Results tagged ‘ Matt Belisle ’

Rockies pitching plan update

Rockies manager Jim Tracy tweaked the pitching plan for Saturday. Earlier, the plan was for right-hander Tim Redding to start in a Minor League game. But manager Jim Tracy said Redding instead will pitch in the Major League game in relief of a game with the White Sox, which Aaron Cook will start. Lefty Joe Beimel and and righty Matt Belisle are scheduled to pitch in the Minor League game. 

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.

De La Rosa getting early start; other notes

Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa is ready for 2010. And he’s in regular-season form almost 2 1/2 months earlier than last year.

De La Rosa held the Reds to one run — a first-inning leadoff home run by Drew Stubbs — in 5 1/3 innings of the Rockies’ 9-1 victory on Monday afternoon. De La Rosa struck out five, gave up three hits and walked one.

It’s a dramatic improvement from the struggles of last spring, when he went 2-2 with a 6.86 ERA in six starts. He followed that with an 0-6 start through April and May, but finished 16-9. Through five starts this spring, De La Rosa is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA, 16 strikeouts and four walks.

“I started slow last year but I always believed that we would have a good team,” De La Rosa said. “Now, I don’t put pressure on myself. Now I know you can’t put pressure on yourself. I’ve got to go out there, enjoy the game and throw strikes.”

Most significant about the outing was the Reds went with a lineup that conceivably could take the field on Opening Day.

“They’ve got a very good lineup,” De La Rosa said. “If I face them during the season, now I know more.”

Concern over whether De La Rosa would bounce back from something like the leadoff homer is old news. He doesn’t let that bother him. But manager Jim Tracy took time to appreciate how far De La Rosa has come.

“There was a time early last year when that would be a rallying point,” Tracy said. “You’re sitting there immediately after one hitter wondering where is this start going to go. He was just like, ‘Hey, give me anther ball. Let’s get back to work.'”

– Righty Manuel Corpas, who has been up and down for most of the spring, had a smooth seventh inning. he gave up a one-out, Juan Francisco single, but nothing else. Corpas fanned Wladimir Balentien to end the frame.

Tracy said he hasn’t given up on the idea of Corpas being in the closer mix. Left-hander Franklin Morales has pitched better, and he handled the role well when Huston Street was injured last September. Street will begin this season on the disabled list with shoulder tightness.

Tracy said he hasn’t committed to anything yet, and he doesn’t need to until closer to the season. Before making decisions, he wants to see consistency out of Corpas.

“There’s enough time left this spring where you hope there’s a leveling off, where we see a couple of more times like we just saw today,” Tracy said.

– Matt Belisle had his fifth scoreless appearance of the spring. Monday’s was significant because he had one day off after his previous outing. Belisle has been bothered by forearm stiffness, so pitching well with reduced risk is a positive development.

“I can still hear the ball,” Tracy said. “You hear what I said? I can still hear it coming out of his hand. I’ve seen the same guy the last three times out. ‘Here I am, coming after you, punding the zone.’ “

– Minor League infielder Brad Eldred homered twice on Monday, and has three homers in three Spring Training appearances.

Eldred played for Tracy with the Pirates a few years back, and provides depth in the corners.

“I’m familiar with him and his style, really like him a lot, and the experience I had for a short time a few years ago,” Eldred said. “Hopefully, we can get back together again.

“He told me before the game that I was going to play all nine. He said to make sure I get my swings in. I made the most of it.”

– Second baseman Clint Barmes knocked his second homer of the spring, a two-run shot in the third inning off Bronson Arroyo. Barmes is hitting .344 this spring.

– Infielder Chris Nelson, playing shortstop, made a diving catch of a line drive and fashioned a game-ending double play in the ninth inning. Nelson was sent to Minor League camp on Sunday but made the bus trip.

– Infielder Jonathan Herrera also made a diving catch at third base. After entering as a reserve, Herrera went 1-fof-1 with a double and a walk after entering as a reserve. Herrera, a non-roster invitee, is hitting .421 this spring, and has made good defensive plays in the infield and outfield.

– Catching prospect Jordan Pacheco knocked a three-run double in the seventh, and has driven in seven runs in seven games.

 

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. 

 

LoDuca OK after arm injury; lineups

Non-roster catcher Paul Lo Duca suffered an undetermined arm injury and had to leave Friday’s game against the Athletics, but he said he was OK Saturday morning.

“There was just a knot under my arm,” Lo Duca said. “I don’t know what it is.”

Lo Duca said he was sore, but didn’t expect the problem to linger.

Here is the Rockies’ lineup agianst the Angels:

Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Ryan Spilborghs, CF

Jason Giambi, 1B

Miguel Olivo, C

Brad Hawpe, RF

Melvin Mora, 3B

Seth Smith, LF

Clint Barmes, SS

Jeff Francis, LHP

Giambi and Hawpe are getting a coveted chance to see left-handed pitching — the Angels’ Scott Kazmir. The Rockies haven’t faced much of it. Spilborghs is getting a chance to play all three outfield positions this spring. Key relievers scheduled to participate are right-handers Matt Belisle and Justin Speier. Belisle has pitched well this spring, but forearm tightness has limited his appearances. Speier spent the last three seasons with the Angels.

Francis will be tested by an all right-handed lineup (that’s including switch-hitting leadoff man Macier Izturis). Here is the Angels lineup that Francis will face:

Macier Izturis, 2B

Jeff Mathis, C

Juan Rivera, RF

Brandon Wood, 3B

Robb Quinlan, LF

Terry Evans, CF

Freddy Sandoval, 1B

Gary Patchett, SS

Scott Kazmir, LHP

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.”

Hawpe to be tested

Rockies right-fielder Brad Hawpe, coming back from an infected ingrown toenail, was held out of outdoor running activities Monday because of the rain in Tucson, but he’ll be tested more aggressively on Tuesday, manager Jim Tracy said. He could return to action shortly thereafter.

Righty reliever Rafael Betancourt’s stiff right shoulder is improving, Tracy said, but he was held out of throwing activities for fear he could slip on the wet ground. Tracy added that righty reliever Matt Belisle is dealing with forearm tightness, a situation the Rockies worked through last season. Righty closer Huston Street, who threw a light bullpen on Sunday, will throw a full bullpen on Tuesday. 

Hurdle continues to shoot for the latter part of this week to give veteran first basemen Todd Helton and Jason Giambi their first Cactus League action.

Lineups for Monday; Street update

Here’s the Rockies’ lineup against the Padres at Peoria:

Eric Young Jr., 2B

Dexter Fowler, CF

Cole Garner, RF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Miguel Olivo, C

Michael Paulk, 1B

Jonathan Herrera, 3B

Jorge De La Rosa, LHP

Here’s the rest of the Rockies’ pitching schedule: RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Matt Daley, LHP Jimmy Gobble

In another development, well, there wasn’t much of one. Right-hander Huston Street threw a light bullpen session on Sunday that went well, but the true test of whether the stiffness and inflammation in his right shoulder is improving is how he feels the next day.

“I feel good … that’s it,” Street said Monday morning.

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.”

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