Results tagged ‘ Alan Embree ’

How far are the Rockies from contending? The offseason strategy depends on their answer

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

New general manager Jeff Bridich, manager Walt Weiss and the front office he has put together are making quick work of assessing the Rockies’ roster. With the general managers meetings starting Monday in Phoenix, they must be prepared for talks with other clubs and negotiations with potential free agents.

I have no money for free agents. My front office staff consists of the birds and squirrels running around the neighborhood. So I’ll take some time to dig through the roster and bounce the ideas off you, the fans. Feel free to spend your lunch break (well, your work time, but we’ll keep that between us) walking through the tough Rockies questions with me.

Feel free to comment on Twitter: @harding_at_mlb

WARNING: There’s a lot here. The squirrels and birds crunched numbers and presented many scenarios. They’ve got a future in management.

Let’s look at the key question.

What type of pitching do the Rockies need to contend now and in the future?

Their last two playoff appearances could offer guidelines.

The Rockies went to the 2007 World Series based on pitching depth. They lost three of their five starters in August, and changed closers during the season, but developed and acquired good enough parts to stay in the race and win the National League Wild Card.

In 2009, they earned the NL Wild Card based on health and quality — five guys made all but eight starts, which mean they were whole enough and good enough to keep taking the ball. There was enough bullpen strength to withstand second-half injuries to lefty Alan Embree and closer Huston Street.

So, as trade rumors fly, it all comes back to the question: How close is Rockies’ pitching staff to the depth of 2007 and the quality of 2009?

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

That explains why the Rockies are listening to offers, not only for veteran first baseman Justin Morneau but for the very top guys on their payroll, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

Let’s look at the rotation as it stands as the Rockies attempt to leap from 66-96 to contentions in the NL West:

• Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is the clear leader.  He’s by no means the equal of the front of the rotations of the defending NL West champion Dodgers or the World Series champ Giants, but not many folks can say they’ve thrived at Coors the way De La Rosa has.

• Righty Jhoulys Chacin saw his 2014 limited to 11 starts by issues with his rotator cuff and labrum. Chacin, the club and doctors decided on rehab and strengthening rather than surgery. Success of the decision will depend on the effectiveness of his rehab, diligent maintenance and, to some degree, good fortune. Not impossible, but it’s a lot.

• Righty Jordan Lyles and lefty Tyler Matzek, each 24, showed ability in their first seasons in Purple Pinstripes. Lyles went in with big-league time with the Astros. Matzek was making his debut. Can they go from developing talents to stalwarts? Once again, it’s asking a lot, but it’s not impossible.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

• Beyond those four, there are options but none that compare to the competition. Righty Christian Bergman has more heart than stuff, but is promising because of his brainpower and competitiveness. The prospects behind him all have questions. Righty Eddie Butler’s debut year was spoiled by shoulder pain. Righty prospect Jon Gray is coming off his first full pro season, and the Rockies were careful with him because of fatigue at the end. Lefty prospect Tyler Anderson finished the year with an elbow issue that he’s trying to rehab over the winter.

Now, let’s look at the bullpen:

• Ageless LaTroy Hawkins returns as closer. With no big changes, it’s the same plan as last year – hope another option develops so Hawkins can pitch earlier in games.

• Righty Adam Ottavino overcame a month of struggles impressively enough last season that the Rockies see a bright future. There’s still the need to improve against left-handed hitters. Who knows? Maybe if he finds the magic against lefties, he could slide into the ninth inning.

• Lefty Rex Brothers went from a dazzling year in 2013 to a simply awful one in 2014. Part o the problem was the workload that fell to him when lefty Boone Logan was hampered by elbow issues throughout the first year of his three-year contract. The Rockies need rebounds from both.

• Righty Tommy Kahnle stuck out the full year as a Rule 5 Draft pick and showed a workable fastball-changeup mix. He’ll need to take this year’s experience and show greater savvy to earn an increased role.

• Beyond that are guys trying to establish themselves. Righty Brooks Brown’s control and ability to change speeds during his callups put him ahead of many pitchers who were on the staff the full year. The Rockies also hope for progress righty Juan Nicasio and lefty Christian Friedrich, who struggled as starters and were moved to the bullpen.

Weigh the dependable parts, the hopefuls and the holes, and you get a pitching staff that needs several quality pitchers in the rotation and the bullpen. Given that, how possible is it for the Rockies to contend in 2015? Are they prepared if they don’t content?

There are many ways to construe the Rockies' $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

There are many ways to construe the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

A fine piece yesterday from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs suggests that extending the $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer could be construed as part of rebuilding rather than an attempt to hold the current lineup together. Cuddyer gets a nice payday, and if the Rockies are struggling at the deadline he could be dealt.

But these are the Major Leagues, where the majority of teams are in position to at least dream at the deadline. While there is a future to contend with, I and the wildlife outside my door want the Rockies to have a fighting chance in the present.

So here are some questions:

•Say the Rockies hold a strong lineup together and hold onto their big multi-year contracts, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. They could hope to receive a solid veteran for the starting rotation for Morneau. Then they could go bargain hunting via free agency for another starter – say righty Justin Masterson, who is trying to rebuild his value after a rough 2014, or lefty Brett Anderson or righty Aaron Harang, who have proven ability but questionable health histories.

•Say the Rockies push hard to deal Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Both are coming off shortened seasons because of surgeries, which might give other teams pause. The Rockies have said they will listen, and have given indications that clubs would have to make offers based on the players if healthy. Can they expect to receive star players who can rebuild the team?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

•Let’s say the Rockies seek immediate payroll relief, rather than star-for-star deals or situations where they’re eating huge portions of the salaries of Tulowitkzi and Gonzalez. This is where the dreams get big.

With the money saved, maybe they can’t land any of the big three free-agent starters — James Shields, Max Scherzer or Jon Lester — and second-tier starters such as Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy could be risky propositions at Coors Field. But how about catcher Russell Martin, who could have strong offense at Coors and help the young starters? How about a big offer to righty reliever Andrew Miller, who could be the closer immediately? Righty setup Luke Gregerson pitched for the Athletics last year, but he has a long history in the NL West based on his days with the Padres.

All this leaves the Rockies with tough decisions.

The feeling has been they want one more run with their lineup core, only with some pitching added. They will have to believe they can acquire enough pitching through dealing not just Morneau but two arbitration-eligible chips – catcher Wilin Rosario, who could be a fit as a catcher-designated hitter in the American League, and outfielder Drew Stubbs, who recaptured some of his run-producing potential with the Rockies.

To succeed, such a plan has to have the Rockies stay healthy in the rotation, contend enough to be able to make trades at next summer’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and finish the year with a roster and payroll capable of succeeding in future years.

All this makes the big trade sounds attractive, but there are risks.

Any deal involving Tulowitzki or Gonzalez would leave a big hole. When healthy, they not only are All-Stars and offensive threats, but they’re Gold Glove Award types. Also, if the Rockies don’t eat salary, the return might be less than if they were more willing in that regard. They’d have to count on any position player having his stats enhanced at Coors Field, and any young pitcher being an immediate help — an iffy proposition, based on history.

Should the Rockies take the plunge and deal Tulowitkzi or Gonzalez, or both, they key is not stopping there. Some of the players who come in a trade may have to be spun to other teams, especially if they use hitting prospects they receive to pull in pitchers.

– Thomas Harding

New travel plan for Fowler

Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler will begin his injury rehab assignment on Saturday, but he’ll do it at Double-A Tulsa instead of Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Rockies originally announced Fowler, who is on the disabled list with a bruised right knee, would rehab with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but that club is in Tacoma, Wash., and rain is expected.

Right-hander Aaron Cook is playing catch at 100 feet and still hopes to make his return from a sore right shoulder before the regular season ends. Lefty reliever Alan Embree is getting close to being able to throw a bullpen session, which means he has hope of making an improbable return from the fractured left fibula that he suffered on July 10. Righty reliever Manuel Corpas has begun throwing, but it’s unlikely he’ll return from the surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow and the subsequent surgery for an infection in the forearm not long after the surgery. Lefty Jeff Francis, who underwent shoulder surger in February, continues to throw bullpen sessions with an eye toward pitching in instructional ball in Tucson, Ariz.

Embree better than expected

Anyone who saw or heard Rockies left-hander Alan Embree’s right fibia pop when hit by a line drive from the braves’ Martin Pardo, then heard the diagnosis, figured Embree was gone for the season, no discussion.

Well, maybe not. Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Embree will be walking around, without a cast, within three days. And …

“We won’t rule anything out,” Tracy said. “I don’t want to say anything any more specific other than the fact that Keith [Dugger, the Rockies’ head athletic trainer] mentioned something to me about September. Let’s take it a day at a time, but that’s a fairly miraculous thing for me to be saying this afternoon after what we saw take place last night.”

Righty Matt Belisle is replacing Embree.

Remember the good times

The Rockies recalled right-hander Matt Belisle to replace lefty reliever Alan Embree, who suffeed a broken right tibia when hit by a line drive from the Braves’ Martin Prado on Friday night.

This is the second go-round for Belisle, 29, who went 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA in 14 games the first time up. His numbers were much better in the Springs, 1-1 wth a 3.86 ERA in 14 games, including four starts. The four starts in the beginning, and Sky Sox pitching coach Chuck Kniffin’s advice to “get out of your own way,” helped.

While working on pounding the strike zone and generally finding his aggressiveness, it dawned on Belisle that everything in the Majors wasn’t bad.

“I had advice from Greg Maddux one day, actually,” Belisle said. “Greg said, ‘Everybody wants to figure out why things are going bad. But really take note when you’re going well what you’re doing right, and stay on that even keel. I thought about that when I was down there.

“I looked back on past experiences at what I did well and tried to repeat it.”

Corpas has MRI on sudden elbow problem

The Rockies’ smooth sailing was interrupted Friday afternoon when right-handed setup man Manuel Corpas showed up at the clubhouse with inflammation in his throwing elbow, and wound up undergoing an MRI. The results are not yet available.

 

Corpas has thrown scoreless ball in eight of his last 10 outings. He pitched in the last two games and had no indication of injury.

 

“It stunned him and it stunned us,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “As a matter of fact, he threw the ball even better yesterday than the he did on Wednesday.

 

“He threw a minimal number of pitches. We are obviously going to be proactive on this and we want to find out what the heck is going on with this — immediately.”

 

Immediately, Tracy said, it could push rookie Matt Daley into a setup role. Tracy could also play matchups using Daley, right-hander Joel Peralta and left-hander Alan Embree.

 

Friday night’s opener of a three-game set with the Pirates presents Tracy with a strategic challenge. Huston Street labored in his last outing, a save Thursday against the Rays in which he gave up two runs but escaped. Tracy said he was leaning against using him Friday, but he has not determined who his closer will be.

 

If Corpas needs to go to the disabled list, the most-experienced option at Triple-A Colorado Springs is Juan Rincon, who is 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA in eight appearances. Rincon is 32-27 with a 3.84 ERA in 416 Major League games with the Twins Indians and Tigers.

A veteran move

Rockies left-handed reliever Alan Embree broke in with the Indians in 1992, so this is his 17th year around the game. Embree is playing on his 10th team. Needless to say, he’s learned a little something about getting along with new teammates.

So Embree pulled a veteran move on Sunday, the day before his first Opening Day with the Rockies.

“I saw a group of guys down at the tables at breakfast, and I picked up the tabs on all of them, just to kind of kick it off,” Embree said. “When you break with a new team, it’s kind of like, ‘Let’s get it going on the right foot.’ I want to let them know I’m not just here to pitch. I’m here to be a teammate.”

Embree has developed a tradition that goes a long way toward bullpen esprit de corps.

“I started something about six years ago, where I’d go around to each guy and hand him a $100 Starbucks card,” Embree said. “It’s a group of guys who will be together a lot.”

Right-handed reliever Ryan Speier said Embree reached out to him, even though they’re different pitchers. Speier said he enjoys hearing about Embree’s experiences.

“He’s been on a lot of teams, and some championship teams, so he’s got a wealth of knowledge,” Speier said. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times about the ’05 Red Sox. That was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched, so I enjoy hearing him talk about that.

“He’s made an effort to get to know everybody, and he can tinker here or there to help guys out.”

New week, new pitching schedule

Here is the Rockies’ pitching schedule for the week:

Monday vs. Angels at Hi Corbett Field: Franklin Morales, Huston Street, Jason Hirsh, Juan Morillo and Esmil Rogers.

Tuesday at Brewers at Mayvale Baseball Park (Phoenix): Greg Smith, Alan Embree, Greg Reynolds, Ran Mattheus.

Wednesday, “B” game vs. D-backs: Jason Marquis, Glendon Rusch, Josh Fogg, Huston Street, Taylor Buchholz, Ryan Speier.

Thursday, exhibition vs. Team Mexico (World Baseball Classic) at Hi Corbett Field: Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Brandon Hynick, Shane Lindsay, Steven Register.

Friday vs. Padres at Peoria: Aaron Cook, Huston Street, Alan Embree, Taylor Buchholz, Ryan Mattheus, Esmil Rogers.

Saturday vs. Giants at Scottsdale: Jason Hish, Ryan Speier, Franklin Morales.

To recap, here are the players who are missing because of the World Baseball Classic: catcher Chris Iannetta (Team USA), right-handed starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), right-handed closer Manuel Corpas (Panama), right-handed reliever Jason Grilli (Italy) and Minor League right-handed reliever Adam Bright (Australia). Right fielder Brad Hawpe would have played for the U.S., but he suffered a lacerated pinkie on his left (throwing) hand Friday that required four stitches.

Lineup time … and welcome to the Ranter

Left fielder Seth Smith, who has received so many kudos from the Rockies about his swing that he’s getting a chance to start this year, will hit from the No. 2 spot in Wednesday afternoon’s Spring Training opener against the D-Backs. Also, with first baseman Todd Helton not yet ready for regular action (he was spotted heading for a workout and hitting session), Brad Hawpe takes the No. 3 spot in the order. Garrett Atkins will bat cleanup and Troy Tulowitzki, whi hit second and seventh last season, is batting fifth.

Here’s the lineup in its entirety:

Ryan Spilborghs   CF

Seth Smith           LF

Brad Hawpe         RF

Garrett Atkins      3B

Troy Tulowitzki     SS

Chris Iannetta        C

Joe Koshansky    1B

Clint Barmes        2B

Aaron Cook           P

 

I pulled up to Hi Corbett Field this morning and saw, in all its glory and splendor, The Rockpile Ranter’s Mobile Blog Unit. Welcome to Tucson. I’d have taken a picture, but I was afraid that a security force would have apprehended me. But now that my intentions are known, a snapshot shouldn’t be a problem. Should it?

– Here’s a little more: today’s pitching schedule.

Cook (two innings)

Ubaldo Jimenez (2)

Manuel Corpas (1)

Alan Embree (1)

Juan Morillo (1)

Jason Grilli (1)

Ryan Mattheus (1)

Here is pitching schedule for tomorrow against the White Sox.

Jason Hirsh (two innings)

Franklin Morales (2)

Taylor Buchholz (1)

Huston Street (1)

Cedrick Bowers (1)

Shane Lindsay (1)

Ryan Speier (1)

Pitchng schedules are always subject to change, of course.

Opportunity awaits Gonzalez

Rockies outfielders Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez sit atop prop prospect lists. This year, Fowler generally occupies a higher rung than Gonzalez, partly because Gonzales had a much more meaningful run in the Majors last season. The Athletics used Gonzalez regularly for part of last season. Fowler received merely a few September at-bats.

But when it comes to making the Rockies’ roster out of Spring Training, experience is a benefit, not a curse.

Fowler is widely assumed to be headed to Triple-A Colorado Springs to begin the season. Gonzalez has an option left, and the Rockies have already declared their three outfielders atop the depth chart — Seth Smith in left, Ryan Spilborghs in center and Brad Hawpe in right. But manager Clint Hurdle is entering the season wanting to give Gonzalez every opportunity to impress him this spring.

“There won’t be a nurturing, coddling, holding his hand through it, like a Rule 5 guy you might go get and try and protect through the season,” Hurdle said. “He’s got some experience. He needs to play. There’s got to be reps. There’s got to be at-bats available.

“There’s that fine line, whether it’s 400 Minor League at-bats versus 300 [in the Majors]. I don’t know. If the numbers are workable, he can add a significant value to our club, whether it be playing a couple of outfield positions as a left-handed bat with some speed.”

Translated, the Rockies feel they’ll be at their best if Gonzalez is pushing Smith and Spilborghs for their starting jobs.

Right-handed hitting Matt Murton and left-handed hitters Daniel Ortmeier and Scott Podsednik are in the mix for backup outfield jobs, as well. Third baseman Ian Stewart will get a look in left field, utility man Jeff Baker has some experience in the outfield, and second baseman Clint Barmes is capable of going to the outfield. Hurdle sees him as only an emergency outfielder, but he said some in the organization believe Barmes could handle extended duty out there.

– As part of the execution emphasis, the Rockies are rating every hitting drill and posting the scores. There are 10 rounds based on hitting tasks — various bunts, driving in a runner from third, hit-and-run. Each exercise is given assigned a maximum point total. A score of 38 through nine rounds is considered perfect, then three is a bonus base-hit round. Sunday, for example, Gonzalez, shotstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Edwin Bellorin had the highest individual scores. Also, the team is divided into three groups, and the total number of points for each group is kept. Players are crowding in front of the whiteboard in the clubhosue to see their scores.

– The Rockies are planning an intrasquad game on Tuesday morning. They open their Cactus League schedule Wednesday at Hi Corbett Field against the D-backs.

– The early part of Sunday’s workout was devoted to a spirited “ragball” tournament. They used a machine to shoot beanbag-like balls at a pitcher completing a windup. Right-handed prospect Jhoulys Chacin won his group. Video coordinator Brian Jones won the contest involving staff members.

Manager Clint Hurdle had injury concerns, but signed off on the exercise in the name of team cohesiveness.

“There have been a number of things the guys have had a lot of fun with,” Hurdle said. “That might be at the top of the list right now.

– Left-handed veteran reliever Alan Embree left camp after Saturday’s workout to take care of a personal matter, and will be back in “a couple of days,” Hurdle said Sunday.

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