As Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was learning the Majors as a rookie last season, manager Walt Weiss said he could see Arenado eventually hitting in the middle of the order. Well, with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer all out with injuries, eventually is here.
In 10 games in the prime No. 3 spot, Arenado, 23, is batting .326 (14-for-47 with four doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. Monday night’s game against the Padres was his 11th in the cleanup spot. He entered hitting .257 (9-for-42) with two homers, four doubles and eight RBIs.
Arenado said hitting in such prime spots is comforting, rather than burdensome.
“Growing up, I was always a 3 or 4 hitter, so I go back to those days, slow the game down and try to hit the ball hard,” he said.
Arenado flied out in his first two at-bats Monday. Both were with two on base – with one out in the first and two out in the third.
I’m hitting with more guys on second base with fewer than two outs, or guys on third base,” Arenado said. “At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was always hitting with two outs. I’m just trying to do a job.”
– Thomas Harding
Sometimes when a player commits a major mistake, he draws on the experience of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. Once after he made a game-losing error, he noted that he was just happy he would have the opportunity to make more such mistakes. It wasn’t that he enjoyed making the mistake. He was just happy the Orioles would keep giving him a chance to play.
Now Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon can identify.
Blackmon entered Monday night’s game against the Padres hitless in his last 10 at-bats and 3-for-33 in August. But he led off the game with an infield single – Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista dove behind second to stop the ball, but didn’t have a play at first – that for all anyone knows could start a reversal of the trend.
In previous years, as Blackmon battled foot injuries and was trying to establish himself in the Majors, he might not have received as many opportunities. A slump could have meant time on the bench or even an option to Triple-A Colorado Springs. But he made his first Opening Day roster this year,
was one of the Majors’ hottest hitters in April, and he was voted by players to the National League All-Star team.
“I did pretty well earlier in the season, and that’s afforded me some opportunities to be able to make the adjustments,” Blackmon said. “Last year, instead of getting to play the next day, you’d have to come off the bench that day and maybe do it again the next day.”
After Blackmon’s hot start, he began seeing more off-speed pitches early in the count. Blackmon was able to fight through that. Now pitchers are varying from pitch to pitch at a level he did not see earlier.
“They’ve mixing it up way more – velocities, locations and all that stuff,” Blackmon said. “It’s not just, ‘I’m going to throw fastballs away until you do something with it.’ It’s in, out, hard, soft, right from the get-go.”
Does being a leadoff man make it easier or harder?
“It depends on how things are going,” Blackmon said. “You always want one more at-bat [than players lower in the order in a particular game]. But sometimes I feel like I want to be able to see how the pitcher is throwing. The first time you see a changeup might be 0-2.”
– Thomas Harding
Gonzalez was not in the lineup Wednesday night against the Cubs. Gonzalez smashed into the wall in foul ground, while unsuccessfully trying to barehand Junior Lake’s foul pop and protect his aching left knee and right ankle, during right during the fifth inning of Tuesday night’s 16-inning, 4-3 Rockies loss to the Cubs.
Gonzalez remained in the game until being removed in a double-switch in the bottom of the 12th.
“That was my only option,” Gonzalez said of trying to barehand the ball with his left hand. “My ankle was hurting, so I had no brakes. I tried to stop myself with the ball. My glove was down by that time and the wall was so close. That was my reaction.”
Asked how he felt, Gonzalez said, “Well, I’m hanging in there.”
Manager Walt Weiss said he wanted to give Gonzalez a rest. He’ll revisit starting him in Thursday’s day game that ends the four-game series.
In other Rockies developments:
• Rockies infielder Josh Rutledge said he is available in an emergency Wednesday night, after missing the first two games of this series with an upper-respiratory infection.
The Rockies scratched Rutledge 15 minutes before first pitch on Monday, and he ended up being sent to a local emergency room. The illness is not related to the flu that knocked him out of action earlier this year, but it was frightening nonetheless.
“I don’t think I’d ever been to the emergency room until this year, and I’ve been three times this year,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge was on the lineup card for Tuesday night’s marathon, but spent the evening at the team hotel. As the teams played well into the night, Rutledge thought about hopping a cab and joining the fun.
“I thought about calling ‘Doogie’ [head athletic trainer Keith Dugger] in about the 12th inning and see what he said, but I didn’t,” Rutledge said.
Because he slept the entire day and into the evening, Rutledge said he was able to watch the entire game.
• To help a bullpen depleted by the long game, the Rockies recalled right-hander Rob Scahill from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Scahill (0-0, 6.75 ERA in three Major League games this year) gives the Rockies a reliever who can pitch multiple innings. Switch-hitting infielder Cristhian Adames, who went 0-for-3 off the bench Tuesday in his Major League debut, was optioned to Colorado Springs.
• Because lefty Tyler Matzek pitched the 16th inning Tuesday, the Rockies will call up lefty Pedro Hernandez (6-6, 6.14 ERA at Colorado Springs) to start against the Cubs on Thursday. Hernandez has appeared in 15 career Major League games, including 13 starts, with the Twins and White Sox (3-4, 7.57 ERA).
Hernandez will be the Rockies’ 14th different starter this year.
Matzek will be re-slotted into the rotation and will not miss a full turn.
– Thomas Harding
Disclaimer: No indication Rockies owner can be swayed into dealing Tulo … Still, team has to be prepared if talks occur
We preface everything here with the simple statement, based on conversations with sources inside and outside the Rockies organization:
Owner Dick Monfort has no interest in trading shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at Thursday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The belief that a healthy Rockies club, with an improved rotation and a bullpen overhaul, is a winner next season means odds are against Monfort moving Tulowitzki — signed for extreme riches through 2020 — this offseason.
But the way to not get caught off guard is to be prepared, even if you know nothing may happen.
In the days leading to the Trade Deadline, the Rockies are getting ready for the magic phone call, even if it’s not coming.
The Rockies spent much of Monday studying the Mets organization, looking at current Major Leaguers and prospects, and gauging the abilities of young pitchers who have not reached their arbitration years. Any Mets pitcher who is anyone, whether he is working in Queens – like National League Rookie of the Year candidate Jacob deGrom – or prospects such as righty Noah Syndergaard (No. 1 on the MLB.com Mets Top 20 Prospects list) or Rafael Montero (No. 6), the Rockies are prepared to discuss. If the names of numerous position players come up, the Rockies are prepared.
But here’s the thing. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday said it is “unlikely” the team will make any deal, and sources throughout the game are saying it’s unlikely anything serious will occur with the Rockies. And, as can’t be stated enough, it’s all fantasy unless Monfort changes his belief that the Rockies will win with Tulowitzki.
But that’s the way these things work. Oh, it’s not only the Mets. We hear the Rockies have beefed up their knowledge on the Cardinals and the Angels – two teams with the money and Major League-ready players to make the Rockies’ baseball people at least listen if they were to call – and a few other teams that may have interest. Speaking of which, since Tulowitzki’s showing up at Yankee Stadium Sunday sparked so many conspiracy theories, we are told the Yankees are not one of the teams that the Rockies believe have players it takes to pull off a Tulowitzki deal.
There’s absolutely no indication either team will make that call before the deadline. Nonetheless, the Rockies want to have detailed information if talks ever begin.
Other fronts appear to be quiet, although there is interest.
• We recently identified the Pirates as a team that is taking a look at Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, and now we’re told that 5-6 clubs are interested in Hawkins, knowing he can pitch in any situation. But two issues are making it hard to deal the 41-year-old reliever with the ageless right arm:
The Rockies believe his influence is strong enough on young players and young pitchers that they want to keep him around, even though the team is in last place.
The Rockies’ requirement for help at the start of next season, plus pitchers under club control applies to Hawkins. Teams in contention haven’t offered what the Rockies want.
• It’s doubtful the Rockies will move lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who has pitched better at Coors than any pitcher in their history. The Rockies have been listening when clubs inquire, but after it surfaced that the Rockies coveted Orioles righty Kevin Gausman and a whole haul of prospects, no other team’s interest made it to the rumor stage. Expect the Rockies to make the $14 million qualifying offer for De La Rosa, a free agent after this season, and use that as the basis for keeping him.
• While the Rockies have scouted lefty Brett Anderson since his return from a broken left index finger, there are no active discussions. The Rockies are expected to pick up Anderson’s $12 million option for next season.
– Thomas Harding
The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins.
The Rockies won the first two games against the Pirates this weekend by big margins, so Hawkins was not forced into a save opportunity. However, the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible.
It would be a case of the rich — in terms of power arms to protect a lead — getting richer. They have righties Jeanmar Gomez and Jared Hughes, lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and righty closer Mark Melancon. And Melancon has proven adept in closing situations recently.
If the Pirates want to beef up their bullpen, it would be in middle relief or possible insurance in case Melancon struggles, is ailing or is unavailable on a given day. Hawkins, who can pitch in any situation and tends to become more effective as the season progresses, could be a fit.
Hawkins could be an upgrade over righty Ernesto Frieri, who has struggled since coming in a trade with the Angels for righty Jason Grilli.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Hawkins’ ability and leadership skills. Hawkins was part of the bullpen when the Rockies went to the 2007 World Series under Hurdle.
A trade could be a boon for Hawkins. Although he has been effective this year, the struggles of the Rockies have reduced his opportunities to pitch. He has 37 appearances so far. In his career, he had 980 regular-season appearances going into Sunday. Getting t 1,000 is a goal for a solid pitcher who has never been to the All-Star Game. The opportunities can be more frequent with a contender.
But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately.
– Thomas Harding
If the day ends in “y,” you can count on a bunch of Rockies injury updates.
Rockies.com will have stories on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s dry needling procedure scheduled for Monday in Philadelphia, as well as lefty Boone Logan and first baseman Justin Morneau beginning injury rehab assignments Monday. Here’s more:
– The Rockies went into Sunday down two outfielders because Carlos Gonzalez rolled his right ankle at home Saturday, and was still sore, and Drew Stubbs was still recovering from turning his left foot awkwardly while hitting a home run in Saturday night’s 8-1 victory over the Pirates. Both players were in uniform Sunday enjoying Family Day activities. Gonzalez’s ankle was taped heavily. Stubbs was walking normally, but it wasn’t clear if he could handle quick-burst activity.
– Righty Jordan Lyles struck out four and gave up no runs, three hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings on Saturday for Class A Modesto in his first injury rehab start since suffering a broken left hand on June 4.
– Righty Christian Bergman, out since suffering a broken left hand when hit by a line drive on June 20, make his first injury rehab start Tuesday at Double-A Tulsa against Springfield. Bergman is scheduled for about 70 pitches. Because Springfield is a Cardinals affiliate, the game will be played under National League rules, so Bergman will test the injury batting. Bergman said the hand is still sore when performing some movements, but he’s fine catching return throws from the catcher and none of the soreness is debilitating.
– Righty Jhoulys Chacin, out with a muscle strain and a slight labrum tear in his throwing shoulder, reported feeling fine after three plasma-rich platelet treatments. He’ll be checked Monday, and if all goes well he’ll begin a strengthening program, followed by a throwing program. Chacin has said he wants to return by season’s end, but it’s doubtful he can return.
– Thomas Harding
Rockies Tulowitzki does not have no-trade clause; talks are intriguing if not imminent (Also, a look at many possible Rockies deals)
Note to fans: I am having trouble with links in this post, so I’ll do it this way:
I refer to Joel Sherman’s exclusive in the New York Post: http://nypost.com/2014/07/24/mets-to-rockies-lets-talk-tulowitzki-cargo-trades/
And it would be good to review what I wrote yesterday: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/col/colorado-rockies-arent-in-active-talks-about-drew-stubbs?ymd=20140724&content_id=86148486&vkey=news_col
Thanks much. Now, for my blog post …
Contrary to what has been repeated in many reports, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki does not have a no-trade clause — at least not at this point — in his contract.
Going strictly by the contract language (and consulting with sources with direct knowledge of the contract), if traded, Tulowitzki would receive a $2 million bonus from the club he would land with, and only then would a no-trade provision go into effect. That is in addition to the five years and $104 million, plus incentives and escalators, left on his deal.
Now, from the standpoint that Tulowitzki is one of the game’s most-respected players and someone who has been through thick and a lot of thin with the Rockies, it stands to reason that if such a decision were made the club would at least listen to Tulowitzki’s preferences — especially if there were places he didn’t want to go. However, he does not have that right within his contract, and he is not a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the Majors with the last five with the team).
All that said, the chances are low that Tulowitzki would be dealt by next Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Tulowitzki has said all along he doesn’t expect a deadline deal, and the more likely scenario is he would meet with his family and club officials after the season and get an idea of the team’s direction before deciding whether to press for a trade. Sources around the Majors say Rockies owner Dick Monfort’s position with them is the same as it is publicly — he is not seeking a deadline deal, and there is no guarantee he wants to make a deal even after the season.
Tulowitzki’s being on the 15-day disabled list with a hip flexor strain also complicates the chance of a deal now.
By the way, Major League sources say the Rockies aren’t anywhere close to dealing outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a sublime talent who has dealt with injuries the last two years.
Given that, current trade rumors are to be seen as laying the groundwork for talks after the season.
Those talks could become really interesting. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote today that the Mets are interested in being players if the Rockies ever decided to deal Tulo or CarGo. Sherman names pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus outfielder Brandon Nimmo and infielder Dilson Herrera as players the Rockies like. Given the Rockies’ perpetual need and desire for young pitching, the names Syndergaard and Matz would make it hard for club officials to dismiss if talks were to become serious.
Of course, anything the Mets do is related to the Yankees. Sherman points out that Tulo’s love for Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop who must be replaced, and the fact the Rockies like the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, righty Luis Severino. And the Cardinals have been rumored as a possible trading partner since last winter.
In other developments:
–The same article by Sherman points out that the Rockies have had interest in Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and notes the Rockies have pieces the Yankees want – lefty starters Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson, and catcher Wilin Rosario, who could preserve his bat and mitigate his defensive issues by being a designated hitter or playing another position. But we are told that the Rockies aren’t looking to deal Rosario before Thursday’s deadline.
But expect Rosario to be an offseason topic of conversation. The Rockies have been sticking with him, believing his power hitting can make up for defense that has been a work in progress ever since he was promoted from Double-A in 2011. However, the Rockies may be forced to re-think.
The pitching staff will continue to be young. Left-hander Tyler Matzek and right-handers such as Eddie Butler and Jon Gray (Matzek and Butler debuted this year, and Gray is on the radar) will be in the rotation sooner than later. Righties Jhoulys Chacin and Jordan Lyles have been around, but are in their 20s.
It might be time for a veteran catcher, or one with frontline all-around ability who is special at calling games, to trim the learning curve for the pitchers. Two examples come to mind: 1) Late in his career, Pudge Rodriguez went to the Marlins and later to the Tigers, teams that didn’t have recent histories of winning. He made a major difference to those young staffs, and the result was a World Series win wit the Marlins and a World Series appearance with the Tigers. 2) It’s hard to quantify but easy to appreciate the impact Russell Martin had last year with the Pirates, who ended a 20-year postseason drought with pitchers who needed help reaching their potential.
–The Rockies are in a quandary when it comes to dealing their own pitching. They want young pitching under club control, but what if the best bargaining chips are their own desirable pitchers.
The Rockies are listening to trade offers, but the price they’ve set with the Orioles shows that they’ll take only the cream of another team’s crop. But even if they receive pitchers with bright futures, is there any guarantee they’re going to have the present that De La Rosa has?
De La Rosa has been by far the Rockies’ best pitcher at Coors Field, and whether he qualifies as the best pitcher in club history is a growing debate. Dude is 42-14 at Coors Field. And he likes pitching there. After seeing top prospects — lefty Drew Pomeranz, now with the Athletics, is a clear example — flame out at Coors, who’s to say anyone else’s prospects are going to make it?
Maybe the Rockies take the plunge. Or maybe they are better off retaining De La Rosa, who is in the final year of his contract. The $11 million qualifying offer the Rockies would need to make to preserve the right to compensation in case3 he left is $3 million more than he is making. That could give them another year with De La Rosa, or it could be the basis for a longer-term deal for a pitcher who wants to be here.
–Everyone says the Rockies need starting pitching. Heck, the Rockies say it. That being the case, it’s puzzling to see lefty Brett Anderson’s name in possible trade reports, although teams would be sensible to check on his availability.
Anderson missed 16 starts with a broken left index finger, and injuries have been an issue throughout his career. But let’s look at his two starts since coming off the disabled list: 1) Clearly rusty and still with little experience at Coors Field, he gave up five runs in the first inning against the Twins at home in the final game before the All-Star break. But he got through six with just one additional run. 2) At Pittsburgh, lacking his best stuff, Anderson pitched with savvy and professionalism and held a lineup for a contending club to one run in seven innings.
Once again, do you trade this top-end ability for guys whose best may or may not arrive at all or may or may not arrive at Coors Field?
Of course, there is a money issue. Anderson has a $12 million club option for 2015, or a $1.5 million buyout. If the Rockies believe that they’re a good team that has been ruined by injuries, it stands to reason that they pay the money and hope to be healthy next season.
–Well, we’ve laid out how the Rockies are leaning against dealing Tulo and CarGo, are likely to wait until after the season to address the catching situation, and have plenty of reasons not to deal De La Rosa or Anderson. So where do they get the young pitching they crave?
They’ll listen when teams discuss outfielder Drew Stubbs. The Mariners are the hot rumor. Also, the Rockies will listen to offers for righty pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. But there will be debate about how much a team is willing to give up for Stubbs, whose home/road splits and low on-base percentage history are concerning, and Hawkins, who is fit and effective but also 41.
Still, being in a pennant race makes giving up valuable pitching prospects sound like a better idea. So we’ll see. If Stubbs or Hawkins don’t bring offers of top-level prospects, the Rockies still must listen. This year’s injuries exposed a startling lack of starting depth, and they have to get it from somewhere.
— Thomas Harding
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said his left thigh felt the same Sunday as it did Saturday night, when he suffered a cramp in the fourth inning and had to leave the 3-2 loss to the Pirates. And the news wasn’t much better when manager Walt Weiss ran down his injury list Sunday, before the R0ckies’ attempt to avoid being swept by the Pirates.
Tulowitzki was on the lineup as a possible pinch-hitter, but Weiss didn’t see him as an option.
“He’s sore,” Weiss said. “I still consider him day-to-day, but he’s sore. It could be a couple or three days. We’ll monitor it and just check in with him hourly, but I’m expecting it to be another day or two.”
– First baseman Justin Morneau missed his third straight day with neck stiffness, and Weiss admitted he’s worried “a little bit. He’s made some improvement but still not enough to be out there. Anytime a guy is not able to play in two, three, four days, you start to get concerned.”
– The stiff neck that lefty Boone Logan is suffering from also is an issue. It’s not clear if he’ll be available Sunday. “He’s still questionable,” Weiss said.
There was surprise good news. All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon turned his left ankle in a scary fashion Saturday night when he lined into a double play to end the 11th inning. X-rays were clean, and Blackmon wasn’t limping on Sunday.
“Charlie surprised me when he showed up this morning,” Weiss said. “I thought he was going to be hurt. I saw a replay, and I also saw a snapshot when he rolled his ankle. It was really ugly.
“He’s mad at me because he isn’t in the lineup, which is a good thing. He tried to make a case for being in that lineup. But I actually made the lineup before he got here and knew he’d be available. He is available and Charlie wants to be there. He’s fought hard to be an everyday player, and those guys want to be out there all the time.”
Friday night marked Rockies utility man Charlie Culberson’s first time at first base, and the 4-2 loss to the Pirates was an eventful night.
Culberson had to leap for an errant Nolan Arenado throw in the seventh — it was an error on the third baseman, but Culberson made sure runs didn’t score — and he stretched very length of his 6-foot frame to catch a wide throw from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the eighth. The runner was originally ruled safe, but replay overturned that call.
Culberson played well enough to earn another start at third base on Saturday, with Justin Morneau out for a second game with a stiff neck. Not only was it his first time at first in the Majors, it was his first games at first in his entire life.
“It was fun,” Culberson said. “The first time I even took groundballs at first was in Milwaukee, that last game, when Stu [Cole, the infield coach and third-base coach] said, ‘Hey, take some groundballs at first.’ I practiced some at first and I filled in Thursday night because Morneau was not there. I was all right.
“I’m still in the infield. It’s a different glove, but it’s OK.”
A middle infielder by trade, Culberson played 27 games in left field when called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs last season.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss gave outfielder Charlie Blackmon a night off from the starting lineup on Friday, figuring he could use a break after his first trip to the All-Star Game.
Weiss could identify with Blackmon. Weiss represented the Braves in the 1998 All-Star Game at Coors Field — where Weiss had played while with the Rockies. Although the All-Star festivities were not quite as all-consuming as now, going back home for an All-Star Game was a busy time for him.
“My plan coming out of the break was I was going to let Charlie Blackmon catch his breath a little bit,” Weiss said. “It was probably a whirlwind for him.
“I went to an All-Star Game when I was in Atlanta and I was older. But I remember Bobby Cox telling me it was a very eventful three days, four days for me back in Denver. When the second half started I wasn’t in the lineup. I kind of took something from that. It actually was real good timing for me.”
– Thomas Harding