July 2009

The value of knowing your role

We’ll see if Rafael Betancourt is the eighth-inning answer for the Rockies. But at least he knows the question, so to speak.

Betancourt, acquired from the Indians on Thursday for Minor League pitcher Connor Graham, joined the Rockies on Friday for the big series with the Giants. Beyond some TV footage and an Interleague series past, Rockies manager Jim Tracy knows little of Betancourt. But Tracy knows Betancourt knows what he needs to know to fill a primary setup man in place of Manuel Corpas, who underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Tracy said. “He’s going to make you beat him with the bat. This guy has never been a guy that creates opportunity for the other team by walking people. He’s a strike-thrower, throws very hard, and has all the things that are necessary.

“Being a strike-thrower, for me that’s the most important thing when you get down to the last six outs of the game.”

Betancourt, 34, who broke in with the Indians in 2003 and didn’t pitch for anyone else, sounded shocked after learning of the trade on Thursday. The blank stare was gone Friday. He was accepted within the expanding Venezuelan corner of the ballclub. He knew veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba and fellow relievers Juan Rincon and Franklin Morales already. It turns out young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and freshly called-up pitcher Jhoulys Chacin grew up within a bout a 10-minute radius of where Betancourt grew up.

And a look at the standings, with the Rockies a game ahead of the Giants in the National League Wild Card race and facing them in a three-game series starting Friday night, made Betancourt feel even more at home.

“It’s a weird feeling, the first time this has happened to me, but I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “All these years I’ve been watching trades that are made. it’s happened to me now. I always wondered how it feels to get traded to a team in the pennant race. It’s vey special.”

— The Rockies designated righty releiver Ryan Speier for assignment. Speier, who is out of Minor League options, was activated from the disabled list earlier this week but had not pitched. Speier said it was simply that a more experienced reliever was available.

The Rockies are hoping Speier clears waivers and can be assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

— Tracy said Corpas’ surgery went well enough that the team will wait two weeks to see how the elbow heals, then hopefully proceed with rehab.

Veteran reinforcement on the way?

In their effort to shore up the bullpen down the stretch, the Rockies are taking a look at 43-year-old right-hander Mike Timlin, who threw a bullpen session at Coors Field on Wednesday morning. He’ll throw another on Friday, then the club will decide whether to sign him to a Minor League contract.

Timlin went 5-5 with a 5.56 ERA in 47 games with the Red Sox last season.

Not worried about the West

Rockies manager Jim Tracy was asked about his team’s 16-22 record against the National League West. His reply was, essentially, the record isn’t as bad as it looks.

“I don’t think we’ve had struggles inside the National League West,” Tracy said. “I think we had some struggles specifically with one club in the early part of the season. But as far as the rest of the division is concerned, we played very good baseball.”


That one club, of course, is the Dodgers, against whom the Rockies are 2-10.


“And as we go forward, we have to be mindful of that, and hopefully through the months of August and September rectify that situation somewhat,” Tracy said. “I said at the end of the L.A. series, we’re 2-10 against them, I believe. But as far as I’m concerned, you can take those 12 games and throw them out the window because the six games we have left with them are the most important. Not to say that the other 12 weren’t, but they don’t have much baring moving forward because of where we’ve come from and where we’re at sitting here today.”


Well, that’s a subject for another time. The Rockies first post-All-Star break series at home is against the D-backs. And the Rox are 4-5 against them.


Here are the lineups:


Stephen Drew, SS
Ryan Roberts, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Mark Reynolds, 1B
Gerardo Parra, LF
Chris Young, CF
Luke Carlin, C
Augie Ojeda, 3B
Doug Davis, P
Dexter Fowler, CF
Clint Barmes, 2B
Todd Helton, 1B
Brad Hawpe, RF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Ian Stewart, 3B
Seth Smith, LF
Chris Iannetta, C
Jorge De La Rosa, P
In another development, outfielder Ryan Spilborghs is not with the team tonight. He is with his wife, Stacey, for the anticipated birth of the couple’s first child. Spilborghs earlier announced that the girl will be named Kierra Esperanza Spilborghs, in honor of Ryan’s mother, Esperanza, who died during Spring Training after a long illness.

Helton under the weather, Corpas nearly back

— First baseman Todd Helton was out of the lineup on Sunday, which isn’t always eye-popping. He’s sat some day games to stay fresh. But this time, manager Jim Tracy intended to use him against the Braves, but he said head athletic trainer Keith Dugger informed him Helton was “under the weather.”

Garrett Atkins played first base and hit cleanup. Seth Smith took Helton’s No. 3 spot.

— Righty reliever Manuel Corpas is looking more and more as if he’ll return Thursday when the Rockies return after the All-Star break to open a four-game set with the Padres. Corpas threw a perfect eighth inning for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday. On Sunday, he’s to be treated like a normal reliever. He’ll warm up and be called in according to game situation. His previous outings were scheduled one-inning stints. The Rockies will examine him Wednesday before deciding whether to activate him.



Embree better than expected

Anyone who saw or heard Rockies left-hander Alan Embree’s right fibia pop when hit by a line drive from the braves’ Martin Pardo, then heard the diagnosis, figured Embree was gone for the season, no discussion.

Well, maybe not. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Embree will be walking around, without a cast, within three days. And …

“We won’t rule anything out,” Tracy said. “I don’t want to say anything any more specific other than the fact that Keith [Dugger, the Rockies’ head athletic trainer] mentioned something to me about September. Let’s take it a day at a time, but that’s a fairly miraculous thing for me to be saying this afternoon after what we saw take place last night.”

Righty Matt Belisle is replacing Embree.

Remember the good times

The Rockies recalled right-hander Matt Belisle to replace lefty reliever Alan Embree, who suffeed a broken right tibia when hit by a line drive from the Braves’ Martin Prado on Friday night.

This is the second go-round for Belisle, 29, who went 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA in 14 games the first time up. His numbers were much better in the Springs, 1-1 wth a 3.86 ERA in 14 games, including four starts. The four starts in the beginning, and Sky Sox pitching coach Chuck Kniffin’s advice to “get out of your own way,” helped.

While working on pounding the strike zone and generally finding his aggressiveness, it dawned on Belisle that everything in the Majors wasn’t bad.

“I had advice from Greg Maddux one day, actually,” Belisle said. “Greg said, ‘Everybody wants to figure out why things are going bad. But really take note when you’re going well what you’re doing right, and stay on that even keel. I thought about that when I was down there.

“I looked back on past experiences at what I did well and tried to repeat it.”

Corpas happy after bullpen, could soon rehab

Rockies right-handed setup man Manuel Corpas, out since June 19 with a bone chip issue in his elbow, felt good after a bullpen session on Monday. How good?

“I don’t know how hard I threw — maybe 100 (mph) right now,” Corpas said, smiling. “I threw pretty hard. And I threw my slider, everything.”

Manager Jim Tracy said a good throwing session Monday could mean a Minor League injury rehab assignment, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Tracy said the club is leaning against a smulatd game, since it would create the need for a couple days’ rest. Tracy also said the Rockies believe seeing him pitch with the adrenaline that comes with game action will be a better measure of how he’s doing.

“My sinker is good,” Corpas said. “My slider is good. My command is good. Especially my balance and my mechanics are good. I’m ready. My arm is fine, not sore. That’s why I’m happy. Too many days off — I don’t like it.”

Torrealba decision delayed

Rockies manager Jim Tracy said the decision on activating catcher Yorvit Torrealba from the restricted list will come on Friday, when the team returns home to meet the D-backs.

Torrealba has completed a brief rehab period, granted by Major League Baseball because Torrealba had to abruptly leave the club and go to Venezuela when his son and two other family members were kidnapped. All were released.

Paul Phillips, who has played admirably in replacing Torrealba, started at catcher on Wednesday afternoon against the Dodgers.

Here are the lineups:


Dexter Fowler, CF

Clint Barmes, 2B

Brad Hawpe, RF

Garrett Atkins, 1B

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Ryan Spilborghs, LF

Ian Stewart, 3B

Paul Phillips, C

Jason Hammel, P


Juan Pierre, LF

Matt Kemp, CF

Orlando Hudson, 2B

Andre Ethier, RF

Mark Loretta, 3B

James Loney, 1B

Brad Ausmus, C

Juan Castero, SS

Clayton Kershaw, P