March 2012

Blake to debut for Rockies vs. Cubs today

Rockies veteran third baseman Casey Blake will play for the first time since last Aug. 31, before his season with the Dodgers ended because of neck surgery.

Right-hander Guillermo Moscoso will start. Moscoso went 8-10 with a 3.28 ERA in 23 games, including 21 starts, for the Athletics last year. Moscoso, 28, actually made his first appearance in a Rockies uniform Friday in an intrqasquad game, when he gave up one run and two hits, with one strikeout, in two innings.

The Rockies also are starting Tyler Colvin in left field. The Rockies acquired Colvin and infielder DJ LeMaheiu, who is listed as a reserve today, from the Cubs for third baseman Ian Stewart and right-handed pitcher Casey Weathers. Stewart, a regular with the Rockies until he descended into a slump last season, will start for the Cubs.

On the Rockies’ pitching schedule are right-handed prospect Chad Bettis, right-hander Alex White, righty Josh Roenicke, lefty Matt Reynolds and righties Zach Putnam, Mike Ekstrom and Edgmer Escalona.

White is a candidate for the roation, along with Moscoso. White gave up one run on two hits, with a walk and a strikeout, in two innings of Friday’s intrasquad game. He was arrested Saturday night and, according to the Denver Post, could be charged with “extreme DUI.”  The Rockies did not discipline White further. White, who came from the Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade but was pitching through an injury during his brief trial (2-4, 8.42 ERA in seven starts) showed life on his sinker during the intrasquad game.

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was scratched from the lineup before Monday’s game against the D-backs because of illness, reported feeling better Tuesday. Outfielder Tim Wheeler, also sent home Monday, is listed as a reserve today. There was no plan to play first baseman Todd Helton today. Helton also was sent home because of the illness Monday but was at the clubhouse Tuesday.

Here is the Rockies’ lineup:

Dexter Fowler, CF

Jordan Pacheco, 1B

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Ramon Hernandez, C

Casey Blake, 3B

Brandon Wood, SS

Tyler Colvin, LF

Chris Nelson, 2B

Wilkin Castillo, DH

 

Keeping it simple for Chacin, who debuts today

Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin’s 2011 season started in glowing fashion, when he held opposing batters to a .201 batting average before the All-Star break. By the end, everything seemed complicated. The Rockies dealt former ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez at the trading deadline, and it wasn’t simply enough to pitch. While never asked by his club, there was an implied requirement that he become an “ace,” not just a strong pitcher but a leader and face of the pitching staff.

Manager Jim Tracy’s goal going into 2012 is to make sure Chacin focuses on one simple task that makes everything else possible — repeat his delivery. Repeating the delivery allows him to spot his fastball, which makes his tremendous secondary pitches useful.

The Rockies’ signing of 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who has a quarter-century on Chacin, and the trade with the Orioles for in-his-prime starter Jeremy Guthrie pretty much takes any leadership burden off Chacin’s shoulders. General manager Dan O’Dowd questioned Chacin’s conditioning before camp began, but Tracy

So Chacin makes his Cactus League debut today against the D-backs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, and Tracy is telling him to keep it simple.

“I did have a conversation with him in this office,” Tracy said. “It goes back to taking this opportunity in Spring Training to work on his delivery and repeating it, not getting into jerking and stuff like that, where his fastball starts to run away from him. He’s working on pounding his fastball for strikes.

“I personally feel, and you’ve heard me talk about this a lot last year, that if there’s one guy in this camp who can do what we saw last year with an Ian Kennedy [with the D-backs], a guy that is capable of taking a quantum leap, to me it’s Jhoulys Chacin, with much-improved fastball command.”

Here is the Rockies’ lineup, updated with Troy Tulowitzki being scratched because of illness:

Eric Young Jr., CF

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Jason Giambi, DH

Jordan Pacheco, C

Charlie Blackmon, RF

Nolan Arenado, 3B

Chad Tracy, 1B

Jonathan Herrera, SS

A former Rockies top Draft pick, lefty Christian Friedrich, is scheduled to pitch after Chacin. Friedrich, taken 25th overall in 2008, struggled to 6-10 with a 5.00 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Tulsa last year. But injuries affected his 2010 season and his preparation for 2011. This past winter, he spent time working out with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, and the Rockies have placed his Spring Training locker beside that of Moyer. Friedrich is in better physical shape, and said the veterans have offered him a high level of information.

Veteran reliever Matt Belisle also is scheduled to throw.

Items of interest for today’s Rockies intrasquad game

– Rockies fans in the Scottsdale area can watch the game from a berm above Field 1 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. But get there early for the game, which should start at 10 or 10:15 a.m. The scrimmage might not go more than 4 1/2 innings.

– Eric Young Jr. has played the outfield twice, in Friday’s intrasquad game and Saturday’s 1-1, 10-inning tie with the D-backs in the Cactus League opener. But he will play second base Sunday.

– The intrasquad contest will be the first game action for right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio, who has made remarkable progress in his return from a broken neck that he suffered when hit in the face by a line drive last season.

– There is plenty of competition for outfield jobs. Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Colvin and non-roster candidates Andrew Brown and Jamie Hoffmann will be competeing in the game.

– Righty Tyler Chatwood, obtained from the Angels for catcher Chris Iannetta during the offseason, makes his Rockies debut. Chatwood threw 142 innings for the Angels last year at age 21.

– Two hard-throwing relievers who could make a big impact thsi year — left-hander Rex Brothers, who is in line for chances to close games when Rafael Betancourt needs a rest, and right-hander Edgmer Escalona, who showed promise during a late call-up last season — are scheduled to appear.

Rockies set lineup for Cactus opener

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Rockies open the Cactus League schedule against the D-backs on Saturday afternoon. Here is their batting order:

Dexter Fowler, CF

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Tyler Colvin, DH

Ramon Hernandez, C

Nolan Arenado, 3B

Ben Paulsen, 1B

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz will be the starting pitcher, with Josh Outman, Rob Scahill, Matt Reynolds, Zach Putnam and Dustin Molleken are on the throwing schedule, with Mike Ekstrom and Josh Roenicke are scheduled as backups in case an inning gets out of hand.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy wants to be able to use Fowler at leadoff and Scutaro second in the order, but has said that could change. Scutaro hit toward the bottom of the order primarily for the Red Sox last season, but he is coming off a .299 batting average and .358 on-base percentage led the Rockies to plan on him hitting toward the top.

Veterans being given the day off are first basemen Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, and third baseman Casey Blake.

(This from the Rockies’ game notes:)

BROADCAST INFORMATION:Today’s game will be broadcast on Rockies Radio 850 KOA. Fourteen Rockies Cactus League games will be broadcast on 850 KOA, six games on ROOT Sports and 10 games on MLB.TV accessed through coloradorockies.com … The games broadcast on coloradorockies.com will be called by the voices of the Rockies Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel.

Publication believes age will hurt Rockies’ defense

The Rockies’ decision to go older this year was designed to increase the team’s savvy and improve situational hitting. But will it hurt the defense?

ACTA Sports, publishers of The Fielding Bible – Volume III, seems to think older is not necessarily better with the glove. The publication points to four moves hurting the defense, under its various formulas that rate players in a category called Defensive Runs Saved.

– The publication reported that right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook, who has signed a Minor League contract with the Red Sox, saved six runs last year and was the main reason the Rockies’ staff was rated best in baseball from a fielding standpoint.

– Mark Ellis, who signed with the Dodgers as a free agent, saved 17 runs last season, and bolstered the defense after arriving in a midseason trade. Marco Scutaro, who played last season for the Red Sox, replaces Ellis.

– The book ranks Michael Cuddyer, a free agent previously with the Twins, as a downgrade from Seth Smith, now with the Athletics, in right field.

– Also, catcher Chris Iannetta, who was traded to the Angels, saved eight runs in what the publication rated as a tremendous defensive year. This year’s publication predicts veteran Ramon Hernandez, who played for the Reds last season, will cost the Rockies four runs.

Overall, The Fielding Bible rated the Rockies fifth overall in the Majors defensively, and is predicting a drop to 14th.

Of course, the Rockies could beg to differ with the publication at two of the positions cited.

– When the Rockies signed Cuddyer, one of the attributes they mentioned was his throwing arm, which they felt was superior to Smith’s and the team has no doubt in Cuddyer’s ability to handle right. Right is roomy at Coors, but Dexter Fowler covers extreme ground in center, and left — where 2010 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner Carlos Gonzalez plays — is considered more challenging than right because of the room that must be covered.

– The Rockies also have confidence in the range of Scutaro. Last season, Scutaro played in 109 games and started 103 at shortstop for the Red Sox. The Rockies want to rest shortstop Troy Tulowitzki more than in the past, and Scutaro’s range makes him a logical option to allow him to do so. The club would have to feel a second baseman with enough range to play short is not a defensive downgrade.

 

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