January 2012

Flurries fall, but baseball is in the air, thanks to Rocky Mountain SABR

The snow flurries are much lighter now than they were an hour or so ago. Perfect time to think about baseball. Pitchers and catchers are days from reporting to Spring Training, but that doesn’t mean baseball-minded folks aren’t mentally into the season already. One of the rites of this time of year is SABR Day in America tomorrow. Across the country will be celebrations of baseball. In Denver, the Rocky Mountain SABR chapter will have its annual hot stove meeting at the Blake Street Tavern (near Coors Field) at 11 a.m.

The event always is entertaining, educational and moves fans’ thoughts to baseball.

There will be a brief look back to last season, with the awarding of the champion of the Rockies prediction contest, to the participant who came closest to the number of wins for the Rockies in 2011.

One highlight is the way members turn education and research into entertainment. This year, Matthew Repplinger, the new chapter president, and Alan Rice will do a presentation on the expansion and contraction of the Minor Leagues, 1953-2011.

That is followed by the Sylvester Report, an anticipated speech and question-and-answer session with Rockies baseball operations member Walter Sylvester, who can discuss stats and styles of players on the team’s Major League roster and through its Minor League system. The questions from the fans are often pointed and always backed by knowledge, and Sylvester doesn’t duck any of them.

Finally, the plan is for a massive game of catch. Last year members conducted it in one of the parking lots near Coors Field. A certain baseball writer with a chronically sore throwing shoulder even donned catcher’s gear. The gear may stay packed Saturday, but we’ll see.

Betancourt’s deal goes official

Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt passed his physical, which makes his new contract official. The Rockies picked up his 2013 option and added an option for 2014 for Betancourt, who became the Rockies’ closer late last season.

In addition, Betancourt and new Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez were boyhood friends and state all-star teammates in Venezuela. Hernandez’s history with young pitchers should help the Rockies’ staff.

Rockies offer in Moyer’s court

For now, the Rockies’ 2012 potential Opening Day starting rotation can be called the “under-30 club.” But that could change, considerably, with one signing.

Looking for a veteran to help guide the young rotation, the Rockies could be bringing in the veteran — 49-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer. The Rockies have made an offer of a Minor League contract, and a club official told MLB.com on Tuesday morning that “it’s in his court.”

Moyer had Tommy John ligament transfer surgery in his throwing elbow in December 2010 and worked for ESPN as an analyst last year, but stated all along he hoped to pitch again in 2012. He went 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA for the Phillies in 2010.

By making the offer, the Rockies are signaling that they believe Moyer can be a help to them, not merely a novelty, although his potential signing sparks folks to go digging for trivia. For example, when Moyer made his Major League debut for the Cubs on June 16, 1986, the following competitors for the Rockies’ 2012 rotation had not been born: Jhoulys Chacin (Jan. 7, 1988), Tyler Chatwood (Dec. 16, 1989), Juan Nicasio (Aug. 31, 1986), Drew Pomeranz (Nov. 22, 1988) and Alex White (Aug. 29, 1988).

One of Moyer’s teammates on the 1986 Cubs was Rockies television color commentator George Frazier, then a relief pitcher.

The Denver Post, which reported the offer to Moyer on Monday night, also reported that the Rockies are looking at trading for a second baseman, with the Red Sox’s Marco Scutaro and the Mets’ Justin Turner as possibilities.

Rox still combing free agent list for starter

According to the Denver Post this week, the Rockies and right-handed pitcher Kevin Millwood have not progressed much this offseason. While the Rockies have added a pitcher with some experience in Kevin Slowey, obtained from the Twins during the Winter Meetings, general manager Dan O’Dowd has not given up on adding a veteran arm at an affortable price for the club. Attempts to trade for such a pitcher have been fruitless.

“We are trying to create depth and competition in our rotation, so we’re looking at all free agents,” O’Dowd said Wednesday evening. “We don’t see a trade on the horizon.”

The Rockies have one spot available on the 40-man Major League roster, so they can sign a pitcher to a Major League contract if they choose to do so.

In other developments:

— The Rockies also haven’t found a trading partner as they try to maximize what they can get for arbitration-eligible, left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith, who was displaced when Michael Cuddyer signed as a free agent.

— Second baseman Russell Wilson, better known as Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl quarterback, told the New York Times that he intends to pursue professional football. Wilson, chosen 140th overall in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, hit .228 at Class-A Asheville last year.