Results tagged ‘ Jim Tracy ’

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.”

Smith has solid numbers, but work to do

Rockies left-hander Greg Smith’s presence means the Rockies have starting rotation depth. His performance in Cactus League play has been far better than one would expect from a depth guy.

 

Smith held the Athletics to one run and three hits in five innings of Friday’s 10-4 Rockies victory. He also struck out six, and had his third successful pickoff of the spring.

 

Still, it would take some misfortune on someone’s behalf for him to make the team to start the season, since the Rockies have five starters.

 

Since Smith underwent elbow surgery after a promising rookie season with the Athletics in 2008 and didn’t pitch in the Majors last year because of shoulder and back ailments, he isn’t being considered for bullpen duty. That means he most likely will begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

 

“They haven’t said a word to me, so my next step is work out tomorrow,” Smith said. “I’m whatever they tell me, whenever they tell me.”

 

Rather than be concerned about that, Smith is trying to continue his development. On Friday, he was behind in the count more than manager Jim Tracy would have liked, and didn’t spot his pitches to his glove side the way he wanted. He also was kicking himself for not successfully placing a bunt in his second at-bat.

 

Nonetheless, Smith’s 1.93 ERA matches the sparkling ones posted by confirmed rotation members Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel.

 

“I wish it was a year earlier,” said Smith, who barely participated in Spring Training because of the flu and shoulder tightness. “But you learn a couple things being hurt. You learn what you should have done, what you should do, what to fix. This year was all about being healthy. I think I’ve made that step.”

 

Tracy said Smith was passable, but could be better.

 

“‘Smitty’ got ‘em out but he got them out dealing with a lot of hitter’s counts,” Tracy said. “He seems to be one of those types of craftsmen where he seems to always have one more pitch.

 

“Yet, I know that from an effectiveness standpoint, it will be difficult for him to go out there and pitch every fifth day, and pitch from behind.”

 

– Right-hander Tim Redding gave up two runs on three hits, including a triple and a double, in his one inning. Redding had competed for the rotation, but it was his first appearance after being converted to bullpen duty.

 

Tracy said part of it was just getting used to a new role. Redding attacked hitters well but didn’t locate payoff pitches.

 

“He threw his strikes, he got through his inning, and we’ll realize the fact that it was the first time we brought him out of the bullpen, then we’ll see what the follow up is,” Tracy said.

 

– Righty Manuel Corpas had two outs in his inning, but gave up a Daric Barton home run.

 

“Corpas was down,” Tracy said. “He did give up the home run to Barton. It was a sinker that didn’t sink enough.

 

“I wanted to see him get the ball down, and that’s what he did today.”

Cook to face Minor Leaguers Sunday; Smith gets Friday start

Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook’s search for the proper release point on his sinker will take him to the Minor League complex at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday.

 

Cook will start in a Minor League game, rather than go to Surprise, Ariz., for the game against the Royals. Righty prospect Jhoulys Chacin will start in Cook’s place.

 

Cook is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in three starts. His last two have been particularly bad, with balls either missing the strike zone entirely or left in poor locations. The issue is the ball isn’t leaving his hand at a consistent point.

 

Cook still will throw the same number of pitches, although the Rockies would like for him to let those carry him for five innings rather than the 2 2/3 and 3 that he pitched his last two times on the mound. But manager Jim Tracy said the setting will better allow Cook to regain the form that has led him to a franchise-high 59 career wins.

 

“Just put him in what we would consider to be a less-stressful environment,” Tracy said. “Just give him an opportunity to bear down mentally and focus on making pitches.

 

“It really doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned as far as who’s standing at home plate with him. We’ve got to get him to the point where we see the sinker going down — the sinker going down in a good spot.”

 

Tracy also announced that projected Opening Day starter Ubaldo Jimenez will pitch in the Minor League game on Friday, and left-hander Greg Smith will attempt to continue his impressive spring in the game at Hi Corbett Field against the Athletics.

 

Smith (1-0, 2.00 ERA this spring) was expected to compete for a rotation spot last year, after arriving in a trade with the Athletics, but he pitched a limited number of Minor League innings because of back and shoulder issues. Tracy has scheduled Smith for five innings.

 

“We know Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching Opening Day,” Tracy said. “There’s nothing else I can tell you. In the case of Greg Smith, we’re talking about a guy who did not compete last year. I want him facing as good a grade of hitters as we can possibly get him up against.”

Flores bruised, Betancourt fine after throwing

X-rays on Thursday confirmed that Rockies left-hander Randy Flores has a bruised left forearm. He was hit by a line drive during Wednesday’s game against the Indians.

Righty setup man Rafael Betancourt, who has not pitched in a Cactus League game because of shoulder tightness, reported fine after facing hitters for 25 pitches on Wednesday. He’s in line for a simulated game Saturday, and could be involved in Minor League games next week.

The Rockies are awaiting MRI rsults on the sore right shoulder of closer Huston Street and the left knee of non-roster infielder Omar Quintanilla. The tightness and the interruption of preparation likely means Street will begin the year on the disabled list, but manager Jim Tracy said he is maintaining hope that the damage is not extensive and Street will not be out for long.

Notes: Redding gets chance to make Rox’s bullpen

Rockies manager Jim Tracy informed non-roster right-hander Tim Redding on Wednesday that his best opportunity to break camp with the Major League squad is in the bullpen. Tracy said he’ll use Redding accordingly for the rest of Spring Training.

The decision was expected. The Rockies came to camp with five starters. As long as they performed, the only opening would be because of an injury.

Tracy wanted to act now, since he needs to see how Redding bounces back between outings. It isn’t clear whether Tracy will use Redding in short stints or to go through the lineup at least once. That’s part of what Tracy wants to see.

Tracy said he didn’t guarantee Redding a spot. But the chance is there. That chance was enhanced Wednesday when closer Huston Street announced that he was having an MRI to diagnose his right shoulder tightness. The development means Street is likely to begin the year on the disabled list, which will cause a shuffling of bullpen members.

“We’ve got plenty of days left to pitch him, sit him down, get him back up after a day off, see what the stuff looks like, and eventually get him up to the point where we see can he go a couple of days in a row,” Tracy said.

In other developments:

– Tracy will allow right fielder Brad Hawpe to play some first base in Minor League games and plans to use utility man Melvin Mora at first in Cactus League games.

This is a contingency plan. The club has Jason Giambi to step in when Todd Helton needs a rest. But if Helton is injured for a long period, Tracy said he does not want to wear out Giambi. Last season, Giambi was forced into daily duty with the Athletics because of injury and saw his batting average drop to .193 before he was released.

Mora took groundballs at first base on Wednesday. Tracy said he wants to make sure Hawpe is comfortable at first base before counting on that as a possibility. 

– Veterans tend to avoid the bus trips to the Phoenix area, but Giambi will go with the squad to Peoria, Ariz., for Thursday’s game against the Mariners.

– Giambi, Helton, Hawpe and center fielder Dexter Fowler also are candidates to hit in Minor League games. The Rockies have not faced a large number of left-handed pitchers, so Minor League games serve as opportunities for at-bats.

– Righty reliever Matt Belisle threw a perfect inning with a strikeout against the Indians, and has four scoreless innings in three games. Tracy said Belisle is in “attack mode, with some overwhelming stuff.”

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.”

Betancourt’s session brings sunshine

The Rockies’ clubhouse needed a smile on Wednesday, and right-hander Rafael Betancourt provided it.

It wasn’t as if folks were giving up because Huston Street’s shoulder problems now require an MRI and most likely will force him to the disabled list to start the season. But it’s always good to have good news. That was what Betancourt’s throwing session turned out to be.

Betancourt threw a 25-pitch “live” batting practice session against Eric Young Jr., and a couple other hitters.

“I like the way the ball was coming out of my hand, and that’s what I was looking for,” Betancourt said.

Manager Jim Tracy said Betancourt, who avoided arbitration with a two-year, $7.55 million contract during the winter, will not be a candidate to fill in for Street as closer.

“This man has been signed up here to be a setup man, and he is unbelievable at that,” Tracy said.

Betancourt said, “I just let Jim Tracy make a decision. I want to be in a spot to help the team win. I don’t care where it is.”

Betancourt hopes to throw a simulated game on Friday and make his Cactus League debut next week.

Corpas teeters, Morales thrives in back-to-back

One of the priorities of the final weeks of Spring Training is to work the relief pitchers on a regular season-like schedule, meaning asking them to work on consecutive days.

Right-hander Manuel Corpas pitched a clean inning Monday, with three straight groundball outs against the Cubs. On Tuesday against the White Sox, Corpas didn’t crumble but his inconsistency continued.

Corpas hit leadoff man Carlos Quentin with a 1-2 pitch. An error on second baseman Eric Young Jr. didn’t help. Corpas gave up a two-strike single to Alejandro De Aza to load the bases. Rockies left fielder Ryan Spilborghs bailed him out by grabbing a Mark Kotsay fly ball and cutting down a runner at the plate.

Corpas kept the inning scoreless by forcing Alexi Ramirez to ground to third, but manager Jim Tracy wanted more sharpness on a more regular basis.

“We saw him real good yesterday because the ball was back down there [low in the strike zone] where it belongs,” Corpas said. “Today, when the ball was down there where it belonged, Manny Corpas was successful.

“However, what we also have to realize is we look along the lines of a guy like this toward the back end of the game, you don’t have a great room for error. These are things that in late-inning situations, you want to know that is a rarity.”

Tracy said Corpas’ history of success works in his favor.

Morales struck out one during a perfect inning against the Cubs on Tuesday. he piched around a single in a scoreless inning on Tuesday against the White Sox.

“Frankie had some explosive fastballs today, and Frankie threw a couple of really good breaking balls — sharp, tight breaking balls,” Tracy said.

Infielder Omar Quintanilla fouled a pitch off his right foot and left the game with a knee injury after a collision at second base. Tracy said the Rockies will observe him Wednesday morning.

Right-hander Huston Street, hoping to appear in his first game after battling shoulder tightness, said he is ready for action this week. Tracy said he has not decided whether he’ll appear Wednesday or Thursday. Righty reliever Rafael Betancourt will throw a live batting practice session as his next step toward being ready for game action. Betancourt also suffered shoulder tightness early in camp.

 

Redding hoping to change for Rockies

Tim Redding (Ed Andrieski, The Associated Press).jpgRight-hander Tim Redding, trying to make the Rockies as a non-roster invitee (either as a starter or a reliever), threw three perfect innings in Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to the Royals.

Knowing that the Rockies have one of baseball’s best defenses, Redding is trying to take advantage.

“My whole goal this Spring Training is to see how many times I can get the ball hit on the ground,” said Redding, who forced four groundouts but also was on the mound for two infield errors. “I’m not a notorious groundball guy, but I’m not a straight flyball guy. But I’ve pitched in Denver before, and the more I get the ball on the ground and keep it on the ground, the less damage is going to be done.

“If I keep the ball down, they can still hit it in the air but they’re not going to hit it with a lot of power behind it.”

In the second of Redding’s innings, though, he struck out the side. Was that part of his reinvention plan?

“I haven’t struck out the side in an inning of any kind in a long time,” he said. “That felt kind of good. I was like, ‘What the heck just happened?’”

In other developments — Righty reliever Manuel Corpas gave up a run in one inning of relief, but manager Jim Tracy said he kept the ball down in the strike zone for all but one pitch. … Utility man Jonathan Herrera, an infielder by trade who also is working in the outfield, made a diving catch of a line drive in right field.

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,”

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