March 2009

Baker on the move, out of the lineup

Rockies infielder Jeff Baker, who has played just two games this spring because of an elbow strain, originally was supposed to start at third base Tuesday against the Royals. The first lineup card had him at second base. But before gametime, Baker was out of the lineup, but he could see some time at first base.

There was no new injury. It’s just that Baker has not had enough time taking groundballs and making throws as a third baseman or second baseman to be put into a game at those two spots.

“Today, I took some grounders at second, which was a good first step,” Baker said. “I just want to brach out. Hopefully, I’ll keep doing good and keep progressing.”

Third baseman Garrett Atkins did special exercises and stretches for his strained right groin. Head trainer Keith Dugger said Atkins will take the day off with the rest of the club Wednesday, then do more exercises and hitting Thursday before the club decides the next move.

The lineup:

Ryan Spilborghs              CF

Seth Smith                     LF

Todd Helton                    1B

Brad Hawpe                    RF

Troy Tulowitzki                SS

Clint Barmes                  2B

Christian Colonel            3B

Yorvit Torrealba                C

Ubaldo Jimenez               P 

Colonel wows his manager

Prospect Christian Colonel, who has received extensive playing time this spring because of injuries to third basemen Garrett Atkins and Jeff Baker, had manager Clint Hurdle talking about his ninth-inning, three-run homer in Monday’s 8-3 victory over the D-backs at Tucson Electric Park.

“I was waiting to hear some cars,” Hurdle said before making a car alarm sound.

– Baker, limited to two games this spring because of an elbow issue, was available but did not play Monday. Hurdle said Baker will start at third base on Tuesday against the Royals.

– Atkins has been out lately with a strained right hip flexor, but told the Denver Post on Monday that his right groin is sore, and limiting his lateral movement. Hurdle said after Monday’s game that there is no reason to push him into the lineup Tuesday. The club is off on Wednesday.

– Closer candidate Huston Street struck out two in two spotless innings on Monday. After struggling in his first two official spring outings, Street has thrown three perfect innings in his last two appearances. Righty releiver Jason Grilli, coming off a poor outing against the Mariners (three hits, two runs in one inning), walked one on Monday but pitched a scoreless inning. Lefty Glendon Rusch was credited with a save Monday after giving up three hits and a walk but no runs in two innings. He has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Cactus League games. He did give up two runs, one earned, in an intrasquad contest.

Chacin makes most of big chance; Cook pitches

The magic of Rockies right-handed prospect Jhoulys Chacin’s impressive first Major League cmap has been treating every opponent like the Class-A hitters he dominated while winning 18 games last year. He even tried that Monday in his first start in a Cactus League game, against the D-backs. For the most part, he succeeded in treating it like any other game.

“I was excited because it was my first time starting a game, but I felt good and I was doing what I wanted to do,” Chacin said.

Chacin, 21. went three innings and gave up three runs on four hits. he was perfect in the first two innings, but found trouble after Chris Roberson’s leadoff hit in the third. Roberson’s chopper sailed high and Chacin, who probably should have let second baseman Omar Quintanilla make the play, lost the ball in the sun and couldn’t catch it in time to throw to first.

The only solid hit of the innning was Evan Frey’s two-run triple on the only pitch he said he wanted back.

But the inning ended with a nice memory, when he fanned Justin Upton swinging.

“When I’m pitching, I don’t see who’s hitting, so I try to make my pitch — the only thing i can control is making my pitch,” said Chacin, who forced some weak contact with his sinker and had an effective changeup. “But Upton, I wanted to face him. He’s a good hitter and he’s young, too.”

Veteran first baseman Todd Helton gave a whole-hearted endorsement of Chacin.

“I love him,” Helton said. “He kept the ball down, threw strikes. He was working ahead. He doesn’t get rattled when he gets guys on base. He’s easy to play behind.”

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the Rockies have not discussed whether Chacin will make another Major League start, but there was plenty to like about Monday.

“He wouldn’t have had the year he had last year if he didn’t have a feel for waht he did,” Hurdle said. “He’s being challenged at this level and we wanted to get him out there in a starting opportunity. You saw a kid that’s got good mound presence, can sink the ball.

“He got a little amped up when he had some runners on base, but he did fine today.”

The Rockies haven’t said where Chacin will begin the season, although other top prospects with his resume have started at Double-A Tulsa with the chance to move to Triple-A Colorado Springs or the Majors at some point during the season.

Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook, the No. 1 starter, pitched to a mix of Rockies Minor Leagues and went five innings, with four hits and four runs, three earned, two strikeouts and one walk. He threw 78 pitches.  

Baker ready to play

Infielder-outfielder Jeff Baker, who has been limited to two appearances this spring because of an elbow issue, is in uniform for the Rockies for their game against the D-backs at Tucson Electric Park on Monday. Baker said he doesn’t know how much he will play or what position.

Hirsh among the cuts

Things haven’t been the same for Rockies right-hander Jason Hirsh since the Brewers’ J.J. Hardy hit him in the right leg with a line drive on Aug. 7, 2007. At that time, Hirsh was a rookie and seemed to be learning how to pitch in the Majors. Since then, it’s been a lot of pain and disappointment.

The pain came last season, when shoulder problems made his big-league opportunities minimal.

The disappointment came Monday, when he was one of 13 players the Rockies moved out of Major League camp. Hirsh technically was optioned to the Minors.

Right-handed pitchers Samuel Deduno, Shane Lindsay, Ryan Mattheus and Steven Register, as well as infielders Hector Gomez, Chris Nelson and Eric Young, Jr. were optioned to the Minors. Left-handed pitcher Cedrick Bowers, right-handed pitchers Matt Daley and Brandon Hynick, catcher Michael McKenry and outfielder Matt Miller were non-roster players who were reassigned to Minor League camp.

A meeting with the D-backs; Baker listed

The Rockies and D-backs meet today at Tucson Electric Park in what turns out to be a matchup of pitching prospects. Not wanting the D-backs to see No. 1 starter Aaron Cook, the Rockies will use their top mound prospect, righty Jhoulys Chacin. The D-backs also are going with a prospect, Cesar Valdez.

Cook is pitching in a 1 p.m. Minor League game at the Hi Corbett Field complex.

Interesting roster note: Infielder Jeff Baker, who has been limited to two games this spring because of an elbow issue, is on the Rockies’ travel roster. I’ll update if more information becomes available.

Here is the lineup:

Dexter Fowler         CF

Clint Barmes          SS

Todd Helton           1B

Ian Stewart            3B

Brad Hawpe           RF

Carlos Gonzalez     LF

Omar Quintanilla     2B

Paul Phillips            C

Jhoulys Chacin        P

 

Calling out the pitchers

Rockies right-hander Jason Marquis upheld a tradition for veteran pitchers. After some ugly numbers Saturday against the Mariners — 3 2/3 innings, nine hits, five runs, two walks, 88 pitches — he chalked it up to just being in Spring Training.

“For the most part, I executed a lot of pitches like I wanted to, and [hits] found some holes,” Marquis said. “A lot of positives, a lot of two-strike counts. It was a step in the right direction. I got my pitch count up. That’s why we’re here, to work on a few things, get some things straightened out. I think I’ve got four starts left.

“I didn’t really use my changeup as much as I would during the season. I was trying to get my curveball over for a strike — not only for a strike, but bury it when I needed to and throw it for a strike when I needed to. There were certain counts when I don’t think I would have thrown my curveball normally, but today I did. I tried to get a better feel for a cutter, not spinning it so much.”

Normally, that’s a right afforded pitchers who have been around. Marquis qualifies, having pitched for the Braves, Cardinals and Cubs.

But manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t as happy with Marquis’s direction.

“He had too many deep counts,” Hurdle said. “As a staff, we’re not executing anywhere near the level we’re going to need to execute to be successful. As a group, we’re talking about throwing 70 percent first-pitch strikes. We’re not doing it. We’re talking about acute location of our fastball, arm-side. We’re not doing it, so more of the same today.

“We’ve got some guys that are showing some flashes of some things, but as a staff, we’ve got to cover some ground here.”

Informed that Marquis said he was working on some pitches, Hurdle sounded as unhappy with the explanation as the performance.

“It’s time they started making comments after a game that ‘I commanded my fastball, I threw strikes, my slider was sharp, I had a good sinker,'” Hurdle said. “That’s what we need to start doing.”

It was clear Hurdle was delivering a message, not just to Marquis but to all of the starters. Only Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez, who has done his most-recent pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, have been consistently solid. 

It’s not as if Hurdle threatening massive changes in the rotation. The Rockies traded for Marquis to provide veteran leadership. That won’t change. Hurdle has been exceedingly patient with Jorge De La Rosa, who has struggled his last two times out and will meet the Dodgers on Sunday. The team is still trying to sort through a host of pitchers for the fifth starting spot.

Hurdle’s call for better quality might be as much a clarification as a declaration.

Some of the ugly early performances from starters occurred because the pitchers were under orders to work on one thing — fastball command — and had to pitch to a specific pattern. Hitters quickly figured out what pitch was coming. The Rockies relaxed those orders after each pitcher had a couple of starts.

But how close are the Rockies supposed to be to the form they need for a regular season that starts 23 days from now? The way Hurdle spoke on Saturday, it’s not close enough.

– Hurdle also was not happy with right-handed reliever Jason Grilli, who pitched well for Italy in the World Baseball Classic but gave up three hits and two runs in his inning.

“We’ve got to have improved focus and discipline off the mound,” Hurdle said. “Twenty pitches, poor fastball command, pitching one side of the plate. We’ve got way to many guys pitching one side of the plate that aren’t good enough to be pitching one side of the plate. These are things and areas we need to target and work on as we move forward.”

– Left-handed non-roster candidate Cedrick Bowers gav eup three runs on one hit and two walks before leaving with a back/rib cage injury that has hampered him all spring.

– Righty Ryan Speier continued his scoreless spring (six innings) by giving up one hit and a walk but striking out two in the ninth.

Atkins taking it easy

Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins took batting practice Friday but was not in the starting lineup for the game against the Giants. Atkins said he aggravated his right hip flexor two days ago. The original injury cost him two days earlier this spring, and he will be given a few days to recover from the latest flare-up.

“I’m OK, I’m just taking it easy,” Atkins said. “It doesn’t hurt to hit, but it affects me when I’m running and going side-to-side.”

Welclome back, me … Here is the lineup

I took a couple of days to relax, took a trip into the desert. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the East, but the desert is a strange place when the heat is not searing. Anyhow, here is the Rockies’ lineup for today’s game against the Giants:

Ryan Spilborghs               CF

Seth Smith                      LF

Todd Helton                     1B

Ian Stewart                      3B

Troy Tulowitzki                SS

Carlos Gonzalez              RF

Troy Tulowitzki                  C

Eric Young Jr.                  2B

Greg Reynolds               RHP

 

A Holliday celebration … Hawpe to the cage, maybe beyond

The Rockies are preparing to meet the Athletics at Hi Corbett Field. More than that, they’re ready to welcome an old friend, their former left fielder, Matt Holliday.

Unable to sign him for the long term, the Rockies dealt him to the Athletics for pitchers Greg Smith and Huston Street, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

“It’ll be weird,” Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “It’ll be different seeing him in an A’s uniform. It’ll be different when he comes up to bat, not watching him from the dugout but having to play defense against him. But it’ll be exciting just to watch him play and get to see him.

“He’s definitely a guy I look up to and respect a lot. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. At the same time, there’s a business part of it, and it’s a choice he made and the Rockies made. I respect both sides.”

Here’s the lineup that will welcome Holliday:

Ryan Spilborghs           CF

Clint Barmes                2B

Todd Helton                 1B

Garrett Atkins              3B

Troy Tulowitzki             SS

Seth Smith                  LF

Matt Murton                RF

Yorvit Torrealba             C

Jorge De La Rosa      LHP

– In a bit of good news for the Rockies, right fielder Brad Hawpe said he planned to hit in the batting cage on Tuesday and possibly join his teammates on the field for batting practice. Hawpe hasn’t played since suffering a lacerated left pinkie finger on Feb. 27.

– Right-handed closer Manuel Corpas is back in the Rockies’ camp after pitching for Panama in the World baseball Classic.

 

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