.”

When deciding where to sign over the winter, Hundley remembered fondly being a teenager in Boulder when his father, Tim, was the defensive line coach at Colorado from 1996-98.

The 31-year-old Hundley said he told his agent to put the Rockies at the top of the list.

The Rockies, desperate for better defense and a steady hand to work with their troubled pitching staff, pounced. Colorado called on the first day of free agency and they agreed on a two-year, $6.25 million deal.

“We did a lot of homework on Nick, and there’s a reason why we went out and got him,” manager Walt Weiss said.

“He really takes pride in being able to connect with the staff and run a staff, to get a staff through a tough inning or a tough game,” Weiss said. “Those are his strengths.”

The Rockies need all those things. During a 2014 season marred by injuries, Colorado used 15 starting pitchers and sported the majors’ highest ERA at 4.84 on the way to 96 losses.

While former starting catcher Wilin Rosario has hit 62 home runs over the past three seasons, he’s also collected 42 passed balls. He threw out seven of 44 base stealers last season.

The Rockies decided to trade offense for better defense. Rosario, who has acknowledged he could be traded, will get work at first base and is no longer a lock for the 25-man roster. Michael McKenry is also contending for the backup job.

Hundley is eager for the chance to be an everyday catcher after losing that job in San Diego before he was traded in May. He got to experience the postseason for the first time last year with the Orioles, while hitting a combined .243 with six home runs.

But his defense is what the Rockies coveted. He’s known as a good framer of pitches and has only 32 passed balls in 516 games.

“Always having a good catcher is going to benefit the team,” closer LaTroy Hawkins said. “I’ve heard great things about him. He can definitely throw runners out.”

Hundley is meticulous in learning pitchers, watching video and gathering information from various sources for hitter scouting reports. Those traits could come from his dad.

Tim Hundley has been at it for more than 40 years, most recently at UNLV. And that meant a lot of moving for his family.

Nick Hundley was born when his father was at Oregon State. He finished high school in the Seattle area when his father was at Washington. He also spent some of his childhood in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Boulder, when Tim Hundley worked for former Buffaloes coach Rick Neuheisel.

That drew him to Denver, along with what he thinks is the potential of a maligned pitching staff that’s getting healthy.

“I don’t look at last year. I don’t think that’s very conducive to what we’re doing,” Hundley said. “I think the stuff that people in this room possess is on par with anybody in the league. So if we can go and command that stuff, I think we’ll be really tough to beat.”

NOTES: SS Troy Tulowitzki (hip) and RF Carlos Gonzalez (knee) ran the bases Monday for the first time since their surgeries. Weiss said they could appear in spring games earlier than expected, but declined to set dates. … Tulowitzki and Gonzalez ran before rain moved most of the workout indoors. … The Rockies will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday. … Jordan Lyles will start Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Arizona. Jhoulys Chacin, Kyle Kendrick and Jorge De La Rosa are scheduled to start the following three days.

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