Results tagged ‘ Bob Apodaca ’

Rockies Apodaca asked to be reassigned, has learned

DENVER — Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca has asked to be reassigned and the club granted him the request on Tuesday, has learned.

The Rockies have yet to make a formal announcement. Sources with knowledge of the situation said Apodaca, pitching coach since 2003 — the first full year that Clint Hurdle managed the Rockies — made the request. Apodaca, 63, has yet to address the situation.

Apodaca, who remained the Rockies’ pitching coach after Jim Tracy took over during the 2009 season, was in street clothes in the Rockies’ coaching office while bullpen coach Jim Wright oversaw Juan Nicasio facing hitters at Coors Field. Nicasio is coming back from a strained left knee.

The Rockies rank last in baseball with a 5.29 ERA and the team is 28-44. Since last week, the club has gone to an unusual four-man pitching rotation under which starters are limited to 75 pitches. It’s an idea that has been discussed for several years at several points by the front office. Extreme difficulty pitching at home and short, ineffective work by the starters, brought about the implementation of the idea a week ago in Philadelphia.

Results have been mixed. Jeff Francis has had two strong starts in victories, but Alex White has pitched himself to a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, Christian Friedrich (who was to start Tuesday night against the Nationals) lost Friday against Texas in his first start under the new system, and Josh Outman couldn’t make it through five innings despite being given an early 10-run lead in the team’s win at Texas on Saturday.

Currently, there are three injured starting pitchers – lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John elbow surgery last year; righty Jhoulys Chacin, who struggled before a nerve issue in his chest was discovered, and Nicasio. Additionally, right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was the Opening Day starter but he struggled so much in 11 starts (3-6, 7.20 ERA) that he was moved to the bullpen, where he has pitched well in long relief.

In another surprise move, the Rockies apparently have called up star Double-A lefty Edwar Cabrera, who had earned an invitation to the Sirius XM Futures game during All-Star weekend and last year led all of Minor League Baseball with 174 strikeouts. Cabrera is in line to start Wednesday against the Nationals.

Under Apodaca, the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007, had five 10-game winners in 2009 for the first time in club history and set club ERA marks in 2007 (4.32) and 2010 (4.22). The team has struggled on and off trying to find a way to thrive at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Since 2002, the baseballs have been stored in an atmosphere-controlled chamber to keep them from shrinking and becoming slippery in the mile-high atmosphere.

Apodaca previously served as pitching coach with the Mets and the Brewers.

More to come on

Monday’s Spring Training notes

It’s a time for excitement, but also a time for caution


Welcome to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Players are raving about the place. Reliever Huston Street told me before he arrived that he expected Monday to be “Christmas in February.” Well, after being there, stretching, tossing a football around, lifting weights, tossing the medicine ball and just walking around, he thought it was something more.


“It’s way more than that … I don’t know what this is,” Street said. “This is unbelievable.”


 And, no, Valentine’s Day wasn’t an adequate description.


Nonetheless, this is a workplace. Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said his biggest challenge is not convincing players to work in the lap of luxury. It’s not letting them overdo it when pitchers and catchers begin official workouts on Tuesday afternoon.


Last spring, key relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt suffered shoulder injuries early in camp. Street’s was because, in hoping to reach a new level, he wanted to throw with regular-season intensity from the first day. Betancourt’s injury occurred because he suffered an illness during the offseason and didn’t figure out what his arm was capable of until pain overtook him. Add to that left-handed starter Jeff Francis’ shoulder problems at the end of camp, and last spring was a failure in terms of having pitchers ready for the regular season.


That won’t be happening this spring.


Apodaca has a message for all his pitchers — one that numerous youth teams and coaches already working for their seasons, with children who don’t yet have facial hair or are getting peach fuzz, need to heed as well.


The first time out, and beyond, Rockies pitchers will throw a limited number of fastballs and a few changeups. The fastball is the main pitch they need, anyhow, so why take the risk with breaking stuff?


“That’s the first order of business every spring, to repeat the fastball, be comfortable with it,” Apodaca said. “When it goes astray, when I throw a scud, how do I get back to where I want to be?


“They can throw some changeups. [Matt] Lindstrom has really been working on his changeup. [Esmil] Rodgers has really been working on his changeup. It’s basically 80 percent fastballs, 20 percent changeups the first couple of times out, we’ll start throwing some breaking pitches. The fourth time, we’re going to bring them back a little bit, because their next time is going to be a batting practice.”


Apodaca said he realizes some pitchers have carried a heavier offseason workload than they’ll be asked to perform at the start of camp. But there will be no argument. It’s for the protection of the pitchers.


“This is always the most insecure time for me,” Apodaca said.


The gang’s almost all here


Most of the pitchers and catchers showed up at the complex, played catch and worked in the fitness center. One notably absent hurdler was left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, the No. 2 starter in the rotation. De La Rosa has an offseason home in the Phoenix area, but he went home to Mexico with his family and experienced visa issues trying to make it before Monday.


Players from outside the United States routinely experience delays, usually because of the time it takes to process the paperwork.


A fond goodbye to the Dominican Republic


Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last year, flew from the Dominican Republic to Phoenix on Friday, but not before leaving (in Spanish) a message to his country on a personal social media site. Here’s a translation:


“Goodbye my beloved land and my people, we are going to fight, God willing, with all our strength for the triumphs, we won’t be able to win every single time but sometimes you win by losing, so I hope you follow all of us Dominicans and send us a lot of blessings our way, I always carry my homeland in my heart and in my mind and I hope I can keep on making you feel proud.”


‘Tulo’ simply couldn’t wait


Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been itching to play ever since signing his new, seven-year extension (which last through 2020) not long after last season ended. On Monday, he arranged to meet general manager Dan O’Dowd at the complex at 8 a.m.

By 7 a.m., Tulowitzki texted O’Dowd saying he had eaten breakfast and was already en route to the park.


“I was definitely anxious to get here – a new facility,” Tulowitzki said. “I woke up early, had that itch, wanted to get to the field, see all the fields, see the new locker room. Wow. Special facility. I’m glad I’m getting to enjoy it for a long time.”


The first full-squad workout is not until next Tuesday.



Cook has improvement plan

There will come a time when the score will matter for Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook. But Sunday is not that time.

Cook will pitch in a Minor League game at Hi Corbett Field, rather than the Cactus League game against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz. Not only does he avoid a long drive, but he gets to try to regain his sinker without having to think about a game situation. When a Major League pitcher throws a Minor League game, he’s usually held to a certain number of pitches an inning, regardless what occurs.

“I asked if I could do that,” Cook said. “I wanted to get my work in a manner where I can throw 15-20 pitches an inning, not worry about how many outs I get. If I get one out, if I get six or seven outs, I just throw my pitches, come back in and sit down for the next inning.”

Cook has added a couple of interesting drills to help him correct the problem of when and how the ball is leaving his hand.

“I’ve been moving the catcher back to 70, 75 feet during my bullpens,” Cook said. “It makes you get extended, makes you throw the ball through the catcher. I’m really feeling the ball come off the end of my fingers when I’m throwing it that far.

“I’m doing the towel drill [snapping a towel, instead of throwing a baseball], getting extended.”

Cook insists this is not a crisis.

“It’s Spring Training,” he said, with a bemused smile. “People are making a big deal out of it. If i was hurt or if my mechanics weren’t where I wanted them to be, it would be a different story. I’d be aggravated. It’s just a matter of where the ball’s coming out of my hand right now.

“I told [manager Jim] Tracy and ‘Dac’ [pitching coach Bob Apodaca] the other day, once the ball starts coming out of my hand with true spin, forget about it. I’ll be fine. They know that. They just want to make sure everybodhy’s on the same page.”

Tracy sees what he needs to see from Francis

Rockies lefty Jeff Francis’ first Cactus League appearance on Friday — his first time in a Major League game in 18 months — wasn’t pretty. Luckily for manager Jim Tracy, he didn’t see it. The Rockies used a split-squad that day, and Tracy went to Tempe, Ariz., while Francis was at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Francis, who struggled in 2008 and missed 2009 because of a shoulder injury that required arthroscopic surgery, gave up four runs in two innings, and struggled because his stride toward home plate was too long.

“The other day in Scottsdale was the first time he’d gone out there competitively in a long time,” Tracy said. “But let him do his thing, then take him back into the laboratory, make some adjustments, re-tune him a little bit, then send him back out there again. This is a brilliant pupil you’re working with.”

But Francis adjusted, and did much better during three scoreless innings at the start of Wednesday’s 5-0 Rockies victory over the Royals at Hi Corbett Field.

One interesting change. Before his first outing, Francis looked good in bullpen work but couldn’t carry that effecvtiveness into the game. This time, his warmup wasn’t a precursor to his game performance.

“I had a horrible bullpen,” Francis said. “I almost hit Dexter [Fowler, the Rockies’ center fielder] in the knee. But how many times do we have a bullpen that’s brutal but it’s there in the game? I struck the first guy out, and it was a confidence-builder.

“I tried to do a lot of work on the mound, even without a ball, just trying to work on my mechanics. I’ll keep doing those things.”

Francis’ struggles against the Giants touched off worry among some Rockies fans, even though he and the club continued to say a lot can improve with game action. There is no concern about his health, and he has every confidence he can eventually approach his 2007 form. That was the year he won 17 games during the regular season and two in the playoffs.

“I always expect to get people out, and I didn’t do that very well lat time,” Francis said. “Obviously, I was looking for an improvement, but there was no panic from me,”

De La Rosa’s comfort shows in strong outing

It’s a completely different Spring Training for Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa.

Last year, manager Clint Hurdle named him a rotation member before the team reported to Tucson, Ariz., but De La Rosa pitched as if he wasn’t going to be there long. But after a bad spring and an 0-6 start, De La Rosa found his delivery and became a 16-game winner (16-9, 4.38 ERA).

He’s throwing like a big winner now.

De La Rosa breezed through three scoreless innings, with two strikeouts, a walk and a hit in a 5-4 victory over the Padres at Peoria, Ariz. His fastball, curve and change were sharp.

De La Rosa bounced among several teams before landing with the Rockies before the 2008 season and eventually becoming a solid rotation member. But De La Rosa hasn’t forgotten what it took to reach that.

“I feel like you have to be focused every time,” De La Rosa said. “To start feeling like a star, that’s not a good thing. I want to work like I have to make the team.”

De La Rosa said pitching coach Bob Apodaca painstakingly worked with him on his delivery balance until things came together last June. Now De La Rosa can self-correct.

“Now I know when things are wrong,” De La Rosa said. “I don’t get mad. I just focus on the things I’m doing. That’s why I make better adjustments.”

Deduno has Rockies considering the possibilities

Righty prospect Samuel Deduno, the Texas League Pitcher of the Year at Double-A Tulsa, held the D-backs to one unearned run and one hit in two innings, and struck out three, in Sunday’s 4-1 Rockies victory.

Having seen Deduno in an intrasquad game and now against the D-backs, facing mostly Major League regulars, Tracy is considering Deduno’s future.

Deduno has what has been called the best curveball of anyone in the Rockies’ organizations, Major Leagues included. But Sunday he showed more Sunday.

“I saw some bad swings at his fastball,” pitching coach Bob Apodaca noted.

Deduno also showed a changeup for a couple pitches, but right now it’s his No. 3 pitch.

Tracy mused Sunday that it’s possible Deduno’s future could be in relief, where he can use the fastball and curve and not have as much need for the changeup. Of course, it all depends on command — a career-long issue for Deduno, who missed 2008 because of elbow surgery but came back dominant.

Deduno is slated for the Triple-A Colorado Springs starting rotation to start the season, but at his age (27 on July 2) it’s hard to believe the Rockies won’t take the earliest opportunity to see what he can do. Tracy said maybe the bullpen is the best opportunity, given the nastiness of his pitches and the depth the Rockies have in their rotation.

“Where does he end up being best suited, and what is the most sensible thing for the young man as far as his career and where it is that he fits the best for the Colorado Rockies?” Tracy said. “It’s a combination of the two, because he has electric stuff.

“You have to allow this to grow and see how it goes. Is it later-in-the-game-type stuff if it ends up being in the bullpen? Absolutely. But the reliability comes into play. Are yout going to throw it over? If you’re going to walk them with nine outs or less to go in the game and we’re going to set the stage for the other team to beat us, that won’t work.”

Tracy said no decisions have been made, since the Rockies are waiting to see how Deduno completes his development.

“I like relieving, I like starting, anything — it doesn’t matter,” Deduno said.


Betancourt taking more time; Street improving

Rockies right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, who fell behind in his season preparation because of an illness, has suffered another slight setback — stiffness in his right shoulder.

Betancourt, the eighth-inning setup man, threw a live batting practice session on Wednesday but the shoulder tightened. He’s hoping to play catch on Saturday. No word on when he’ll be available for Cactus League action.

“We’re going to go on his timetable, not on our timetable,” Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said.

Rockies right-handed closer Huston Street, who also has experienced tightness in his right shoulder, has thrown on flat ground the last two days, will play catch Saturday and could throw from the mound on Sunday, Rockies head trainer Keith Dugger said.

Betancourt, Hawpe delay Cactus League debuts

Rockies right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt was scratched from his scheduled appearance in Thursday’s Cactus League opener against the D-backs at Tucson Electric Park. There isn’t an injury. It’s just that Betancourt lost three weeks of season preparation because of a virus.

Betancourt said he became ill just after Christmas, and didn’t work out until going to Denver for his preseason physical Jan. 19. He dropped about 10 pounds. After the visit to Denver, Betancourt went to Jacobs Field in Cleveland — he was with the Indians his entire Major League career until being traded to the Rockies last July — to continue season preparation.

There is no other physical issue, Betancourt said. But he wants to face hitters at least twice more before entering game competition.

“The first time I faced a hitter was Saturday,” Betancourt said. “I feel like I need a little bit more to be able to pitch in a game.

“I told the pitching coach [Bob Apodaca] I want to go step-by-step. If I pitch the first game, I don’t feel I’m doing that. It’s like I’m rushing everything. This is Spring Training. I have to be real smart.”

The Rockies will have left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa pitch two innings Thursday. Right-hander Jason Hammel is scheduled to start and throw two innings.

Also, right fielder Brad Hawpe reported that the infection in an ingrown toenail on his left foot has subsided to the point that he can begin baseball activities on Monday. Hawpe said it’s likely he will miss at least the first couple of days of Cactus League games, but he will be fine.

Time for the full squad

The Rockies will conduct their first full-squad workout on Friday at Hi Corbett Field. For fans planning to be in the Tucson area, Tracy will bring all of the players to the Minor League conference room for his preseason talk at 10 a.m. The players will take the field sometime between 10:45 and 11, and practice until 1:30 or 1:45 p.m.

Pitcher will throw “live batting practice” to hitters, meaning they’re throwing at full speed but will have a screen in front of them to protect them from line drives. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said the pitchers will be able to throw breaking and off-speed pitches, but he expects them to use about 85 percent fastballs.

Tracy is insisting that pitchers be more fastball-oriented. It’s not that they weren’t in the past. With Apodaca as pitching coach, there have been springs dedicated to commanding the pitch. But last season, Tracy saw some instances in which a fastball was needed but the hurler went with something else.

Notes: De La Rosa wants to stay

Here are some early Spring Training thoughts:

— Lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who led the Rockies in wins last season with 16, can become a free agent at season’s end. De La Rosa said his ambition is to have a strong year to earn the right to stay with Colorado. 

— Left-hander Jeff Francis not only is healthy after missing last year with shoulder problems, but he’s actually ahead of many of the other pitchers because of the intense offseason work. Francis faced hitters in the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago.

— Righty Greg Reynolds, the team’s top pick in the 2006 Draft, underwent surgery after the season to correct an issue with his labrum. Almost amazingly so, Reynolds is healthy enough to begin the spring without restrictions. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said Reynolds’ motion — which the club believes was at the root of his troubles — has cleaned up considerably.

— The Rockies will have 32 pitchers in camp. Righty Taylor Buchholz, who underwent Tommy John elbow ligament transfer surgery last season and hopes to return to the Majors in June, is the only pitcher not healthy enough to be a factor.

Apodaca said right-handed reliever Casey Weathers, the top pick in 2007, was not invited to Major League camp so he could have a little more time to make sure his elbow is healthy. Weathers missed last season because of Tommy John surgery.

— Lefty Christian Friedrich, the team’s top choice in 2008, said being invited to this camp gives him the opportunity to closely study Francis’ delivery.