Results tagged ‘ Christian Friedrich ’

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

Rockies Apodaca asked to be reassigned, MLB.com has learned

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

Rockies halt De La Rosa’s rehab because of left forearm tightness

The left forearm tightness that Rockies Jorge De La Rosa has experienced while working his way back from elbow surgery has led the team to halt his rehab assignment, the team announced Saturday.

Technically, the Rockies recalled De La Rosa from his 30-day rehab assignment, which would have expired on May 27 and would have had him targeted to start in the Manors against the Dodgers on June 2. De La Rosa is frozen for seven days, then can be placed on the DL for forearm tightness and begin a new 30-day window.

De La Rosa was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA when he underwent Tommy John surgery. In an odd pattern, De La Rosa experienced no tightness when he began throwing during extended spring training at the team’s complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was fine during two rehab starts at Class A Modesto. But De La Rosa’s first start at Double-A Tulsa on May 12 limited him to one inning. He threw four innings Thursday and experienced tightness at the end.

A frustrated De La Rosa at Coors Field on Saturday angrily threw his T-shirt at the end of a workout, but calmed down and said he understood.

“It’s very disappointing,” said De La Rosa, who would have started at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Tuesday. “I pitched good last time but I felt a little tightness. They want me to pitch more time in the Minors. I have to do whatever they want.

“I want to be here, but like they say, I need more time. I have to pitch more, build more pitches, to be ready to be here. They want to make sure everything is OK. It hasn’t been a year since I had the surgery. They know how hard it is.”

Had De La Rosa made the June 2 target date, he would have been back a year short of the date of last year’s surgery. But rarely does a comeback from Tommy John surgery go so smoothly.

“I still don’t think that this is any big thing,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “It’s just another avenue in the road that you have to go down as you’re recuperating.”

Going into the season, the Rockies were hoping for solid work from a relatively young rotation that would get a lift from De La Rosa’s return. Jeremy Guthrie, a veteran added during the winter, missed three starts in April and May with a shoulder injury. Jhoulys Chacin, expected to make major strides, tried to pitch through shoulder tightness, performed badly and hasn’t pitched in a game since May 1. Now on the disabled list, Chacin isn’t throwing because he needs to strengthen his shoulder.

For the Rockies to turn the corner after their 15-23 start going into Saturday’s game with the Mariners, much of the responsibility falls to three young pitchers, second-year righty Juan Nicasio and two rookies, righty Alex White and lefty Christian Friedrich, who was set to start Saturday. Guthrie and lefty Jamie Moyer are the staff’s veterans.

 

Chacin leads Rockies against Royals

Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin’s spring devoted to fastball command continues today as he starts for the Rockies, and most likely goes three innings, against the Royals at Surprise Stadium. Also, fast-working lefty Christian Friedrich will appear, on the heels of his two scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts against the D-backs five days ago. Friedrich entered camp as a darkhorse candidate for the starting rotation, and has been impressive.

Center fielder Dexter Fowler is the only clear starter in the lineup, but the game is a big one because several players seeking key reserve roles made the trip.

Rockies batting order

Eric Young Jr., LF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Charlie Blackmon, RF

Brandon Wood, SS

Nolan Arenado, 3B

Chad Tracy, 1B

Chris Nelson, 2B

Brendan Harris, DH

Wil Nieves, C

Rockies pitchers

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP

Christian Friedrich, LHP

Rex Brothers, LHP

Matt Belisle, RHP

Joe Gardner, RHP

Dustin Molleken, RHP

Stephen Dodson, RHP

Royals batting order

Alex Gordon, LF

Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Eric Hosmer, 1B

Billy Butler, DH

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Jeff Francoeur, RF

Lorenzo Cain, CF

Alcides Escobar, SS

Royals pitchers

Luis Mendoza, RHP

Joakim Soria, RHP

Sean O’Sullivan, RHP

Tim Collins, LHP

Noel Arguelles, LHP

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.

Prospects sent out for regular work

Left-hander Christian Friedrich, the Rockies top choice in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, warmed up a few times but never made it into a Cactus League game. The Rockies wanted the first big-league camp to be a learning experience, and it was all that. But now he can only learn with regular work and game action.

Friedrich was one of the first 16 players the Rockies sent to Minor League camp on Tuesday.

Here is the list:

Left-handed pitchers: Friedrich.

Right-handed pitchers: Alberto Alburquerque, Craig Baker, Juan Nicasio, Edgmer Escalona, Andrew Johnston, Chaz Roe, Andrew Graham and Shane Lindsay.

Catchers: Jordan Pacheco, Michael McKenry and Wilin Rosario.

Infielders: Darin Holcomb, Hector Gomez and Jeff Kindel.

Outfielders: Chris Frey.

Split-squad Sunday

The Rockies are playing at Hi Corbett Field and at Tucson Electric Park, against the D-backs in both games.

Here is the lineup fro the game at Hi Corbett:

Eric Young Jr., 2B

Clint Barmes, SS

Carlos Gonzalez, CF

Miguel Olivo, C

Melvin Mora, 3B

Michael Paulk, 1B

Cole Garner, RF

Jay Payton, LF

Aaron Cook, RHP

Here’s the rest of the pitching: RHP Samuel Deduno, LHP Christian Friedrich, RHP Manuel Corpas, LHP Randy Flores.

Here is the lineup for the game at TEP

Dexter Fowler, CF

Omar Quintanilla, 2B

Seth Smith, LF

Ryan Spilborghs, RF

Ian Stewart, 3B

Chris Iannetta, C

Hector Gomez, SS

Jeff Kindel, 1B

Franklin Morales, LHP

Here is the rest of the pitching schedule: RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Andrew Graham, RHP Juan Rincon, RHP Justin Speier, LHP Matt Reynolds.

 

Intrasquad lineups

Here are the lineups for today’s intrasquad game, which is starting late but will start shortly:

Away Team (wearing gray pants)

Eric Young Jr., LF

Hector Gomez, SS

Ian Stewart, 3B

Jeff Kindel, 1B

Chris Nelson, 2B

Paul Phillips, C

Cole Garner, RF

Chris Frey, CF

Mike McKenry, DH/C

Pitchers — Chaz Roe, Christian Friedrich, Edgmer Escalona, Craig Baker, Jimmy Gobble, Andrew Graham

 

Home Team, wearing white pants

Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Matt Miller, LF

Michael Paulk, RF

Jay Payton, CF

Paul Lo Duca, 1B

Darin Holcomb, 3B

Wilin Rosario, C

Jordan Pacheco, DH/C

Pitchers — Samuel Deduno, Juan Nicasio, Alberto Alburquerque, Shane Lindsay, Andrew Johnston

Chance to perform could be all wet

Rain forced the Rockies’ pitchers and hitters to work out indoors and under tents on Sunday morning. The veterans were knocked out of a chance to review game situations — manager Jim Tracy’s biggest emphasis this spring. But it could end up hurting the younger players more.

The Rockies have scheduled an intrasquad game for Monday. It’s designed as a chance for many of the younger pitchers, especially 2008 No. 1 Draft pick Christian Friedrich, and some recently-drafted players to perform in front of the big-league staff. It’s one thing to have reports and read stat sheets. But Tracy and his staff will have to see the players under game conditions to truly know what’s on the way.

However, because it so rarely rains in the desert, there isn’t a tarp at Hi Corbett Field. The infield has been taking a pounding all morning. No word yet on whether the intrasquad game will occur, but it doesn’t look good.

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.

 

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