April 2009

Torrealba gets matchup, Iannetta gets work

The Rockies have drawn a tough matchup in the Phillies’ Brett Myers, who is 6-0 in seven career games against the Rockies. But one player who hits him well is catcher Yorvit Torrealba (3-for-7), and that’s one reason he is in the starting lineup Saturday night. Another reason is to allow catcher Chris Iannetta to work with hitting coach Don Baylor. Iannetta homered in the opener but that is his only hit in 11 at-bats. Here are the lineups:


Ryan Spilborghs         CF

Seth Smith                 LF

Garrett Atkins             3B

Brad Hawpe                RF

Troy Tulowitzki            SS

Yorvit Torrealba            C

Clint Barmes              2B

Jorge De La Rosa         P


Jimmy Rollins             SS

Shane Victorino          CF

Chase Utley               2B

Ryan Howard             1B

Jayson Werth            RF

Raul Ibanez               LF

Pedro Feliz               3B

Chris Coste                C

Brett Myers                P



Phils + Rox = fun

The schedulemaker couldn’t have picked a potentially bigger offensive series to open the Coors Field schedule. But skip the hype. Here are the lineups:


Dexter Fowler         CF

Ryan Spilborghs     LF

Todd Helton           1B

Garrett Atkins        3B

Brad Hawpe          RF

Troy Tulowtizki      SS

Chris Iannetta         C

Clint Barmes         2B

Jason Marquis        P


Jimmy Rollins        SS

Shane Victorino     CF

Chase Utley           2B

Ryan Howard         1B

Jayson Werth         RF

Raul Ibanez            LF

Pedro Feliz            3B

Carlos Ruiz             C

Cole Hamels           P

Helton takes a seat

The Rockies promised all along that they would be smart about first baseman Todd Helton’s playing time, since he’s 35 and coming off back problems. So he did not start agianst D-backs left-hander Doug Davis on Wednesday. The team is off on Thursday, so he’ll go into Friday’s home opener with plenty of rest.

Right fielder Brad Hawpe was the only left-handed hitter in the lineup. It’s the first start of the year for center fielder Dexter Fowler, third baseman Jeff Baker and catcher Yorvit Torrealba.

Here’s the Rockies’ lineup:

Dexter Fowler            CF

Troy Tulowitzki          SS

Ryan Spilborghs        LF

Garrett Atkins            1B

Brad Hawpe               RF

Jeff Baker                 3B

Clint Barmes             2B

Yorvit Torrealba           C


Here is the D-backs’ lineup against lefty Franklin Morales.

Felipe Lopez               2B

Stephen Dres              SS

Chris Young                CF

Conor Jackson             1B

Mark Reynolds             3B

Eric Byrnes                  LF

Chris Snyder                 C

Justin Upton                RF

Doug Davis                   P



Looking for the Rockies?

I’ve received and seen a few comments from a small number of fans who were not able to watch Monday’s season-opening, 9-8 Rockies loss to the D-backs on FSN Rocky Mountain.

Today I talked with Amy Turner, a spokesman for FSN, and here’s the explanation in a nutshell:

The Rockies and FSN Rocky Mountain entered a partnership under which 150 Rockies games a season will be telecast on FSN. That’s 24 more than in he past.

The network offered cable systems and satellite companies two packages — one a complete package, the other a 126-game package. The primary systems that serve the Denver area — Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV — chose the complete package. Bresnan, a system that serves the Denver area, is one that picked the smaller package. Some systems in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas also opted for the smaller package.

But fans who want to see the full package can be heard. Look up the Web site, FSNInsider.com. By clicking on FSN Rocky Mountain, fans are directed to information on numbers to call to convince their provider to offer the remainder of the full package.

Game 2 lineup — Barmes is in there

The Rockies went with the lineup that was expected coming out of Spring Training. That means Clint Barmes, who didn’t start Monday’s opener (Ian Stewart went 1-for-3 with an RBI before being replaced by Barmes, who was 0-for-2), is in the lineup.

Stewart was in for the left-on-right matchup with D-backs starter Brandon Webb. Tonight’s starter, Dan Haren, also is a tough righty. But it turns out there isn’t a favorable matchup for the two second basemen. Barmes is 1-for-12 and Stewart 1-for-9 against Haren. The other second baseman for the Rockies, Jeff Baker, is 1-for-2 against Haren.

Those who hit Haren well are catcher Chris Iannetta (4-for-9, .444), center fielder Ryan Spilborghs (4-for-11, .364) and third baseman Garrett Atkins (4-for-13, .308, 1 HR, 4 RBIs).

At any rate, here is the lineup:

Ryan Spilborghs         CF

Seth Smith                 LF

Todd Helton                1B

Garrett Atkins             3B

Brad Hawpe                RF

Troy Tulowitzki            SS

Chris Iannetta               C

Clint Barmes               2B

Ubaldo Jimenez            P

Final Opening Day thoughts …

Spring Training was devoted to execution, especially offensively, but the Rockies did not come through on two opportunities to execute two plays. In the second inning, Ian Stewart took a called third strike on a Brandon Webb, full-count pitch that he never thought was a strike, and Brad Hawpe was thrown out at second for a double play. In the sixth, Ryan Spilborghs swung through a Billy Buckner pitch and Chris Iannetta was thrown out at second. Spilborghs would fan to end the inning.

Manager Clint Hurdle, reiterating what he said all spring, vowed that the aggressiveness would not stop.

“We have talked long and hard this spring, and we’ve done a very good job at it,” Hurdle said. “Today we just weren’t able to pull a trigger.

“We’ve done very well at it all spring. I anticipate we will.”

Stewart said, “I thought it was a little in, but 3-2, I should’ve been swinging at that.”

So this is as good a time as any to see if the Rockies are serious about the aggressiveness. Many teams set such goals in Spring Training, but after a couple of runners caught stealing you see guys feel they don’t have a jump and shut down their steal attempts. Or you see weak swings that, at best, foul pitches off. Worse than all that, managers give up and play station-to-station baseball.

But two occasions in the third inning, one that worked for the Rockies and one that didn’t, illustrate why aggressive baserunning is the way to go.

On Brad Hawpe’s three-run double, it looked as if the throw to the plate beat Garrett Atkins. However, D-backs catcher Chris Snyder didn’t get a favorable bounce on the throw and had to field the ball too deep behind the plate. Atkins slid feet-first but darted his left hand to the plate beneath the tag.

In the bottom of the inning with Stephen Drew at third, Eric Byrnes hit a fly ball to Spilborghs in center field. Spilborghs had time to set his feet and put momentum behind the throw, but the ball was just off the plate and Drew scored.

— When asked about difficult decisoins, such as starting Stewart instead of Clint Barmes at second base could bruise feelings and made things tough on a manager, Hurdle bristled.

“We’ve weiged that all out,” Hurdle said. “If it’s about their ego, it’s about the wrong thing. If they have any challenges or any questions, come in and we’ll talk about it. I’ll have reasons for the decisions that I make. Whether they agree with them or not, that’s understandable. You want your players to want to play.”

Hurdle then mentioned that each player should be able to look at his teammate and understand the different talents that lead to different decisions. As far as anyone knows, and we may never know, no one challenged Hurdle.

No one went public with disagreement but certainly, the potential for disagreement was there. Barmes had an outstanding Spring Training and was the primary guy all spring. But the players had to be aware of the potential of a left-on-right matchup with Stewart, who has a power swing, against Webb. The matchups dictated such the decision.

Can a player’s desire to play be contrary to a team goal? Must a player supposed to stifle his disagreement with the manager’s decision? How much should emotion be considered, against numbers and matchups?

If baseball were strictly a top-down society, where the boss’ word is law, those questions would have obvious answers. But players hold much more power, because they’re harder to replace, than the average employee. So this is not like a normal workplace, or even like the teams many of the fans played on at the youth, high school and college levels. The players’ unique sets of abilities give them a high level of clout.

So while Hurdle’s quotes to the media about the role ego should not play are well-taken, the key for him is to make sure the players are constantly kept on board with his thinking and reasoning.


Not keeping count

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was asked before Monday’s season-opener what number Opening Day it is for him, counting his playing, coaching and managing career in the Majors.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t counted them up. I’m not gonna.

“Like Frank Sinatra said at his last birthday, all I want is another one.”

Hurdle is in the last year of his contract, so it’s appropriate that all’s well if he gets another Opening Day.

A veteran move

Rockies left-handed reliever Alan Embree broke in with the Indians in 1992, so this is his 17th year around the game. Embree is playing on his 10th team. Needless to say, he’s learned a little something about getting along with new teammates.

So Embree pulled a veteran move on Sunday, the day before his first Opening Day with the Rockies.

“I saw a group of guys down at the tables at breakfast, and I picked up the tabs on all of them, just to kind of kick it off,” Embree said. “When you break with a new team, it’s kind of like, ‘Let’s get it going on the right foot.’ I want to let them know I’m not just here to pitch. I’m here to be a teammate.”

Embree has developed a tradition that goes a long way toward bullpen esprit de corps.

“I started something about six years ago, where I’d go around to each guy and hand him a $100 Starbucks card,” Embree said. “It’s a group of guys who will be together a lot.”

Right-handed reliever Ryan Speier said Embree reached out to him, even though they’re different pitchers. Speier said he enjoys hearing about Embree’s experiences.

“He’s been on a lot of teams, and some championship teams, so he’s got a wealth of knowledge,” Speier said. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times about the ’05 Red Sox. That was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched, so I enjoy hearing him talk about that.

“He’s made an effort to get to know everybody, and he can tinker here or there to help guys out.”

Cook and Webb — one of these pitchers is much like the other

The grass at Chase Field could take a beating with sinkerballers Aaron Cook starting for the Rockies and Brandon Webb starting for the D-backs.

One of the reasons Webb won the National League Cy Young Award in 2006 and won 22 games last year, however, is he showed he could pitch without his sinker. Cook grew in that respect last year, when he qualified for his first All-Star Game, and he’s continued that this spring.

“He’s a sinkerball pitcher who can pitch to contact anytime he wants, but he was able to incorporate his curveball and last year his changeup,” Cook said. “That’s something I really worked on, not to be like him but to be a better pitcher and give myself more options — use my slider, use my curveball, use my changeup, then all of a sudder the hitter can’t just worry about one pitch.”

Cook’s biggest challenge is D-backs left-handed hitting third baseman Chad Tracy, who has blistered him to the tune of 17-of-33 (.515) with eight doubles and six RBIs. Tracy has hit Cook’s sinker as well as his off-speed pitches. Actually, D-backs catcher Chris Snyder has hit Cook more frequently (12-for-21, .571) with a double and a homer.


Stewart surprise starter at second

The season doesn’t start for a few hours, and already manager Clint Hurdle has pulled a surprise. Left-handed hitting Ian Stewart will start at second, instead of last year’s regular, Clint Barmes. This is obviously a strategic move, putting another lefty in the lineup against D-backs sinkerballer Brandon Webb.

(A full story will be coming soon on the Web site.)

Stewart played some second last season. He began working at second late in Spring Training.

“I knew it was going to happen at some point this season,” Stewart said. “I had no idea it would be this soon.”

Interestingly, Stewart is batting sixth and Troy Tulowitzki will drop to seventh. Normally, Hurdle intends to bat Tulowitzki sixth. But his Opening Day lineup has lefty hitters in spots 2, 3, 5 and 6, as the Rockies believe it’s a better matchup against the right-handed Webb.

Here’s the lineup:

Ryan Spilborghs    CF

Seth Smith           LF

Todd Helton          1B

Garrett Atkins       3B

Brad Hawpe          RF

Ian Stewart           2B

Troy Tulowitzki      SS

Chris Iannetta        C

Aaron Cook           P

Here’s how the D-backs will addres Rockies sinkerballer Aaron Cook:


Felipe Lopez        2B

Chris Young         CF

Stephen Drew      SS

Chad Tracy          3B

Eric Byrnes         RF

Tony Clark           1B

Conor Jackson     LF

Chris Snyder         C

Brandon Webb      P