Results tagged ‘ Franklin Morales ’

Rockies acquire Lindstrom from Astros

The Rockies filled a key spot in their bullpen by acquiring right-hander Matt Lindstrom from the Astros. Full details will come soon.

Lindstrom, who turns 31 on Feb. 11, went 2-5 with a 4.39 ERA for the Astros last season. The Rockies attempted to acquire him in November, when they obtained righty Felipe Paulino from the Astros for second baseman Clint Barmes, but the clubs could not find a match.

Lindstrom is 10-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 249 relief appearances with the Marlins (2007-09) and the Astros (2010). According to media reports, the Astros were looking to deal the arbitration-eligible Lindstrom for payroll-management reasons.

Lindstrom, who has an offseason home in the Denver area, is a strike-thrower — 187 career strikeouts to 91 walks in 225 innings. He also has earned 43 career saves, including 23 for the Astros last season. Lindstrom began last season as the Astros’ closer, but he went to the disabled list with a back issue and never regained consistency. Lindstrom joins Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle as primary right-handed setup men.

A key reason for acquiring Lindstrom is for protection in case right-hander Huston Street is injured. Street missed the first 69 games of last season with a shoulder injury and suffered some setbacks during his rehab. Left-hander Franklin Morales, who is still with the club, struggled when replacing Street. Manuel Corpas, the Rockies’ one-time closer, had some success in the role but was released after the season.

The trade for Lindstrom also pushes the Rockies’ Major League roster to the limit of 40, which means they’ll need to either make all further signings Minor League contracts, or they’ll have to make a move to add someone on a Major League deal. The Rockies have acknowledged that they’re trying to re-sign left-handed starter Jeff Francis, their No. 1 pitcher before shoulder injuries marred his last two seasons, and left-handed reliever Joe Beimel.

 

A good stopping point …

– Saturday’s no-hitter by Ubaldo Jimenez against the Braves was the obvious high point, but Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Braves is a better illustration of where the Rockies stand. They didn’t do enough to win. Sometimes when this happens, they win, anyhow. Sunday, they didn’t.

Five hits from an offense that has been sporadic and 11 walks from pitching that has generally performed well were a recipe for disaster. Yet, the Rockies didn’t give the game away until closer Franklin Morales couldn’t throw strikes consistently in the ninth inning.

Sometimes things go wrong and they win. Sunday, many things went wrong and they almost won. Manager Jim Tracy has been noting all weekend that he ability to stay in or pull out games while not necessarily playing well is encouraging, since it means the club is capable of catching fire.

– The power and situational hitting have come and gone. The team hasn’t been consistently effective on the bases. Errors defensively have been a concern. Which area will begin to perform better first?

I believe the defense has become better. And defense is the one area that can turn hot and not cool. The Rockies made all the plays necessary behind Jimenez during the no-hitter, and performed well Sunday. Not making mistakes makes a team solid, and the Rockies are headed in that direction. The difference between solid and spectacular is taking advantage of chances the be spectacular, the way Dexter Fowler made plays behind Jimenez and the way Carlos Gonzalez did Sunday in throwing out Melky Cabrera at the plate from right field.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has made some highlight reel plays, but in other cases he’s almost made them. That should change. I also believe third baseman Ian Stewart, who has had some questionable throws, needs one or two eye-popping plays to settle him and make him more consistently.

– It may be too soon but I don’t think I’m out of line for wondering … How would the lineup perform with Stewart, a power threat, in the No. 3 position, and first Todd Helton in the No. 7 hole?

– I like the way right fielder Brad Hawpe has swung the bat. I also like the way the team is monitoring his playing time. For me, it comes to this unscientific explanation: Hawpe is a big, strong fellow whose body type may be more suited for first base than the outfield. His recent quadriceps injury occurred after a swing, but the place to watch him is in the outfield, especially when he has a lot of activity. Nagging aches are unavoidable, but keep them under control and he’ll produce from April to September. This is an underrated star. 

– Although Morales has had a rough patch, I like he way the bullpen has performed. It it can maintain some consistency, imagine how much stronger it should be when right-handers Huston Street and Taylor Buchholz return.

– The rotation has been solid. Three keys could take it beyond that. 1. Jason Hammel must find some consistency. It’s early, so it’s not time to panic. 2. Greg Smith has shown a capacity to make the pitch he needs to keep situations from becoming messy, but he’ll be better if he can throw well-located strikes early in counts. 3. Aaron Cook hasn’t found his sinker. I was left intrigued by his last outing, when he relied on breaking balls and gave the team a chance to win against the Mets. Will he reach a stage where he’ll dominate with the sinker for a number of outings in a row, or will a good percentage of his outings be ones where he has to be creative?

Hey, folks, these are more Monday morning thoughts, not super observations. Where do you think the Rockies are, and how can they be better?

Rox roster decision highlights worth of early games

Rockies manager Jim Tracy faced an interesting call: Do the Rockies open a season against a Brewers club that has slugger Prince Fielder and a full group of other guys who swing from the left with one less left-handed reliever than normal?

Tracy answered that question Sunday. Even with the need for one more lefty, Tracy decided it wasn’t worth risking Joe Beimel’s health.

Beimel signed a Minor League deal with the club March 23 and pitched all of three innings in Spring Training. Beimel felt he was ready. He worked out at a high school near his home in California. When he arrived, he showed more bite on his slider than at any point last year, and didn’t give up a run or a hit in his three games.

But Tracy couldn’t get past the fact it was three games.

So Beimel will go to Tucson, Ariz., and possibly begin the season in the Minors. It’s the Spring Training he didn’t have. Right-handed prospect Esmil Rogers will handle the long relief role, and the bullpen will have to make due with only setup man Randy Flores and closer Franklin Morales throwing form the left.

Tracy said Beimel won’t have thrown enough to be activated when the Rockies open the home schedule Friday against the Padres at Coors. Beimel would be a nice guy to have in these early series. Fielder is 1-for-8 career and Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez is 2-for-21 against Beimel.

But when it comes down to the manager weighing his health concerns against two early series, the decision is an easy one. We’re talking about a Rockies team that has gone to the playoffs two of the last three seasons by making stunning late-season runs.

Teams don’t make those when key components of the roster are needlessly pushed into potentially dangerous situations in April. The Rockies would like to perform better in the begining of the year, but not at that potential cost.

Plus, the roster has the flexibility to send Rogers down to Triple-A Colorado Springs once Beimel is ready. There’s no need to potentially lose a player the club needs when the roster move becomes necessary.

So this puts it all in perspective. It’s more important to not risk losing players, either to injury or off waivers, than it is to have a perfect Opening Day roster.

 

Rox’s Street hopes slowing down speeds recovery

Rockies closer Huston Street hopes slowing down now will speed up his recovery from right shoulder tightness.

 

Street has twice had his throwing program shut down because of continued inflammation and tightness. But Street said Thursday that he believes the plan of action that head athletic trainer Keith Dugger has given him will have him throwing next week without future delays in his return.

 

Street said the inflammation has cause muscles to shut down and weaken. The result is he has felt better at times, but after throwing the tightness has returned.

 

 “We fear if I ramp up the throwing, I’ll keep getting inflamed and it’ll be a long, circular process, so Dugger has me on a program to build it up,” Street said.

 

Street is on a program of exercise using cuff weights and manual exercises from muscles behind the shoulder. Once he has a solid base, he can add intensity at a high range, and return to throwing.

 

Street joined the Rockies in a trade with the Athletics before last season and converted 35-of-37 save opportunities. But he missed much of September with biceps tendinitis, and struggled with further shoulder problems throughout Spring Training. He will begin the season on the disabled list. Lefty Franklin Morales is the first option at closer, although manager Jim Tracy said he will use right-handers for certain matchups.

 

“I’ll start throwing, no set timetable, but I’m hoping by next week,” he said. “And we think because of the strengthening, it’ll move more quickly once I start.

 

“I get impatient and want to throw, but I have to trust them [the Rockies’ training and medical personnel]. The got me back healthy last year, and will again this year.”

Tracy will use Morales stragegically

More often than not, the Rockies want to use left-hander Franklin Morales as closer while Huston Street nurses a sore right shoulder, but manager Jim Tracy hasn’t declared that the job belongs to Morales.

 

Tracy said Monday that he won’t make such a statement, but there’s a strategic reasons to avoid saying that.

 

Tracy wanted to reserve the right to go to a right-hander in a save situation, even one when Morales is already in the game.

 

“If Frankie going to get opportunities to close games? Yes, he is,” Tracy said. “But am I going to sit here and make a statement where I’m leaving myself in a position to explain why I took him out? I’m not going to do that.

 

“I don’t know how far our starter is going to pitch. I don’t know how many guys he’s going to pitch beyond. If I’ve got a situation that makes more sense for a right-handed hitter to face in a given inning after he’s started it, I’m not going to put myself in that position and feel like I have to answer questions as to why Franklin Morales didn’t do the job. Maybe he did do the job, up to the point where I felt I needed to go to somebody else.”

 

Morales pitched a clean inning on Monday against the Rangers.

 

Bullpen the final big issue of spring

The bullpen race looks to be down to three, possibly four, pitchers for one spot.

Here’s how it looks, barring injury:

– Lefty Franklin Morales should be the closer, since Huston Street is going to begin the year on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

– With Morales closing, Randy Flores is the lone lefty in a setup role.

– Righties Rafael Betancourt, as long as his shoulder continues to respond, Matt Daley and Matt Belisle are locks. Belisle is out of options, but that shouldn’t matter. He has not given up a run all spring, and Daley has been perfect since two bad initial outings.

– Tentatively, count righty Manuel Corpas as one. He has been bad at times, but when he keeps the ball down in the zone he has been effective. Plus, manager Jim Tracy is considering him for end-of-the game duty alongside Morales.

All of this means non-roster right-handers Tim Redding, Juan Rincon and Justin Speier are vying for a job. With all of them under Minor League contracts, there is no roster issue forcing the Rockies’ hand.

The X-factor is lefty Joe Beimel, who agreed to a Minor League deal Monday night. General manager Dan O’Dowd said he does not expect Beimel to be ready for the opening of the season.

Redding began the spring as a starter, and is in postition to throw multiple innings.Speier’s forkball has been an effective pitch against right-handers and left-handers, which makes him a candidate to hold a job until Beimel is ready. Rincon, who has a save and a 1.29 ERA and .209 batting average against, has impressed scouts with his location.

O’Dowd: Beimel likely to start year in Minors

Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd announced Tuesday, “Johnny Cash showed up. He’s dressed in black, ready to go.”

O’Dowd was referring to left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who has agreed to a Minor League contract. As Beimel underwent his physical, O’Dowd said it was unlikely he’ll have time to be in Major League shape by the time the season starts on April 5.

“That might be what it turns out, but that’s not what we’re going into this for,” O’Dowd said. “I’m sure he’s going to think he’s going to be ready, but we’re not going to rush that at all.”

Beimel signed with the National last March 18 and made his first appearance on April 7. But that was a different situation.

“We’re trying to win a World Series,” O’Dowd said. “We’re not just trying to get a Major League pitcher. He has to be right to help us. We’ll put him in the best position to help our club and help himself.

“Joe had other options. I think he really wanted to come here.”

If Beimel begins in the Minors, the bullpen could be a short from the left side, especially if lefty Franklin Morales is the closer. Randy Flores, who returns today from six days off after being hit with a line drive, would be the only lefty setup man.

Flores’ injury highlighted how thin the Rockies were in left-handed relievers. After him, the only healthy lefty reliever in camp was Matt Reynolds, who hasn’t piched above Double-A. Now the Rockies are leaning toward giving Reynolds as much experience as possible in camp, but only taking him to start the season in the case of an emergency.

Sunday’s game: Another look at Justin Speier

The Rockies are playing the Royals at Surprise, Ariz., Sunday afternoon. Righty prospect Jhoulys Chacin is the starting piutcher, but the key development will come later in the game when righty Justin Speier pitches.

Speier, a non-roster invitee, has built a career on preventing inherited runners from scoring, which is a plus. Where he could make the Rockies team, though, is with his abilty to stop left-handed hitters as well as right-handers.

Over the course of his career, right-handers and left-handers have each batted .240 against him. Things change when he slumps, as evidenced by lefties’ .328 average against him last year before the Angels released him in August. However, he has thrown well for most of his appearances in the Cactus League.

After a clean ninth inning with two strikeouts, and a win, in Saturday’s 11-10 victory over the Angels, Speier will pitch on consecutive days. It’s a major test.

“One thing that you know you’re going to get with Justin is that you’re going to get somebody who’s going to work very, very quick, and is gong to fill up the strike zone,” Speier said. “When he gets in trouble, pitches get too quick and they get very rotational and get flat. They’re in the zone, but they’re in the flat variety.

 

“But when he focuses on each and every pitch, and has total focus on it, he gets better plane on his pitches. He has that forkball that is effective versus lefties and righties. That’s a pitch that nobody else possesses that we have, that type of forkball. Justin is also a guy that we’re not overlooking.”

 

Lefty Randy Flores, who is expected to be one of the bullpen lefties, is throwing a bullpen session Sunday. He has been on lower activity since suffering a bruised left forearam when he was hit with a line drive during Wednesday’s game against the Indians. With Franklin Morales likely to fill in as closer for the injured Huston Street (shoulder stiffness) when the season begins, the Rockies want to pair Flores with another pitcher adept at facing dangerous left-handed batters.

 

Matt Reynolds, who hasn’t pitched above Double-A but is impressing the staff with his tenacity in camp, is getting a long look. But someone like Speier could reduce the pressure to have another lefty, or, if Reynolds makes it, give the Rockies a more experienced option late in games.

 

Apodaca said the plan is to see all the Rockies relievers on consecutive days, although righty setup man Rafael Betancourt, who is coming back from shoulder tightness, and righty Matt Belisle, who has pitched well but has had to deal with forearm tightness after his appearances, might not do back-to-backs this spring.

 

Rox Notes: Matt Reynolds getting long look

Left-hander Matt Reynolds hasn’t pitched above Double-A Tulsa, but he has a 2.65 ERA since being drafted in the 20th round out of Austin Peay in 2007 and is coming off a strong performance in the 2009 Arizona Fall League.

Now he’s squarely on the big-league radar.

Left-hander Franklin Morales is expected to be the closer, which means the Rockies will need another lefty alongside Randy Flores, who appears OK after taking a line drive off his left forearm on Wednesday.

Given Reynolds’ pro experience and the fact it’s his first big-league camp, the expectation would be he would return to Tulsa or go to Triple-A Colorado Springs if he pitches well this spring. But given the role available, manager Jim Tracy is looking at him as a candidate.

“Is he a candidate? Yes, he is,” Tracy said. “Will we do that? I don’t know. I’m not going to answer that question today.

“A lot of things depend upon where our bullpen scenario goes over the course of the next 10-12 days.”

It makes sense. More-experienced lefties will be available, but they’re more costly. The Rockies will have to determine if they are or are not more talented than Reynolds. The Rockies’ other experienced lefty, non-roster invitee Jimmy Gobble, is trying to return from a right groin strain. He has continued throwing, but it isn’t certain when he’ll return to game action.

Tracy used Reynolds for two innings of Saturday’s 11-10 Cactus League victory over the Angels.

Of particular interest to Tracy was Reynolds’ reaction to Juan Rivera’s leadoff homer on a 2-0 pitch in the seventh, which put the Rockies behind, 7-6. Reynolds worked Brandon Wood into a fly ball, and fanned Robb Quinlan and Terry Evans.

“What happens after the home run is hit?” Tracy said. “Do we get tentative, start spraying them all over and start avoiding the bat, or do we keep going after it. He continued to go after the bat. That’ s an encouraging sign as far as I’m concerned.”

The homer was the only hit off Reynolds. He struck out two and walked one.

– The Rockies optioned right-hander Esmil Rogers to Minor League camp. Rogers made one big-league appearance last season, but is considered part of the club’s rich pitching depth.

– Righty Matt Belisle vanquished the Angels on a groundball and two fly balls in his lone inning, and has had four scoreless appearances covering five innings.

Tracy used Belisle in significant situations last September and used him in the National League Division Series against the Phillies. The only limitation Tracy faces is how often he can use Belisle, who has periodic bouts with forearm tightness after his appearances.

Belisle went up and down between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs last year. His issue, a lack of aggressiveness, didn’t show up during his last callup. he has continued to attack, saying pitching when it really counted helped his confidence.

“That just poured gasoline on the fire,” Belisle said. 

 

Bruised Flores arm has Rox crossing fingers

On a day when the Rockies were going to Plan B in the bullpen, they received yet another possible blow. Left-hander Randy Flores took a line drive off his throwing forearm during Wednesday afternoon’s 6-3 victory over the Indians. The arm swelled immediately.

Flores and the club hope ice through the evening and night will reduce the swelling. If not, Flores will need an MRI and the Rockies might be looking at Plan C.

Early Monday, the Rockies decided to send closer Huston Street for an MRI on his right shoulder because of persistent tightness and inflammation. If that injury forces left-hander Franklin Morales to fill in as closer for more than a short period, the Rockies will have to settle on a lefty to join Flores for specialist duty.

They don’t need a Flores injury.

But with two out in the seventh, the Indians’ Chris Gimenez lined a pitch to the box. Flores could not knock the ball down. It caromed off the forearm toward third base, where Ian Stewart fielded the ball and threw for the final out of the inning.

The arm expanded before Flores even made it to the dugout. At least since then, the news has been positive.

“When I came in, they did the test to indicate if it was broken — if I shrieked or something — and I passed,” Flores said. “It basically feels like a monkey bump, times 100. But it got a lot of meat.”

Flores signed a Minor League contract with the Rockies before last spring. He was coming off shoulder surgery, however, and spent most of last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Flores pitched well enough last September (0-1, 4.91 ERA in 10 appearances) to earn a new, one-year contract worth $650,000.

This spring, Flores has no record and a 3.86 ERA in five appearances.

“It is noticeably different the way the ball is coming out of his hand versus where we were at with him at this point in time a year ago in the spring, not even close,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “That’s how much better he is.”

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