March 2009

Marquis eases concerns

Right-hander Jason Marquis had struggled all spring, until Monday. He held the D-backs to two runs on three hits and struck ou four in six innings. That was a big performance for Marquis, who is slated to start the Rockies’ April 10 home opener.

Marquis spent the spring tweaking his delivery, but this time he took he mound with the confidence that he had the new mechanics under control.

“I really just went back to my basics today and tried to be an athlete, let my abiliy and talent take over and take the thought process out of it,” Marquis said. “Don’t think about it, and hopefully all the work you put in between starts will be there when you do that.”

Marquis said he wanted to ease any doubts his teammates and the club may have had, even though he didn’t feel anyone with the club was doubting him.


Seth Smith out, for good reason

Rockies left fielder Seth Smith left camp to be with his wife, Lindsay, for the birth of their first child in Mississippi. Manager Clint Hurdle said Smith will rejoin the team for exhibition games in Las Vegas at the end of the week.

Leafing through the proposals

Rockies president Keli McGregor told reporters Monday that he has begun going through proposals from Arizona communities for the team’s new Spring Training home. It won’t be in Tucson, since there is no way the community can attract a total of four teams. Realistically, the Rockies will be in the Phoenix area in 2011, and it’s possible they’ll share a complex with the D-backs, who also are looking to leave Tucson.

McGregor said the Rockies have received eight proposals, and they’re quite lengthy. He noted that it took him the entire weekend to go through one, because it encompassed so much. The Rockies had Q&A sessions with communities making proposals, and in those they detailed what they wanted to see.

“You have to go through each piece,” McGregor said of the proposals, which go to the team’s legal counsel and then to him. “You can’t get a quick snap shot and say I know what they are proposing. You have to go through the whole thing. They are like 40 or 50 pages apiece. There are a lot of legal [terms].”

 McGregor did not reveal the cities that made the proposals.

Dexter Fowler is still here…

The Rockies announced some cuts Monday morning. Center field prospect Dexter Fowler, considered too young at the start of camp for big-league consideration, survived and could force his way onto the team. Interestingly, Matt Murton was sent out despite his .302 spring average. A story is coming on the site.

Here is their official press release:


TUCSON – The Colorado Rockies announced today that three players have been optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs, while three other players have been reassigned to minor league camp.


The following players have been optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs: outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, outfielder Matt Murton and left-handed pitcher Greg Smith. Additionally, catcher Edwin Bellorin, left-handed pitcher Randy Flores and catcher Paul Phillips have all been reassigned to Minor League camp. 


The Rockies now have 34 players on the Major League Spring Training roster, including 8 non-roster players

Where are they headed?

Here are some of the Rockies’ decisions on where players will start 2009:

— Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin received consideration for Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he’ll start at Double-A Tulsa.

“There’s a factor involved — the weather,” Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson said. “It’s staying on a consistent routine. When you’re in Colorado Springs, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

“He’s got the talent [to pitch Triple-A], but, as we say, it’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. He has the ability to pitch at the Major League level. We just have to make sure we take care of him.”

— Catcher Michael McKenry showed some ability early in camp. With the possibility of Sal Fasano and Edwin Bellorin handling the catching at Colorado Springs, the Rockies believe Tulsa is the best place for McKenry.

“He’s a young kid still learning how to call games,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “I want us to take our time with our catchers as much as we can.”

— Right-handers Brandon Hynick, Greg Reynolds and Jason Hirsh look to be three-fifths of the Colorado Springs rotation. A possibility is lefty Greg Smith, if he’s healthy. Smith’s shoulder soreness has likely cost him a chance at the Major League rotation.

Gustafson said since being sent down early in camp, Hirsh has made progress. Hirsh missed the end of 2007 with a broken bone in his leg and as limited last season with a rotator cuff strain.

“He’s worked extremely hard and gone about his business the right way,” Gustafson said. “Good things are going to happen for him.”

— Reynolds, who struggled during two callups last season, is another work in progress.

“He’s got a few minor issues with his delivery that he should be able to correct,” Colorado Springs pitching coach Chuck Kniffin said. “I think his stride was getting out there a little too long the last two times he threw [in Major League spring games]. That makes it harder to get sink with his sinker. He needs to concentrate on the lower part of the zone, so when he misses he’ll miss down in the zone. He needs to stay ahead of hitters so he can pitch off the plate aggressively.”

Kniffin also said Reynolds should be able to use his curveball at different parts of the count.

Reynolds was the Rockies’ top pick in 2006, and missed the end of 2007 with a shoulder injury, so he needs experience.

Decision time?

The Rockies did not open their clubhouse to the media this morning. This nearly always means roster moves, so it’s a big day at Hi Corbett Field.

This year’s decisions are tougher than ever. Prospect Dexter Fowler gets harder and harder to send down to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but has anyone really played himself out of the starting lineup so Fowler can get regular playing time?  Also, reserve-types Matt Murton and Daniel Ortmeier have performed well enough to earn bench spots, but so have Jeff Baker and Omar Quintanilla.

Also, the big decision that should come down today is the closer. Will it be Huston Street or Manuel Corpas?

Stay tuned.

Hawpe eases through successful return

— Right fielder Brad Hawpe’s return from a hamstring injury would have to be called a success, partly because he went 2-for-2 with a walk, and partly because he stayed healthy. One line drive carried over his head for a double. When the time came to burst and extend for the ball, Hawpe wisely played it conservatively.

— The Athletics’ Matt Holliday keeps up with his former teammates with the Rockies. After witnessing how Todd Helton played through a back injury “until he absolutely couldn’t walk” last year. TV highlights of Helton’s strong spring have grabbed Holliday’s attention

“From what I’ve seen on TV it looks like he’s really driving through the ball,” Holliday said. “It’s great to see.

“Nothing really shocks me. I knew he was hurting, and I knew once he was healthy he would be a very good hitter.”

— — Center fielder prospect Dexter Fowler went 2-for-4 with two doubles, and he’s up to .317 this spring as he continues to argue against being sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs to start the season. 

— A day after playing right field for the first time this spring, Ian Stewart started at second base. Stewart handled a tough flyball Saturday and a foul in the bullpen area Sunday.

“It seems like that happens in baseball,” Stewart said. “You come into a game or something and it seems like the first guy hits you a ball. But I definitely feel comfortable at all the spots they put me.”

Stewart, a third baseman, has had ample duty in left field.

Manuel Corpas and the dangers of civilization

Today is Manuel Corpas’ turn in the Rockies’ closer competition, especially with Huston Street showing that he’s capable of the job. Corpas is scheduled to pitch Friday against the Mariners at Peoria.

Corpas didn’t give up any runs in his last outing, earlier this week against the Cubs, but in many ways it was a disturbing outing. He walked three, and was saved partly becuase catcher Chris Iannetta threw out Alfonso Soriano stealing. But in the middle of the inning, manager Clint Hurdle and not pitching coach Bob Apodaca went out for words with Corpas. When the manager makes the initial visit, the words aren’t gentle.

But when Corpas returned to the dugout, Apodaca had plenty to say.

On one of the early pitches of the inning, Corpas thought he had a strike, and his body language on the mound let umpires, opponents, teammates and pretty much everyone in the stadium know how he felt. It’s a body language that doesn’t win the favor of those who decide whether a pitch is a strike.

“I told him not to lose it, because he is the potential closer,” Apodaca said. “If that was the ninth inning and he had the same body language that he was showing his teammates … That’s what I told him, ‘You need to show your team that you’ve got everything in control.

“And I didn’t like the way he was throwing the baseball. Everything was flat. Everything was from the side. He needed to have some angle to his pitches.”

But this is where things get tricky.

The conduct was obviously what the Rockies don’t want. But the attitude that led to it was wonderful.

Apodaca noted that it was the heart of the Cubs’ regular-season lineup, and the best set of hitters Corpas has faced this spring. Corpas was understandably pumped, and wanted to go after someone.

The intensity Apodaca saw reminded him of the Corpas who turned heads as a setup man in 2006 and early 2007, and was dominant in late 2007 and through the playoffs. It was a streetfight mentality from a guy who didn’t know any better than to go out and try to destroy a batter’s confidence.

When Corpas struggled early last season and eventually lost the closer role, Apodaca felt he had become more gentile. So what made Apodaca mad in the game against the Cubs also made him happy.

“I saw more of what we wanted to see,” Apodaca said. “I saw more energy. I saw more of an attack in his mannerisms, even though he was unsuccessful as far as strikes. That’s the attitude he had. He had confidence that he could attack the strike zone, and the pitch would be in a quality location.

“Last year, I thought he became civillized. I thought he became a guy who tried to make perfect pitches. When you lose that slight edge right there, there goes that quality movement. It still has to be under the umbrella of timing and rhythm, but then absolutely seeing an area you want to throw to and aggressively going to that area.” 

Breathing easily

Good evening, everyone. It’s Thursday evening. If you’re back in Denver, sorry. That is, unless you enjoy shoveling snow. Some folks do. All I can say is I admire you.

Anyhow, I have a few thoughts about this afternoon’s 8-6 loss to the Dodgers, besides whatever appears in stories on the site. Here goes:

— Todd Helton had two doubles and is up to .423 in the Cactus League. Great sign, but what impressed me today was what I saw from him defensively. He dove for a hit that turned into an RBI double, but he didn’t hesitate to make that dive. After years of back problems, he wouldn’t have been blamed for thinking twice about it. Who knows? Maybe the intensity of a regular-season game would have given him the reach he needed to make that play. He also made a nice pickup and throw to the plate to cut down a runner.

Manager Clint Hurdle knows he needs to keep an eye on Helton’s back. But he also sees a player who doesn’t leave him breathless with worry.

“He is playing with freedom,” Hurdle said. “I am by no means on the edge of my seat watching his every move.”

— Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa had a bad inning, when he gave up five runs in the fourth. He also had four clean innings. So you can take what you want from this one. He could have minimized the damage, but walked pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz and opened the door for the Dodgers. Breezing through the next inning was a good sign, but you’d like to see him stop trouble when it’s in progress.

Despite the 9.42 spring ERA, there is no wavering on De La Rosa as the No. 4 starter. 

— Outfield backup hopeful Scott Podsednik went 0-for-4 and is down to .231. He will need a strong finish to secure a job, especially with Matt Murton and Daniel Ortmeier hitting well and Dexter Fowler trying to change the thinking that he needs time in Triple-A. If the Rockies don’t go with Podsednik, they lose experience. Podsednik readily shares his knowledge with fellow outfielders, but production trumps that.

— One moment looked scarier from the press box than it was. On one of the two times catcher Chris Iannetta threw out a runner attempting to steal, he was hit on the left arm by backswinging bat. But Iannetta didn’t flinch. Getting clubbed with a bat is just part of the job.

That’s it for tonight. I need to pace myself. Tomorrow I’ll hit you with some thoughts on the closer competition, specifically where Manuel Corpas stands in the competition with Huston Street. 

Flores on quickened course; working on the day off

Lefty reliever Randy Flores gave up a home run to the Royals’ Tommy Murphy on Tuesday. It was the first Cactus League run against Flores in three appearances, althuogh he did give up three runs in one inning of an intrasquad game.

Nonetheless, Flores — a non-roster invitee — has made himself an interesting bullpen candidate to start the season, even though he is coming off shoulder surgery in August.

“The second I got healthy, and in shape to throw, I was in games, and that’s different for me,” said Flores, who established himself as a reliever with the Cardinals 2004-08. “Typically, everyone gets in shape during the winter, but still it’s a jolt to your system to face hitters, and another jolt when you’re in a game.

“So to say I have nothing to work on would be completely wrong. I need to continue to work on my conditioning in the game, and the crispness and sharpness of my pitches. That can hopefully take place over the last couple of weeks.”

— The Rockies will enjoy their only day off of the spring on Wednesday. But left-hander Greg Smith and right-handers Greg Reynolds, Ryan Speier, Josh Fogg and Matt Belisle will throw in a Minor League game. Also, it’ll be the first Minor League outing for righty Jason Hirsh, who was optioned out of big-league camp on Monday.

— Todd Helton continues to put back problems behind him. On Tuesday, he hit his third home run in six Spring Training games. This one was a pull shot down the right-field line off the Royals’ Kyle Davies. The other two were to center field. Ryan Spilborghs also went deep. The club’s projected leadoff hitter, Spilborghs is hitting .323 with a .405 on-base percentage in 10 Cactus League contests.