March 2009

Spilborghs and the leadoff options

Center fielder Ryan Spilborghs has had a strong last two Cactus League games with the bat. Both were against the Padres. He had a nice hit-and-run single and another hit Friday, and on Sunday had two doubles and a single in three at-bats on Sunday. Those were good developments for Spilborghs, who has had to deal wih the death of his mother during Spring Training.

“He’s still got a lot of at-bats to work on,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s just as important to get out three and track some balls in the outfield. [Sunday] was a good day for him. He caught the barrel with some balls and hit balls really hard.”


Spilborghs, who is in line to be the leadoff hitter, is batting .313 with a .353 on-base percentage.

The leadoff position is an area of focus for the Rockies.

They should be in good shape with Spilborghs, who had a .363 on-base percentage last season. However, he will not start 162 games. The most experienced option is non-roster outfielder Scott Podsednik. The Rockies are giving him and others some looks atop the lineup.

Keeping in mind that all hitters were operating under strict orders to extend at-bats at the very start of games, here is how Rockies starting leadoff men have performed this spring:

— Spilborghs: two starts, 0-for-6

— Podsednik: five starts, 4-for-17,  1 RBI, four runs, two steals

— Eric Young Jr.: two starts, 1-for-1, one steal

— Carlos Gonzalez, one start, 0-for-3, two runs, one walk

— Dexter Fowler, one start, 0-for-4

That makes the leadoff men 5-for-38 with six runs, two RBIs.

You figure that Young and Fowler are not expeced to be factors at the Major League level to start the season. The ability to hit at the top of the order enhances Podsednik’s chances to make the team as a non-roster guy for the second year in a row.

Gonzalez, one of three-players obtained from the Athletics for outfielder Matt Holliday, offers some intrigue. He has tremendous tools, but strikeouts were a problem during his callup with the Athletics last season. Would it be worthwhile to send him to Triple-A Colorado Springs at the beginning of the season to work on being a leadoff man?

The other possibility is second baseman Clint Barmes, who has done it before in the Majors and done it with success in the Minors. But he’d have to improve his on-base rate. Last season, Barmes batted .290 but had just a .301 on-base percentage. Hurdle and the staff have Barmes working on developing a more discerning eye at the plate.

Hurdle said Sunday that he’ll hone in on his leadoff strategy during the final three weeks of camp.


Instrasquad Monday … No Helton (on the lineup card, at least)

*– See update at the bottom

First off, my apologies for the lack of a blog the last couple of days. I ran into some issues with the technology that are beyond my expertise. Those have been rectified. I have no idea how.

The Rockies are off according to the Cactus League schedule, but they’re on the field at Hi Corbett for an intrasquad game.

But first baseman Todd Helton won’t be. Helton, who homered on Sunday in his first Cactus League game this year, had hoped to play designated hitter. But pitchers are batting in this game. Also, it rained overnight in Tucson, so there’s no reason to risk his recovering back on a wet field.

Here are lineups:

Team A

CF Dexter Fowler

SS Jonathan Herrera

3B Ian Stewart

RF Daniel Ortmeier

2B Chris Nelson

C Paul Phillips

1B Edwin Bellorin

LF Christian Colonel

RHP Jason Marquis

Team B

2B Eric Young Jr.

SS Omar Quintanilla

CF Carlos Gonzalez

1B Joe Koshansky

LF Matt Miller

C Matt McKenry

3B Luis Gonzalez

CF Chris Frey

LHP Glendon Rusch

*UPDATE — One need not be on a lineup card to participate in an intrasquad game. The Rockies arranged for Helton to bat third in six different half-innings. He went 2-for-6 with a double. 

More injuries … and, OK, some good news

Right-handed reliever Taylor Buchholz will miss 4-6 weeks for with a strained ulnar collateral tendon in his throwing elbow. Also, the Rockies scratched third baseman Garrett Atkins from the lineup for Thursday’s exhibition game with Mexico because of a strained right hip flexor. Christian Colonel replaced him.

Now for good news:

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez pitched three scoreless innings with four srikeouts, and two hits, for the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team against the Cardinals on Thursday.

The finger of fate

A few days ago, Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe’s left hand was heavily bandaged and he was insisting it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Now, the wrapping around his pinky fit the injury. He took four stitches after being spiked during a game. And he said he is getting closer to his return.

“I’m getting close,” Hawpe said. “I’ll get the stitches out in two or three days, then start jogging around a little bit. I think I could be back in games 5-7 days after the stitches come out.”


Thoughts of Tucson, B game extravaganza

First baseman Todd Helton has expressed a desire to play in today’s B game against D-backs, but he’s not in the starting lineup. Helton was hoping to be the designated hitter, but the lineup has the pitcher batting. Here it is:

Eric Young Jr.                 2B

Dexter Fowler                 CF

Carlos Gonzalez             RF

Daniel Ortmeier              1B

Yorvit Torrealba                C

Matt Miller                     LF

Luis Gonzalez               3B

Chris Nelson                 SS

Jason Marquis                P

— A couple of days ago, I wrote that six communities outside of Tucson — mostly in the Phoenix metro area — are in various stages of proposing a new spring home for the Rockies. Tucson continues to try, but with so many teams in Phoenix and with the local community having to overcome the economy and the distance from Phoenix, the Rockies have one foot out the door and another on a banana peel.

A move to Phoenix makes a lot of sense. But it’s too bad.

At the risk of sounding like a John Mellencamp song, I get enough of the big town during the regular season, especially Phoenix. I like being off the Major League path. Tucson has good restaurants and is surrounded by natural beauty. Yes, Phoenix is more convenient. When the Rockies play there, you just have to deal with the awful traffic. When the Rockies play in Tucson, you’ve got a two-hour drive before the traffic jam before the game, and a two-hour drive after a postgame jam that’s worse than the pregame snarl.


Actually, Phoenix is a nice place to visit. I recommend Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe, a soul food joint down the street from Chase Field (smothered chicken or smothered pork chops are worth every bite; worry about the calories some other time), and My Florist, a funky fern bar-restaurant complete with a pianist (where you could go worldly and order tuna nicoise salad, or go grade school and ask for PB&J) not terribly far from the ballpark. But give me something different during Spring Training.

Spilborghs back atop lineup

Rockies center fielder Ryan Spilborghs, who hasn’t played in a few days because of the death of his mother, is leading off for the Rockies today agains the Angels. Here’s the lineup:

Ryan Spilborghs          CF

Troy Tulowitzki            SS

Garrett Atkins             3B

Joe Koshansky           1B

Matt Murton                LF

Yorvit Torrealba            C

Clint Barmes              2B

Daniel Ortmeier          RF

Franklin Morales          P

New week, new pitching schedule

Here is the Rockies’ pitching schedule for the week:

Monday vs. Angels at Hi Corbett Field: Franklin Morales, Huston Street, Jason Hirsh, Juan Morillo and Esmil Rogers.

Tuesday at Brewers at Mayvale Baseball Park (Phoenix): Greg Smith, Alan Embree, Greg Reynolds, Ran Mattheus.

Wednesday, “B” game vs. D-backs: Jason Marquis, Glendon Rusch, Josh Fogg, Huston Street, Taylor Buchholz, Ryan Speier.

Thursday, exhibition vs. Team Mexico (World Baseball Classic) at Hi Corbett Field: Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Brandon Hynick, Shane Lindsay, Steven Register.

Friday vs. Padres at Peoria: Aaron Cook, Huston Street, Alan Embree, Taylor Buchholz, Ryan Mattheus, Esmil Rogers.

Saturday vs. Giants at Scottsdale: Jason Hish, Ryan Speier, Franklin Morales.

To recap, here are the players who are missing because of the World Baseball Classic: catcher Chris Iannetta (Team USA), right-handed starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), right-handed closer Manuel Corpas (Panama), right-handed reliever Jason Grilli (Italy) and Minor League right-handed reliever Adam Bright (Australia). Right fielder Brad Hawpe would have played for the U.S., but he suffered a lacerated pinkie on his left (throwing) hand Friday that required four stitches.

Baker taking it easy

Utility man Jeff Baker is being careful with his right elbow, which has been sore since the start of Spring Training. Baker, who was scratched from Saturday’s game because of elbow tenderness, had a cortisone shot a couple of weeks ago.

“I’ve been able to hit the whole time,” said Baker, who said the injury didn’t occur on a single swing or throw. “But we’re switching up some medication and trying to get some better anti-inflammatories. I’m going to take a couple days and try to let it kick in, knock the pain out and keep going.”

He doesn’t think his absence will be long-term.

Third baseman-outfielder Ian Stewart had hoped to swing in the batting cage on Sunday, but he wound up having treatment instead.

Comforting a teammate …

Center fielder Ryan Spilborghs was back at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday morning. He had left camp to be with his family after his mother, Essie, died on Friday.

Spilborghs had plenty of friends to help comfort him.

The Rockies played the Indians at Goodyear, Ariz. But shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who originally was supposed to make the trip, stayed back and worked out with Spilborghs and the other teammates. This was a case when something else was more important than a few innings of an exhibition game.

Here is Sunday’s lineup:

Scott Podsednik            CF

Clint Barmes                 SS

Seth Smith                    LF

Garrett Atkins                3B

Matt Miller                     DH

Carlos Gonzalez            CF

Sal Fasano                     C

Jonathan Herrera           2B

Omar Quintanilla           3B

Right-hander Aaron Cook is pitching. Also, righty Ubaldo Jimenez is making his last appearance before leaving to join the Dominican Republic team for the World Baseball Classic.