Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Making the team better is bigger than making the team

Spring Training can feel like a lot of time to determine little. Teams spend six weeks figuring out the fifth starter, a bullpen position or two, the last infielder and outfielder, and the backup catcher. If we’re lucky, a position or two in the regular lineup. The media fill the World Wide Web with stories about players who will go largely ignored during the regular season. Of course, nothing is wrong with this. And if one of these backups becomes a star, fans have a chance to remember something about him, or at least they can plug his name into a search engine and find plenty.

But the real issue flies under the radar.

In all this activity, what do the stars and backups alike do that will carry over into the regular season?

Probelm is the important work is hard to measure. Last year’s Rockies best illustrate this issue.

The Rockies were 20-11-1 last spring. The storyline went that moving from Tucson, Ariz., to the new complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., meant more regualrs could play regularly, and it showed in the performance. The party line was more time together meant better fundamental play.

But as the Rockies were careening toward 89 losses, I talked to one veteran player who made a point: Many of those sound, fundamental at-bats — the productive outs, the hit-and-runs, the walks — came from young players who were not even in the big-league radar. When they were in the game, the guys they were just as far from the Majors. All of this made the sparkling record empty.

Manager Jim Tracy is paying special attention to the starters this spring to make sure they’re playing winning baseball, even though the victories don’t count once the regular year begins.

After Saturday’s victory over the Giants, Tracy was every bit as excited about outfielder Tyler Colvin’s hit-and-run that drove in a run as he was about Juan Nicasio’s 5 2/3 innings of positive pitching. After Saturday’s victory over the Giants, he made a point of mentioning Jonathan Herrera’s well-executed hit-and-run that led to a two-run inning and complimented Carlos Gonzalez on an RBI groundout with two strikes. These comments have been common this spring.

The headlines will go to position competitions, but we all can use the reminder that spring is not just about making the team.

It’s about making the team better.

Some notes about today’s game against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium:

– Marco Scutaro, who played shortstop for the Red Sox last season but was acquired by the Rockies to start at second base, will make his first Cactus League start at short today. Scutaro’s ability to move to short is important.

Tracy has vowed not to overuse regular shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Last season, Tulowitzki played in 143 games but that was with him not playing after Sept. 22 with hip soreness. He would have played had the team been in the playoff hunt, but would his production have been compromised? Would he have put himself at risk for further injury?

The 140-game mark sounds smart, but the Rockies need to do that at a normal pace. If they need the National Guard to keep him out of the lineup for a few games in April and May, so be it.

The Rockies have several players capable of playing short in a pinch, but Scutaro represents an experienced alternative with classic shortstop abilities.

– For the second time this spring, Scutaro is batting first and Dexter Fowler is hitting second. They usually are flopped. The first time it happened, Scutaro delivered an RBI double and Fowler had a good game at the plate. Both have spent the spring searching for their swings.

– Regular right fielder Michael Cuddyer is starting at first base today. Tracy had used Cuddyer for eight defensive innings at the position in previous spring games, but Cuddyer must be prepared for more. If Todd Helton’s back becomes an issue, the Rockies could move Cuddyer to first and fill his spot with a backup outfielder.

Here is a look at today’s lineups:

ROCKIES BATTING ORDER

Marco Scutaro, SS

Dexter Fowler, CF

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Jason Giambi, DH

Michael Cuddyer, 1B

Jordan Pacheco, 3B

Wilin Rosario, C

Tyler Colvin, RF

Brandon Wood, 2B

ROCKIES PITCHING

Starter: Drew Pomeranz, LHP

Matt Reynolds, LHP

Edgmer Escalona, RHP

Matt Belisle, RHP

Josh Outman, LHP

Stephen Dodson, RHP

ANGELS BATTING ORDER

Erick Aybar, SS

Howie Kendrick, 2B

Albert Pujols, 1B

Torii Hunter, RF

Vernon Wells, CF

Kendrys Morales, DH

Bobby Abreu, LF

Alberto Callaspo, 3B

Chris Iannetta, C

ANGELS PITCHING

Starter: Garrett Richards, RHP

Jordan Walden, RHP

Hisanori Takahashi, LHP

Rich Thompson, RHP

 

Moyer to throw Minor League game; Rockies’ ‘regular’ lineup set for game vs. Angels

Rockies left-hander Jamie Moyer, scratched from a start on Friday because of soreness in his left leg, will throw in a Minor League game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Coming back from elbow surgery at 49 involves more than just making sure the arm is sound. Moyer has always put himself through difficult full-body workouts during Spring Training and between starts. He has continued to do so this spring, but he’ll have to find a balance.

“My last couple years of playing, I’ve tried to modify that,” said Moyer, who suffered his injury in the middle of the 2010 season while with the Phillies and spent last season out of baseball, before signing a non-roster contract with the Rockies. “It’s not like this year I’m trying to do something completely different. It’s trying to work smart, recover quickly and appropriately and continue to prepare for my next outing.”

In the main game, against the Angels at 1:05 p.m. at Salt River Fields, right-hander Juan Nicasio will start.

With veteran third baseman Casey Blake returning after missing a week with neck soreness, the Rockies are using what could be their Opening Day starting position player batting order.

Here are is the Rockies lineup:

ROCKIES LINEUP

Dexter Fowler, CF

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Ramon Hernandez, C

Casey Blake, 3B

Juan Nicasio, RHP

ROCKIES RELIEF PITCHING

Esmil Rogers, RHP

Josh Roenicke, RHP

Carlos Torres, RHP

Zach Putnam, RHP

 

Helton: King of the scoopers

The Rockies’ strategy for pitching is based on attacking the strike zone with the fastball. The theory is the defense is so dependable, the only plays that can’t be stopped are the walk and the home run.

Third baseman Ian Stewart, shortstoop Troy Tulowitzki and second baseman Clint Barmes are bigger than average and tranaslate size into range. But one of the unsung advantages is they don’t have to be perfect with their throws because of first baseman Todd Helton’s ability to handle low throws.

I remember mentioning this last year, but here is the final 2009 stat from ACTA Sports:

Player                                  Scoops              Attempts    Pct.

Todd Helton, Col.                      183                    207          88.4

Adam La Roche, Pit.-Bos.-Atl.   182                    210          86.7

Albert Pujols, St.L.                    187                   217           86.2

Paul Konerko, CWS                  197                    231          85.3

Derrek Lee, ChC                       145                    171          84.8

Lance Berkman, Hou.                170                   201           84.6

Lyle Overbay, Tor                       211                   250          84.4

Casey Kotchman, Atl.-Bos.        134                   159           84.3    

But it’s still the defensive play of the year

Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes confirmed what the camera of an eagle-eyed fan showed. He did not have possession of the ball throughout his ninth-inning play, which was ruled a catch. Barmes made the play on a soft Ryan Ludwick pop with runners at first and third in the ninth inning. Barmes then doubled Albert Pujols off first base, ending the Rockies’ 4-3 victory.

Some thoughts on the play:

– If you don’t call it “the catch of the year,” it’s still the defensive play of the year. To hit the ground that hard and roll over, yet not have the ball squirt away is a feat in and of itself.

– What’s the big deal? The play isn’t reviewable. And it’s not like Barmes is going to stand up and say, “That ball landed.” Even if he did, I don’t think there’s anything in the rule book to allow for that. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

– It’s good it wasn’t a postseason game. The umpire down the right-field line would have been at roughly the same angle as the camera.

Barmes’ quotes in an arranged media meeting on Tuesday weren’t much different from when I talked to him on Sunday afternoon. I asked him then if the ball hit the ground, and he said he didn’t know.

“I really don’t know anything other than what I said on Sunday,” Barmes said. “It all happened so fast and the ball ended up in my hand somehow and I wasn’t sure if it was from off the ground or before it hit the ground. All I know is whenever I rolled and popped up, the ball was in my hand perfectly like I’d reached down and grabbed it.”

 

Stewart, Barmes in, Atkins out for Cards finale

Rockies manager Jim Tracy, needing to stay with the hot bats of Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes, left third baseman Garrett Atkins out of the lineup for Monday’s finale of a four-game set with the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Tracy insisted, however, that Atkins is not going to be buried on the bench. Tracy will look for favorable matchups, try to put him in key pinch-hit situations and see if he can make Atkins a viable lineup option. Atkins has shown life lately, but he is batting .189 with fivfe home runs and 20 RBIs.

“In no way do I want to be having people thinking or suggesting that that’s it with Garrett Atkins, but because of where we’re at right now I am in a position to pick spots for the time being that make the most sense,” Tracy said.

Here are Monday’s lineups:

Rockies

Dexter Fowler, CF

Clint Barmes, 2B

Todd Helton, 1B

Brad Hawpe, RF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Paul Phillips, C

Jason Marquis, P

Cardinals

Skip Schumaker, 2B

Colby Rasmus, CF

Albert Pujols, 1B

Ryan Ludwick, RF

Chris Duncan, LF

Yadier Molina, C

Tyler Greene, 3B

Brad Thompson, P

Brendan Ryan, SS

Helton has Sunday off

Rockies manager Jim Tracy looked at the schedule and saw, well, a lot of games. this is the seventh game of an 11-game, 11-day road trip. when the Rockies dome home, they play three with the Mariners before finally getting their first day off since May 28. So, Sunday is as good a time as any to sit first baseman Todd Helton, who was 1-for-6 in the first two games with the Cardinals. Sunday is Helton’s first game out of the starting lineup since May 17 at Pittsburgh.

Here are Sunday’s lineups:

Rockies

Dexter Fowler, CF

Clint Barmes, 2B

Brad Hawpe, RF

Garrett Atkins, 1B

Ian Stewart, 3B

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Paul Phillips, C

Ubaldo Jimenez, P

Cardinals

Skip Schumaker, 2B

Colby Rasmus, CF

Albert Pujols, 1B

Rick Ankiel, RF

Chris Duncan, LF

Yadier Molina, C

Joe Thurston, 3B

Brendan Ryan, SS

Joel Piniero, P

 

 

Fowler resting calf

Rockies manager Jim Tracy gave rookie center fieler Dexter Fowler some rest time Saturday. Fowler fouled a pitch off his right calf Friday night, and had the area heavly taped Saturday. Seth Smith replaced him atop the order. It was also Carlos Gonzalez’s first start in center field for the Rockies. Here are the lineups for the Rockies-Cardinals game:

Rockies

Seth Smith, LF

Clint Barmes, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Garrett Atkins, 3B

Brad Hawpe, RF

Ian Stewart, 2B

Carlos Gonzalez, CF

Edwin Bellorin, C

Aaron Cook, P

Cardinals

Skip Schumaker, 2B

Rick Ankiel, CF

Albert Pujols, 1B

Ryan Ludwick, RF

Chris Duncan, LF

Jason LaRue, C

Joe Thurston, 3B

Todd Wellemeyer, P

Tyler Greene, SS

 

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