September 2009

But it’s still the defensive play of the year

Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes confirmed what the camera of an eagle-eyed fan showed. He did not have possession of the ball throughout his ninth-inning play, which was ruled a catch. Barmes made the play on a soft Ryan Ludwick pop with runners at first and third in the ninth inning. Barmes then doubled Albert Pujols off first base, ending the Rockies’ 4-3 victory.

Some thoughts on the play:

— If you don’t call it “the catch of the year,” it’s still the defensive play of the year. To hit the ground that hard and roll over, yet not have the ball squirt away is a feat in and of itself.

— What’s the big deal? The play isn’t reviewable. And it’s not like Barmes is going to stand up and say, “That ball landed.” Even if he did, I don’t think there’s anything in the rule book to allow for that. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

— It’s good it wasn’t a postseason game. The umpire down the right-field line would have been at roughly the same angle as the camera.

Barmes’ quotes in an arranged media meeting on Tuesday weren’t much different from when I talked to him on Sunday afternoon. I asked him then if the ball hit the ground, and he said he didn’t know.

“I really don’t know anything other than what I said on Sunday,” Barmes said. “It all happened so fast and the ball ended up in my hand somehow and I wasn’t sure if it was from off the ground or before it hit the ground. All I know is whenever I rolled and popped up, the ball was in my hand perfectly like I’d reached down and grabbed it.”


Bull(pen)ish on Contreras

Right-hander Jose Contreras, who joined the Rockies in an Aug. 31 trade to help the starting rotation, has looked good enough in two relief appearances to get manager Jim Tracy thinking.

Tracy used Contreras on Friday and Saturday against the Cardinals. Other than a Ryan Ludwick home run during Friday’s 2-1 Rockies victory, Contreras has been stellar. His fastball is traveling at around 95 mph — faster than when he starts.

Tracy has no intention of using him on Sunday, and he must have him available for possible multiple innings Thursday when Aaron Cook makes his second start since returning from a shoulder injury.

The use of Contreras must make sense. For example, Tracy is using him to start innings rather than having him jump into tight situations. But having an arm like that in the bullpen could be a boon to the Rockies in the postseason, provided they hold off the charging Braves.

Tracy said relief pitching could be a part of Contreras’ future, if he is interested.

“He was throwing the ball as hard, maybe harder, last night as the night before,” Tracy said. “This is a strong man. Can he handle doing something like that [beyond this season]? That’s a conversation for down the road.

“But we’re at a point of the season where you use your resources, whatever makes sense. What we’ve seen the last couple of nights makes sense. If that makes us as good as we can possibly be in the postseason, we’ll entertain it.

“The next conversation is over the long haul, is he comfortable with something like that? Would he entertain an idea like that? Would he dismiss it and say, ‘I want to start. I’m a starting pitcher.’ You have to have a respect factor for a man of his stature. This is not his first or second year in professional baseball.”


Gonzalez staying off soggy ground

Rockies manager Jim Tracy emphasized Wednesday that left fielder Carlos Gonzalez’s left hamstring is not strained or pulled. Gonzalez did leave Tuesday night’s 11-10 victory over the Padres with tightness in the hamstring. But Tracy said that was for precautionary reasons.

Not putting him in the lineup on Wednesday was yet another precaution. It rained much of the day in Denver, and the temperature is likely not to be much higher than Tuesday’s gametime temp of 48.

Seth Smith, who replaced Gonzalez on Tuesday, was in the lineup in left field and in the leadoff spot.

Tracy also announced that Rafael Betancourt, who suffered soreness in his right calf after pitching Saturday at Arizona, was to throw a touch-and-feel bullpen session, in hopes that he’ll be available to return to game action soon.


Street set to pitch … if something goes wrong

This is the day that right-handed reliever Huston Street is supposed to return to action, but manager Jim Tracy said there’s a good chance it won’t happen.

Tracy doesn’t want Street’s first action to be in a close game. But with the Rockies starting righty Ubaldo Jimenez and the D-backs going with Dan Haren, it’s likely to be a cloe, low-scoring game.

“I’d like to see the game be somewhat one-sided, one way or the other to try this out,” Tracy said.

Tracy added that Street didn’t look bad in Friday afternoon’s simulated game, but he was not as sharp as he would need to be in a close game. How long will it take for him to regain the sharpness? Tracy said it may take as litle as one game.

But once Street is determined ready, expect him to be moved back into the closer role, with lefty Franklin Morales becoming a key setup man.

One question for Sunday was the availability of righty setup man Rafael Betancourt, who was dealing with soreness in his right calf. Tracy said he was relieved the problem wasn’t with hit right groin. While with the Indians, before being traded to the Rockies in July, Betancourt missed six weeks with a groin strain.

Clean-shaven Helton in the lineup

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton survived. The beard and goatee that has been a part of him for recent years, however, is gone.

Helton was in the dugout when Carlos Gonzalez’s line drive smashed into his left shin during the ninth inning of Friday night’s 7-5 loss to the D-backs. Amazingly, Helton ws feeling no ill effects on Saturday and was back in the lineup. The pain had numbed his leg from his calf to his foot.

When Helton showed up at Chase Field on Saturday, Rockies manager Jim Tracy did a double-take, and not just because Helton was pain-free.

“He came into my office today and said he was my new first baseman,” Tracy said, joking about the new look. “I said, ‘Welcome to the team.'”

Tracy said the foul ball was frightening for everyone in the dugout.

“Somebody was looking out for us, I’ll tell you that right now,” Tracy said. “If that ball had hit him in the chest or in the face, there would have been serious, serious problems. We don’t have our first baseman here. He’s done.”

Helton is batting third in a left-handed lineup against D-backs right-hander Max Scherzer. five of the first seven hitters swing from the left.

Saturday is a big game for the Rockies. The Dodgers blasted the Giants, 12-1, earlier Saturday, which means the Rockies have a chance to pump their lead in the National League Wild Card race to 3 1/2 games.


Street throws smoothly, should return Sunday

Rockies reliever Huston Street’s simulated game at Chase Field on Friday went well, and he expects to be available for Sunday’s finale of the three-game set with the D-backs.

“I threw betweern 25 and 27 pitches, plus another 22 in the bullpen before — it was like a game, but a really long inning,” Street said. “It was basically the longest inning I’ve thrown in a long time, which was good. My stuff was there. The ball was coming out nicely. It was definitely a good thing.”

The Rockies are expected to return Street to the closer role but not until letting him re-acclimate himself to game action. Expect left-hander Franklin Morales to handle save situations until that time.

A new, special number for Herges

No. 34 was Matt Herges. But Matt Herges was never actually No. 34.


These days, Herges, a right-handed reliever for the Rockies, is wearing 77, a number that truly means something to him.


Before getting into his feelings about 77, how did he end up wearing numbers he didn’t care about for so long?


Herges spent much of his career wearing No. 49, but he’s also worn 48, 52, 31 and, earlier this year with the Indians, 40. He was issued 34, which he wore with the Rockies in 2007 and 2008, when he joined the club on Aug. 21 after a stint at Triple-A Colorado Springs. But fellow righty reliever Matt Belisle wore 34 for the Rockies to begin this season, and the club wanted to give him the number back when he returned to the Majors after a stint in Colorado Springs.


“That was fine,” Herges said. “I said, ‘I get to choose my own number now.’ I’d never had the opportunity. No one has ever said, ‘What number do you want?’ Every time I’ve either been traded or signed, I go to my locker and there it is.”


It’s a good number in Denver. Hockey’s Colorado Avalanche retired it after Ray Bourque helped them win a Stanley Cup. In football, it belonged to Broncos Ring of Fame member Karl Mecklenberg.


But it turns out Herges wasn’t seeking fame in Denver.


“Seven is a Biblical number, and I was telling some guys from Adam to Jesus, in that lineage, 77 generations,” Herges said. “I think that’s cool. And just the fact that the No. 7 gets mentioned a lot in the Bible. I remember Tony Batista wearing it, and I asked. I heard he was a man of faith. I’m like, OK.


“I looked into the number. You can just Google 77 and a bunch of stuff comes up and you learn about it. I was like, I’m going for it.”

Curb that enthusiasm … a little

In meeting with the media Thursday morning, manager Jim Tracy reported that closer Huston Street had experienced some improvement in his sore right biceps tendon. That means he’s on the uphill swing of his comeback. But the trajectory of that swing is anyone’s guess.

“I’m not going to even begin to get excited until I begin to get off the mound,” said Street, who has been playing catch on flat ground. “Really, the only thing keeping me happy is we keep winning.”

Right-hander Aaron Cook is set to throw a bullpen on Friday. Manager Jim Tracy said Cook, who is hoping to return to the rotation before the regular season ends, could either throw a simulated game against his teammates or pitch in the fall instructional program before returning to action.

Left-hander Jeff Francis, who had shoulder surgery during Spring Training, also threw on Wednesday. Tracy said his goal is to have Francis pitch in the instructional program to have some comeptition under his belt, then he can prepare for 2010.

Tracy also said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who missed the last two games with back tightness, was going to hit in the cage and could be available to pinch-hit. But third baseman Ian Stewart, who also has missed two games with back issues, was not well enogh to be considered to participate.

Fathers and sons, going deep

Eric Young Jr.’s first Major League home run Wednesday night conjured some memories. Young’s father led off the Rockies’ first home game, against the Expos in 1993 at Mile High Stadium, with a homer. Both of those home runs were the opposite way, to left field.

Anyhow, it sparked a question. How often had fathers and sons homered for the same franchise previously?

David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research provides the answer.

Expos: Felipe Alou /Moises Alou        

Giants: Felipe Alou/Moises Alou

Phillies: Ruben Amaro/Ruben Amaro        

Indians: Earl Averill/Earl Averill       

Indians: Jim Bagby/Jim Bagby          

Reds: Gus Bell/Buddy Bell         

Yankees: Yogi Berra/Dale Berra         

Giants: Bobby Bonds/Barry Bonds        

Orioles: Don Buford/Damon Buford       

Indians: Cam Carreon/Mark Carreon       

Cubs: Jimmy Cooney/Jimmy Cooney       

Indians: Tito Francona/Terry Francona     

Mariners: Ken Griffey/Ken Griffey        

Reds: Ken Griffey/Ken Griffey        

Cubs: Randy Hundley/Todd Hundley       

Orioles: Bob Kennedy/Terry Kennedy      

Indians: Dave May/Derrick May        

Orioles: Dave May/Derrick May        

Royals: Hal McRae/Brian McRae        

Reds: Tony Perez/Eduardo Perez      

White Sox: Billy Sullivan/Billy Sullivan     

Indians: Buddy Bell/David Bell         

Cubs: Gary Matthews/Gary Matthews      

Reds: Buddy Bell/Mike Bell          

Red Sox: Haywood Sullivan/Marc Sullivan      

Cardinals: Ed Spiezio/Scott Spiezio      





Helton welcomes new daughter

First baseman Todd Helton is more or less a father figure around the Rockies’ clubhouse, but that’s only what happens at work. In a much bigger move, he became a father in real life for the second time. His wife, Christy, gave birth to the couple’s second child, Gentry Grace Helton, on Wednesday. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. The couple have another daughter, Tireney Faith Helton, who turns 7 on Sept. 24.

Helton was in the lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the Reds.