Results tagged ‘ Jhoulys Chacin ’

Matt Belisle: Rag ball king

Rockies manager Jim Tracy presents Matt Belisle as Rag Ball King.jpgAs early as tee ball, coaches learn quickly that it’s a lot easier to teach when the drills are fun. It’s no different teaching the children-at-heart in the Majors.

So the Rockies have this drill to help pitchers develop their fielding that they call “rag ball smash.” A coach hits one-hoppers or line drives hard at a pitcher from close range. To keep from filling the disabled list, soft-cover balls are used.

Each day, they keep score, talk trash and generally laugh as they work. But manager Jim Tracy pointed out recently that a number of big fielding plays by pitchers last season were attributable to the reactions developed in the drill.

“You see a ball coming off the bat like that and you have to react to it,” Tracy said. “Obviously, it’s not a hard ball. But how many of those in-between-type comebackers have you seen where a guy flinches.

“How many two-out, man-on-second-base groundball base hits through the middle did we save last year? How many of those cases could have been a game-changing hit?”

Tracy brought the drill to the Rockies last season, when he helped organize Spring Training as bench coach under then-manager Clint Hurdle. Just before games began, he organized a tournament that right-handed prospect Jhoulys Chacin won. The team also includes clubhouse staff in the event. It’s a rollicking good time.

It was a great time for righty reliever Matt Belisle, who won this year’s championship — and took home the purple robe with $20 bills totaling $200 pinned to it — by catching 15 smashes in a row in the final. Lefty reliever Franklin Morales finished second by catching 13.

Belisle was all smiles.

“I think we have made it fun, and all the guys pretty much agree it does help,” Belisle said. “The genius is to incorporate some competition. That’s where we all come together and enjoy it.”

It would have been nice for Belisle to have been able to wear the championship robe to, say, dinner in Tucson. But after seeing him don it on the field, someone decided that it wouldn’t have been a good fashion statement for him to wear it anywhere else.

“I don’t know where my robe is,” he said. “That’s a good question.

“But I got the money, and I’m going to go find the robe.”

Murton makes his return

It appears outfielder Matt Murton finally gets what he deserves — a chance to stay in the Majors. All Murton has done is hit .324 with 27 doubles, 12 home runs and 79 RBIs at Triple-A Colorado Springs. At one point he set a Sky Sox record with a 29-game hit streak. But all that got him before now was two brief trips to the Majors.

Such is life when a team has a stacked outfield, the way the Rockies do. When the Rockies acquired him from the Athletics for infielder Cory Wimberly during the offseason, they figured part of Murton’s value was he had a Minor League option and could be sent up and down for roster purposes. That’s exactly what happened, even though Murton did well in Colorado Springs and decently in 22 games with the Rockies (.267, one home run, five doubles, six RBIs). But on Tuesday, Murton was one of four players from Colorado Springs to be called up for the final 24 games.

It’s not as if the Rockies are calling up Murton, infielder Mike McCoy and pitchers Matt Belisle and Jhoulys Chacin as rewards for a job well done. All could come into play in the final days. Murton had several big moments as a part-time player with the Cubs over the last several years. McCoy is valuable since starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is suffering from back spasms. With an expanded roster, having a couple of extra pitchers like Chacin — the team’s top prospect — and Bellisle around can’t hurt.

To keep the Major League roster below the 40-man limit, the Rockies made a couple of paperwork moves. By calling designating right-handed pitcher Adam Eaton for assignment and calling up infielder Chris Nelson but putting him on the 60-day disabled list, the club cleared the necessary spots so they could purchase the contracts of Belisle and McCoy.

For those interested, Murton (No. 14) and Chacin (45) will keep the same jersey numbers as they had in their earlier callups. McCoy will wear 18. Belisle returns wearing No. 34 after a trade with fellow righty reliever Matt Herges, who will wear 32. 

The value of knowing your role

We’ll see if Rafael Betancourt is the eighth-inning answer for the Rockies. But at least he knows the question, so to speak.

Betancourt, acquired from the Indians on Thursday for Minor League pitcher Connor Graham, joined the Rockies on Friday for the big series with the Giants. Beyond some TV footage and an Interleague series past, Rockies manager Jim Tracy knows little of Betancourt. But Tracy knows Betancourt knows what he needs to know to fill a primary setup man in place of Manuel Corpas, who underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Tracy said. “He’s going to make you beat him with the bat. This guy has never been a guy that creates opportunity for the other team by walking people. He’s a strike-thrower, throws very hard, and has all the things that are necessary.

“Being a strike-thrower, for me that’s the most important thing when you get down to the last six outs of the game.”

Betancourt, 34, who broke in with the Indians in 2003 and didn’t pitch for anyone else, sounded shocked after learning of the trade on Thursday. The blank stare was gone Friday. He was accepted within the expanding Venezuelan corner of the ballclub. He knew veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba and fellow relievers Juan Rincon and Franklin Morales already. It turns out young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and freshly called-up pitcher Jhoulys Chacin grew up within a bout a 10-minute radius of where Betancourt grew up.

And a look at the standings, with the Rockies a game ahead of the Giants in the National League Wild Card race and facing them in a three-game series starting Friday night, made Betancourt feel even more at home.

“It’s a weird feeling, the first time this has happened to me, but I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “All these years I’ve been watching trades that are made. it’s happened to me now. I always wondered how it feels to get traded to a team in the pennant race. It’s vey special.”

— The Rockies designated righty releiver Ryan Speier for assignment. Speier, who is out of Minor League options, was activated from the disabled list earlier this week but had not pitched. Speier said it was simply that a more experienced reliever was available.

The Rockies are hoping Speier clears waivers and can be assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

— Tracy said Corpas’ surgery went well enough that the team will wait two weeks to see how the elbow heals, then hopefully proceed with rehab.

Where are they headed?

Here are some of the Rockies’ decisions on where players will start 2009:

— Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin received consideration for Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he’ll start at Double-A Tulsa.

“There’s a factor involved — the weather,” Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson said. “It’s staying on a consistent routine. When you’re in Colorado Springs, you don’t know what you’re going to get.

“He’s got the talent [to pitch Triple-A], but, as we say, it’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. He has the ability to pitch at the Major League level. We just have to make sure we take care of him.”

— Catcher Michael McKenry showed some ability early in camp. With the possibility of Sal Fasano and Edwin Bellorin handling the catching at Colorado Springs, the Rockies believe Tulsa is the best place for McKenry.

“He’s a young kid still learning how to call games,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “I want us to take our time with our catchers as much as we can.”

— Right-handers Brandon Hynick, Greg Reynolds and Jason Hirsh look to be three-fifths of the Colorado Springs rotation. A possibility is lefty Greg Smith, if he’s healthy. Smith’s shoulder soreness has likely cost him a chance at the Major League rotation.

Gustafson said since being sent down early in camp, Hirsh has made progress. Hirsh missed the end of 2007 with a broken bone in his leg and as limited last season with a rotator cuff strain.

“He’s worked extremely hard and gone about his business the right way,” Gustafson said. “Good things are going to happen for him.”

— Reynolds, who struggled during two callups last season, is another work in progress.

“He’s got a few minor issues with his delivery that he should be able to correct,” Colorado Springs pitching coach Chuck Kniffin said. “I think his stride was getting out there a little too long the last two times he threw [in Major League spring games]. That makes it harder to get sink with his sinker. He needs to concentrate on the lower part of the zone, so when he misses he’ll miss down in the zone. He needs to stay ahead of hitters so he can pitch off the plate aggressively.”

Kniffin also said Reynolds should be able to use his curveball at different parts of the count.

Reynolds was the Rockies’ top pick in 2006, and missed the end of 2007 with a shoulder injury, so he needs experience.

Chacin makes most of big chance; Cook pitches

The magic of Rockies right-handed prospect Jhoulys Chacin’s impressive first Major League cmap has been treating every opponent like the Class-A hitters he dominated while winning 18 games last year. He even tried that Monday in his first start in a Cactus League game, against the D-backs. For the most part, he succeeded in treating it like any other game.

“I was excited because it was my first time starting a game, but I felt good and I was doing what I wanted to do,” Chacin said.

Chacin, 21. went three innings and gave up three runs on four hits. he was perfect in the first two innings, but found trouble after Chris Roberson’s leadoff hit in the third. Roberson’s chopper sailed high and Chacin, who probably should have let second baseman Omar Quintanilla make the play, lost the ball in the sun and couldn’t catch it in time to throw to first.

The only solid hit of the innning was Evan Frey’s two-run triple on the only pitch he said he wanted back.

But the inning ended with a nice memory, when he fanned Justin Upton swinging.

“When I’m pitching, I don’t see who’s hitting, so I try to make my pitch — the only thing i can control is making my pitch,” said Chacin, who forced some weak contact with his sinker and had an effective changeup. “But Upton, I wanted to face him. He’s a good hitter and he’s young, too.”

Veteran first baseman Todd Helton gave a whole-hearted endorsement of Chacin.

“I love him,” Helton said. “He kept the ball down, threw strikes. He was working ahead. He doesn’t get rattled when he gets guys on base. He’s easy to play behind.”

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the Rockies have not discussed whether Chacin will make another Major League start, but there was plenty to like about Monday.

“He wouldn’t have had the year he had last year if he didn’t have a feel for waht he did,” Hurdle said. “He’s being challenged at this level and we wanted to get him out there in a starting opportunity. You saw a kid that’s got good mound presence, can sink the ball.

“He got a little amped up when he had some runners on base, but he did fine today.”

The Rockies haven’t said where Chacin will begin the season, although other top prospects with his resume have started at Double-A Tulsa with the chance to move to Triple-A Colorado Springs or the Majors at some point during the season.

Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook, the No. 1 starter, pitched to a mix of Rockies Minor Leagues and went five innings, with four hits and four runs, three earned, two strikeouts and one walk. He threw 78 pitches.  

A meeting with the D-backs; Baker listed

The Rockies and D-backs meet today at Tucson Electric Park in what turns out to be a matchup of pitching prospects. Not wanting the D-backs to see No. 1 starter Aaron Cook, the Rockies will use their top mound prospect, righty Jhoulys Chacin. The D-backs also are going with a prospect, Cesar Valdez.

Cook is pitching in a 1 p.m. Minor League game at the Hi Corbett Field complex.

Interesting roster note: Infielder Jeff Baker, who has been limited to two games this spring because of an elbow issue, is on the Rockies’ travel roster. I’ll update if more information becomes available.

Here is the lineup:

Dexter Fowler         CF

Clint Barmes          SS

Todd Helton           1B

Ian Stewart            3B

Brad Hawpe           RF

Carlos Gonzalez     LF

Omar Quintanilla     2B

Paul Phillips            C

Jhoulys Chacin        P


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.

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.