Results tagged ‘ Rafael Betancourt ’

Monday’s Spring Training notes

It’s a time for excitement, but also a time for caution

 

Welcome to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Players are raving about the place. Reliever Huston Street told me before he arrived that he expected Monday to be “Christmas in February.” Well, after being there, stretching, tossing a football around, lifting weights, tossing the medicine ball and just walking around, he thought it was something more.

 

“It’s way more than that … I don’t know what this is,” Street said. “This is unbelievable.”

 

 And, no, Valentine’s Day wasn’t an adequate description.

 

Nonetheless, this is a workplace. Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said his biggest challenge is not convincing players to work in the lap of luxury. It’s not letting them overdo it when pitchers and catchers begin official workouts on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Last spring, key relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt suffered shoulder injuries early in camp. Street’s was because, in hoping to reach a new level, he wanted to throw with regular-season intensity from the first day. Betancourt’s injury occurred because he suffered an illness during the offseason and didn’t figure out what his arm was capable of until pain overtook him. Add to that left-handed starter Jeff Francis’ shoulder problems at the end of camp, and last spring was a failure in terms of having pitchers ready for the regular season.

 

That won’t be happening this spring.

 

Apodaca has a message for all his pitchers — one that numerous youth teams and coaches already working for their seasons, with children who don’t yet have facial hair or are getting peach fuzz, need to heed as well.

 

The first time out, and beyond, Rockies pitchers will throw a limited number of fastballs and a few changeups. The fastball is the main pitch they need, anyhow, so why take the risk with breaking stuff?

 

“That’s the first order of business every spring, to repeat the fastball, be comfortable with it,” Apodaca said. “When it goes astray, when I throw a scud, how do I get back to where I want to be?

 

“They can throw some changeups. [Matt] Lindstrom has really been working on his changeup. [Esmil] Rodgers has really been working on his changeup. It’s basically 80 percent fastballs, 20 percent changeups the first couple of times out, we’ll start throwing some breaking pitches. The fourth time, we’re going to bring them back a little bit, because their next time is going to be a batting practice.”

 

Apodaca said he realizes some pitchers have carried a heavier offseason workload than they’ll be asked to perform at the start of camp. But there will be no argument. It’s for the protection of the pitchers.

 

“This is always the most insecure time for me,” Apodaca said.

 

The gang’s almost all here

 

Most of the pitchers and catchers showed up at the complex, played catch and worked in the fitness center. One notably absent hurdler was left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, the No. 2 starter in the rotation. De La Rosa has an offseason home in the Phoenix area, but he went home to Mexico with his family and experienced visa issues trying to make it before Monday.

 

Players from outside the United States routinely experience delays, usually because of the time it takes to process the paperwork.

 

A fond goodbye to the Dominican Republic

 

Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last year, flew from the Dominican Republic to Phoenix on Friday, but not before leaving (in Spanish) a message to his country on a personal social media site. Here’s a translation:

 

“Goodbye my beloved land and my people, we are going to fight, God willing, with all our strength for the triumphs, we won’t be able to win every single time but sometimes you win by losing, so I hope you follow all of us Dominicans and send us a lot of blessings our way, I always carry my homeland in my heart and in my mind and I hope I can keep on making you feel proud.”

 

‘Tulo’ simply couldn’t wait

 

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been itching to play ever since signing his new, seven-year extension (which last through 2020) not long after last season ended. On Monday, he arranged to meet general manager Dan O’Dowd at the complex at 8 a.m.

By 7 a.m., Tulowitzki texted O’Dowd saying he had eaten breakfast and was already en route to the park.

 

“I was definitely anxious to get here – a new facility,” Tulowitzki said. “I woke up early, had that itch, wanted to get to the field, see all the fields, see the new locker room. Wow. Special facility. I’m glad I’m getting to enjoy it for a long time.”

 

The first full-squad workout is not until next Tuesday.

 

 

Rockies release Manuel Corpas

It’s been a rapid fall for onetime Rockies closer Manuel Corpas. In 2007, he was one of the key figures in the team’s unexpected run to the World Series. He was rewarded with a four-year, $8.025 million contract. But since then, inconsistency and injuries has derailed his career. Now word comes down that the Rockies have placed him on unconditional release waivers.

Corpas, who had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2009, underwent Tommy John ligament transfer surgery on his right elbow late in the 2010 season. It’s unclear if he was going to contribute to them at all in 2011.

The move was necessary from the Rockies’ standpoint. They can’t afford to tie up a spot on the 40-man Major League roster with a player who might not be able to contribute. They also have Huston Street as closer and several right-handed relievers to cover them late in games — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Manny Delcarmen, and Matt Daley, who is expected to make a full recovery from late-season shoulder problems. Still, it turns heads when the team says goodbye to a key member of a magical squad.

 

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.

Betancourt, Flores set to throw Tuesday

Right-hander Rafael Betancourt, hampered by right shoulder tightness much of this spring, is set to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday against the Padres at Hi Corbett Field. Also, left-hander Randy Flores is scheduled to make his return from a bruised left forearm he suffered last Wednesday when hit by a line drive.

Two catchers also are on the mend. Paul Lo Duca has begun playing catch. He has been bothered by a strain beneath his right arm. Catcher Paul Phillips began doing baseball activities over the weekend after being slowed by a calf strain. Third baseman Darin Holcomb, a prospect who has been sent to Minor League camp, has consulted with doctors about a lower back issue, manager Jim Tracy said.

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.

 

Betancourt ready to go after live batting practice session

Because of shoulder stiffness, right-handed setup man Rafael Betancourt hasn’t appeared in a Cactus League game, but that could change quickly.

Betancourt, who posted a 1.92 ERA for the Rockies after arriving in a trade with the Indians, zoomed his fastball at 92 mph during a live batting practice session at Hi Corbet Field on Satrday afternoon. Before the session, manager Jim Tracy said a Minor League game would be Betancourt’s follow-up step. But now Tracy believes Betancourt is ready to appear in a Cactus League game.

“I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be, but Rafael Betancourt, from what I understand, is pushing for that a little bit,” Tracy said.

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.

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.

 

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.

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