Before Sunday, the last Aaron Cook sighting in a Cactus League game featured him getting knocked around by the White Sox on March 16 — six runs and six hits in three innings pitched.
But Cook felt he regained his timing in a Minor League game last Saturday. He returned against the White Sox on Saturday afternoon and held them to one run and six hits in six innings of the Rockies’ 6-2 loss at Hi Corbett Field.
It’s as if the bad game against the Sox — and the bad start to the spring (0-2, 11.42 ERA in three starts) never occurred.
“I hate to say I was just getting my work in [during the first few starts], but that’s what I have to use it as — getting my arm in shape,” Cook said. “Now that I’m getting my timing down, and I’m getting the ball coming out of my hand real well, it’s time to go out there and start getting after it.”
Cook said he likes the order of the rotation. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will open on April 5 in Milwaukee, followed by lefty Jeff Francis and Cook. Lefty Jorge De La Rosa will start the home opener on April 9, followed by righty Jason Hammel.
“We’ve got five completely different pitchers that we’re running out there, so it’s not like we’re running back-to-back sinkerballers or back-to-back lefties,” Cook said.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy tweaked the pitching plan for Saturday. Earlier, the plan was for right-hander Tim Redding to start in a Minor League game. But manager Jim Tracy said Redding instead will pitch in the Major League game in relief of a game with the White Sox, which Aaron Cook will start. Lefty Joe Beimel and and righty Matt Belisle are scheduled to pitch in the Minor League game.
Right-handed reliever Huston Street will play catch on Friday, but don’t expect any pronouncements about being on the way back from the shoulder tightness that will delay the start of his regular season.
“It’ll be the first time [playing catch] since they shut me down again,” said Street, who progressed far enough to throw a simulated game before his shoulder turned sore again. “I’m not going to jump out there to any conclusions.
“The last time, I was throwing to hitters. I thought I was on the road. So I’m just going to take it one day at a time and just get a little bit better. But we don’t have a [return to the Majors] date in mind. It’s going to happen as soon as we can get out there.”
— The Rockies recently told righty Tim Redding his best chance to make the club would be as a reliever. But the club has moved his next appearance to Saturday, but he’ll start and go four innings in a Minor League game.
“The reasoning I was told was one- and two-inning outings isn’t going to benefit me or the team because the role I’m going to be in is going to require me to throw possibly upwards of four, even five innings or spot-start,” Redding said. “They want to keep my endurance and my pitch count up. It’s always easier to go down than it is to be down and try to go up.”
— Left-hander Joe Beimel joined the Rockies on Tuesday, and manager Jim Tracy and general manager Dan O’Dowd said they didn’t see him being ready for the start of the regular season. Beimel sees it differently. He threw a “live” batting practice session Wednesday, during the Major Leaguers’ day off.
Asked if he took the conservative statements of his bosses as a challenge, Beimel laughed.
“A little bit,” Beimel said. “I know how hard I worked during the offseason. I know how hard I work as a player, what it takes to get ready for a 162-game season. I knew there was a possibility I wasn’t going to sign until late. I wasn’t sitting on the couch eating potato chips.
“I feel outstanding today. Not sore a single bit anywhere. I’m good to go.”
He wants to throw in a game on Saturday.
Rockies left-hander Greg Smith has fashioned a 1.93 ERA in Cactus League play. He’ll have to be happy Wednesday’s performance in a Minor League game doesn’t count.
Facing a Triple-A D-backs squad, Smith gave up11 hits and six runs in fie innings. He struck out four, didn’t walk any and hit a batter. He threw 77 pitches.
With the Rockie’s rotation full, Smith is expected to begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Here is Sirius XM’s press release, which includes a transcript of part of the interview:
Today (Mar. 23) on SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio channel, host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, broadcasting from Colorado Rockies spring training in Tucson, spoke with Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd.
Russo brought up Commissioner Selig’s committee for on-field matters and asked O’Dowd if there were any changes he’d personally like to see incorporated into the game.
Host/Chris Russo: “Give me something that Danny O’Dowd would like to do.”
Dan O’Dowd: “Well again, there are some people studying this with realignment, expanded playoffs, [that are] a lot smarter than me. I’m excited about those possibilities because I think they’ll be good for the game. I think change done for the right reason is always good for the game.”
Russo: “You want to expand the playoffs with another team or you want to expand the playoffs and go to a best of seven first round?”
O’Dowd: “Both. I would love, they’ve talked about shortening up the season. I know that’s going to be problematic because of records and revenue but speaking on behalf of the players 162 games in 180 days, to play this game at the level they play it at, is really almost impossible.”
Russo: “Would you play best of seven in the first round?”
O’Dowd: “I would.”
Russo: “Do you want to add another Wild Card team?”
O’Dowd: “Yeah, and I think that under those conditions obviously that may be a lot shorter series and certainly would put the Wild Card at a disadvantage heading into that best of seven game series. … I also feel that the teams with the best records should have home field advantage no matter if they’re the Wild Card team or not. I think if you play 162 games and you’ve got the best record…”
Russo: “You want to get the home field.”
O’Dowd: “And then from a talent level standpoint, I think it’s imperative, the draft doesn’t work anymore, the way its constituted, and I’m not going to get into all the different ideas, but the draft doesn’t work anymore and the international part of the game doesn’t work anymore.”
Russo: “Because the Yankees and Red Sox can pluck the players they want?”
O’Dowd: “It just doesn’t work for a variety of different reasons. The way it’s designed, it just doesn’t work anymore and so we really have to address that.”
SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio channel is available to listeners nationwide on SIRIUS channel 123 and XM channel 144.
The bullpen race looks to be down to three, possibly four, pitchers for one spot.
Here’s how it looks, barring injury:
— Lefty Franklin Morales should be the closer, since Huston Street is going to begin the year on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
— With Morales closing, Randy Flores is the lone lefty in a setup role.
— Righties Rafael Betancourt, as long as his shoulder continues to respond, Matt Daley and Matt Belisle are locks. Belisle is out of options, but that shouldn’t matter. He has not given up a run all spring, and Daley has been perfect since two bad initial outings.
— Tentatively, count righty Manuel Corpas as one. He has been bad at times, but when he keeps the ball down in the zone he has been effective. Plus, manager Jim Tracy is considering him for end-of-the game duty alongside Morales.
All of this means non-roster right-handers Tim Redding, Juan Rincon and Justin Speier are vying for a job. With all of them under Minor League contracts, there is no roster issue forcing the Rockies’ hand.
The X-factor is lefty Joe Beimel, who agreed to a Minor League deal Monday night. General manager Dan O’Dowd said he does not expect Beimel to be ready for the opening of the season.
Redding began the spring as a starter, and is in postition to throw multiple innings.Speier’s forkball has been an effective pitch against right-handers and left-handers, which makes him a candidate to hold a job until Beimel is ready. Rincon, who has a save and a 1.29 ERA and .209 batting average against, has impressed scouts with his location.
Right-hander Greg Reynolds, who suffered a bone chip in his right elbow after being hit by a line drive just before Spring Training games began, has just reached the point of throwing from 60 feet. Chances are, he’ll begin the season in extended spring training.
But Reynolds, who had shoulder problems all of 2009 and essentially had a lost year, believes he’ll help the Rockies this season. Reynolds, after undegoing a postseason surgery to correct labrum damage, showed up in Tucson with improved mechanics and good action on his pitches.
Reynolds was a quick riser through the Minors. The Rockies considered bringing him to the Majors in 2007 and did call him up in 2008. But his repeated shoulder issues stopped him from sticking in the Majors.
“I feel I can definitely get back to not only what I was doing for a short period in this camp, but what I was doing a couple years ago before I started having setback after setback,” Reynolds said. “I have all the confidence in the world.”
Right-handed prospects Samuel Deduno and Jhoulys Chacin were optoined to Minor League camp on Tuesday to get on a regular pitching routine. They form some of the starting pitching depth the Rockies believe they’ll need this season.
Also, lefty Jimmy Gobble, who was hoping to make the club in a setup role, was reassigned to Minor League camp. Gobble’s chance to make the Opening Day roster ended March 11, when he suffered a left groin strain.
Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd announced Tuesday, “Johnny Cash showed up. He’s dressed in black, ready to go.”
O’Dowd was referring to left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who has agreed to a Minor League contract. As Beimel underwent his physical, O’Dowd said it was unlikely he’ll have time to be in Major League shape by the time the season starts on April 5.
“That might be what it turns out, but that’s not what we’re going into this for,” O’Dowd said. “I’m sure he’s going to think he’s going to be ready, but we’re not going to rush that at all.”
Beimel signed with the National last March 18 and made his first appearance on April 7. But that was a different situation.
“We’re trying to win a World Series,” O’Dowd said. “We’re not just trying to get a Major League pitcher. He has to be right to help us. We’ll put him in the best position to help our club and help himself.
“Joe had other options. I think he really wanted to come here.”
If Beimel begins in the Minors, the bullpen could be a short from the left side, especially if lefty Franklin Morales is the closer. Randy Flores, who returns today from six days off after being hit with a line drive, would be the only lefty setup man.
Flores’ injury highlighted how thin the Rockies were in left-handed relievers. After him, the only healthy lefty reliever in camp was Matt Reynolds, who hasn’t piched above Double-A. Now the Rockies are leaning toward giving Reynolds as much experience as possible in camp, but only taking him to start the season in the case of an emergency.
Veteran catcher Paul Lo Duca realizes his big league opportunity may come later than sooner.
Lo Duca, in the Rockies’ camp under a Minor League contract, began attracting interest from teams seeking catching help. But a few days ago he suffered a strain beneath his right arm. He’s back on the lineup card for today’s game against the Padres at Hi Corbett Field, and will play first base if used defensively.
There’s still time left in camp, but it’s possible the setback could be enough to dissuade a team from making a move for him. If that’s the case, Lo Ducca, a four-time All-Star Game participant, said he is willing to go to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Lo Duca battled injury in 2008 and did not play in 2009.
“I’m OK with that,” Lo Duca said. “When you haven’t played in a year and a half, basically, you need to get back in the swing of things. To go there and get some at-bats regularly would be great. I know there are a lot of guys there that need to get at-bats, too.
“I just want to keep going. I still have passion for the game. As soon as I got behind home plate, I knew that’s where I want to be still.”
Pitchers have enjoyed throwing to Lo Duca.
“I felt great catching — receiving-wise, and my legs feel great,” Lo Duca said. “My arm did feel great until the other day. I feel good. I feel I can still catch. I always take pride in calling the game and working on strategy with the pitcher.
“I know here would be more as a guy who doesn’t catch every day. I’d only catch certain days and play a little first base. I’m prepared for anything.”