Results tagged ‘ Rex Brothers ’

How far are the Rockies from contending? The offseason strategy depends on their answer

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

New general manager Jeff Bridich, manager Walt Weiss and the front office he has put together are making quick work of assessing the Rockies’ roster. With the general managers meetings starting Monday in Phoenix, they must be prepared for talks with other clubs and negotiations with potential free agents.

I have no money for free agents. My front office staff consists of the birds and squirrels running around the neighborhood. So I’ll take some time to dig through the roster and bounce the ideas off you, the fans. Feel free to spend your lunch break (well, your work time, but we’ll keep that between us) walking through the tough Rockies questions with me.

Feel free to comment on Twitter: @harding_at_mlb

WARNING: There’s a lot here. The squirrels and birds crunched numbers and presented many scenarios. They’ve got a future in management.

Let’s look at the key question.

What type of pitching do the Rockies need to contend now and in the future?

Their last two playoff appearances could offer guidelines.

The Rockies went to the 2007 World Series based on pitching depth. They lost three of their five starters in August, and changed closers during the season, but developed and acquired good enough parts to stay in the race and win the National League Wild Card.

In 2009, they earned the NL Wild Card based on health and quality — five guys made all but eight starts, which mean they were whole enough and good enough to keep taking the ball. There was enough bullpen strength to withstand second-half injuries to lefty Alan Embree and closer Huston Street.

So, as trade rumors fly, it all comes back to the question: How close is Rockies’ pitching staff to the depth of 2007 and the quality of 2009?

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

That explains why the Rockies are listening to offers, not only for veteran first baseman Justin Morneau but for the very top guys on their payroll, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

Let’s look at the rotation as it stands as the Rockies attempt to leap from 66-96 to contentions in the NL West:

• Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is the clear leader.  He’s by no means the equal of the front of the rotations of the defending NL West champion Dodgers or the World Series champ Giants, but not many folks can say they’ve thrived at Coors the way De La Rosa has.

• Righty Jhoulys Chacin saw his 2014 limited to 11 starts by issues with his rotator cuff and labrum. Chacin, the club and doctors decided on rehab and strengthening rather than surgery. Success of the decision will depend on the effectiveness of his rehab, diligent maintenance and, to some degree, good fortune. Not impossible, but it’s a lot.

• Righty Jordan Lyles and lefty Tyler Matzek, each 24, showed ability in their first seasons in Purple Pinstripes. Lyles went in with big-league time with the Astros. Matzek was making his debut. Can they go from developing talents to stalwarts? Once again, it’s asking a lot, but it’s not impossible.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

• Beyond those four, there are options but none that compare to the competition. Righty Christian Bergman has more heart than stuff, but is promising because of his brainpower and competitiveness. The prospects behind him all have questions. Righty Eddie Butler’s debut year was spoiled by shoulder pain. Righty prospect Jon Gray is coming off his first full pro season, and the Rockies were careful with him because of fatigue at the end. Lefty prospect Tyler Anderson finished the year with an elbow issue that he’s trying to rehab over the winter.

Now, let’s look at the bullpen:

• Ageless LaTroy Hawkins returns as closer. With no big changes, it’s the same plan as last year – hope another option develops so Hawkins can pitch earlier in games.

• Righty Adam Ottavino overcame a month of struggles impressively enough last season that the Rockies see a bright future. There’s still the need to improve against left-handed hitters. Who knows? Maybe if he finds the magic against lefties, he could slide into the ninth inning.

• Lefty Rex Brothers went from a dazzling year in 2013 to a simply awful one in 2014. Part o the problem was the workload that fell to him when lefty Boone Logan was hampered by elbow issues throughout the first year of his three-year contract. The Rockies need rebounds from both.

• Righty Tommy Kahnle stuck out the full year as a Rule 5 Draft pick and showed a workable fastball-changeup mix. He’ll need to take this year’s experience and show greater savvy to earn an increased role.

• Beyond that are guys trying to establish themselves. Righty Brooks Brown’s control and ability to change speeds during his callups put him ahead of many pitchers who were on the staff the full year. The Rockies also hope for progress righty Juan Nicasio and lefty Christian Friedrich, who struggled as starters and were moved to the bullpen.

Weigh the dependable parts, the hopefuls and the holes, and you get a pitching staff that needs several quality pitchers in the rotation and the bullpen. Given that, how possible is it for the Rockies to contend in 2015? Are they prepared if they don’t content?

There are many ways to construe the Rockies' $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

There are many ways to construe the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

A fine piece yesterday from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs suggests that extending the $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer could be construed as part of rebuilding rather than an attempt to hold the current lineup together. Cuddyer gets a nice payday, and if the Rockies are struggling at the deadline he could be dealt.

But these are the Major Leagues, where the majority of teams are in position to at least dream at the deadline. While there is a future to contend with, I and the wildlife outside my door want the Rockies to have a fighting chance in the present.

So here are some questions:

•Say the Rockies hold a strong lineup together and hold onto their big multi-year contracts, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. They could hope to receive a solid veteran for the starting rotation for Morneau. Then they could go bargain hunting via free agency for another starter – say righty Justin Masterson, who is trying to rebuild his value after a rough 2014, or lefty Brett Anderson or righty Aaron Harang, who have proven ability but questionable health histories.

•Say the Rockies push hard to deal Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Both are coming off shortened seasons because of surgeries, which might give other teams pause. The Rockies have said they will listen, and have given indications that clubs would have to make offers based on the players if healthy. Can they expect to receive star players who can rebuild the team?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

•Let’s say the Rockies seek immediate payroll relief, rather than star-for-star deals or situations where they’re eating huge portions of the salaries of Tulowitkzi and Gonzalez. This is where the dreams get big.

With the money saved, maybe they can’t land any of the big three free-agent starters — James Shields, Max Scherzer or Jon Lester — and second-tier starters such as Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy could be risky propositions at Coors Field. But how about catcher Russell Martin, who could have strong offense at Coors and help the young starters? How about a big offer to righty reliever Andrew Miller, who could be the closer immediately? Righty setup Luke Gregerson pitched for the Athletics last year, but he has a long history in the NL West based on his days with the Padres.

All this leaves the Rockies with tough decisions.

The feeling has been they want one more run with their lineup core, only with some pitching added. They will have to believe they can acquire enough pitching through dealing not just Morneau but two arbitration-eligible chips – catcher Wilin Rosario, who could be a fit as a catcher-designated hitter in the American League, and outfielder Drew Stubbs, who recaptured some of his run-producing potential with the Rockies.

To succeed, such a plan has to have the Rockies stay healthy in the rotation, contend enough to be able to make trades at next summer’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and finish the year with a roster and payroll capable of succeeding in future years.

All this makes the big trade sounds attractive, but there are risks.

Any deal involving Tulowitzki or Gonzalez would leave a big hole. When healthy, they not only are All-Stars and offensive threats, but they’re Gold Glove Award types. Also, if the Rockies don’t eat salary, the return might be less than if they were more willing in that regard. They’d have to count on any position player having his stats enhanced at Coors Field, and any young pitcher being an immediate help — an iffy proposition, based on history.

Should the Rockies take the plunge and deal Tulowitkzi or Gonzalez, or both, they key is not stopping there. Some of the players who come in a trade may have to be spun to other teams, especially if they use hitting prospects they receive to pull in pitchers.

– Thomas Harding

Ready or not, Rockies’ Brothers must be right as he faces Dodgers

After a slump of about a week and a half, Rockies left-handed relief pitcher Rex Brothers appears to be in better sorts. In his last three appearances, he has thrown three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, two hits and no walks.

Brothers will need to be at top form with the Dodgers invading Coors Field on Monday night for the opener of a three-game series.

Leading the Dodgers, whose 16-6 record matches 1981 for tthe best start in franchise history, is Matt Kemp, who has a franchise-record 11 April homers and is the early frontrunner for National League Most Valuable Player. In tight, late situations, manager Jim Tracy will not let Kemp beat the Rockes.

In close, late situations, expect Tracy to walk Kemp and let Brothers face Andre Ethier, who is no slouch with five home runs and 24 RBIs — which ties him with memp for the National League lead. Still, that left-on-left matchup is one the Rockies would rather have.

“The deal with Rex Brothers yesterday was to get him right or get him much closer,” Tracy said. “As a matter of fact, he might be there, but monitoring every pitch that he threw yesterday to make sure that there’s availability for this specific situation.”

When Tracy managed the Dodgers a few years back, Kemp was a top Minor League prospect who impressed him during some Spring Training cameo appearances. Kemp went through a difficult 2010 season, but last year he realized his potential and finished second to the Brewers’ Ryan Braun in National League Most Valuable Player voting. Tracy said Kemp should be proud of his growth.

“I tip my cap to the guy,” Tracy said. “When you have young kids that hang on everything that goes on at the Major League level and have an opportunity to identify with a player like this, both character-wise and physically, that’s refreshing.”

Tracy rested right fielder Michael Cuddyer for just the second time this season. Tyler Colvin started in right field. The lineup also has Jonathan Herrera hitting second and playing third base, because Tracy wants to give Chris Nelson a day off because he had fought through left wrist soreness last week. Tracy also said that at some point in the three-game series with the Dodgers, Herrera will start at second base and Marco Scutaro will rest.

Dodgers lineup

Dee Gordon, SS (.207, 0 HR, 4 RBIs)

Mark Ellis, 2B (.247, 0 HR, 2 RBIs)

Matt Kemp, CF (.425, 11 HR, 24 RBIs)

Andre Ethier, RF (.277, 5 HR, 24 RBIs)

James Loney, 1B (.227, 1 HR, 6 RBIs)

Tony Gwynn Jr., LF (.242, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs)

A.J. Ellis, C (.277, 5 HRs, 24 RBIs)

Aaron Harang, RHP (1-1, 5.16 ERA)

Rockies lineup

Marco Scutaro, 2B (.247, 0 HR, 1 RBI)

Jonathan Herrera, 3B (.296, 1 HR, 3 RBIs)

Carlos Gonzalez, RF (.288, 4 HR, 16 RBIs)

Troy Tulowitzki, SS (.284, 3 HR, 11 RBIs)

Todd Helton, 1B (.270, 4 HRs, 16 RBIs)

Ramon Hernandez, C (.241, 4 HR, 12 RBIs)

Tyler Colvin, RF (.297, 1 HR, 6 RBIs)

Dexter Fowler, CF (.250, 4 HRs, 10 RBIs)

Juan Nicasio, RHP (1-0, 4.76 ERA)

Cuddyer back in lineup

Rockies right fielder Micahel Cuddyer returned to the lineup today, against the Mariners, for the first time since being hit in the hand with a pitch from the Rangers’ Yu Darvish on Friday night.

Cuddyer was originally scheduled to play Sunday against the Indians, but was scratched before the game.

“[Sunday] I picked up the bat and swung a little bit, and only took about five swings and was afraid this thing was going to blow up again,” Cuddyer said. “I wanted to take yesterday to see if I could do it. I hit, and there was no problem.”

Cuddyer said he is excited for Friday night’s opener at Houston, after playing all or parts of the last 11 seasons with the Twins.

“For Opening Day, I was always anxious, nervous, butterflies,” Cuddyer said. “I get butterflies for every game. Now, being with a new team, new fan base, new organization, new league, I almost feel like a rookie again. In Houston, I’ll be facing three pitchers and I’ve only faced one of them before — like, three at-bats.

“Feeling like a rookie again is fun.”

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was out for the second straight day after being hit on the left elbow by the Indians’ Ubaldo Jimenez — who was issued a five-game suspension and undisclosed fine after Major League Baseball determined that the act was intentional. Tulowitzki was to hit in the batting cage today.

Here is the Rockies’ lineup for today’s next-to-last Cactus League game:

Marco Scutaro, SS

Dexter Fowler, CF

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Todd Helton, 1B

Jason Giambi, DH

Ramon Hernandez, C

Jordan Pacheco, 3B

Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Rockies pitching for today:

Juan Nicasio, RHP

Matt Belisle, RHP

Rafael Betancourt, RHP

Rex Brothers, LHP

 

 

Rockies roster set

Rockies manager Jim Tracy announced his Opening Day roster on Monday, although there will be some changes in the early days of the season. Left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz won’t be activated until April 15, when he is scheduled to pitch, and lefty Jamie Moyer won’t be activated until he starts Saturday against the Astros.

One spot is up in the air. Left-handed reliever Josh Outman is battling food poisoning. If he won’t be ready for Friday, the Rockies will have to make an adjustment by bringing back right-hander Alex White, who was optioned to the Minors on Monday.

Tracy also said he is comfortable setting a roster with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki active. Tulowitzki suffered a bruised left elbow on Sunday when hit by a pitch from the Indians’ Ubaldo Jimenez.

Here is the roster for Friday’s opener against the Astros:

PITCHERS (11) — Jeremy Guthrie, Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers, Tyler Chatwood, Matt Reynolds, Josh Roenicke, Esmil Rogers, Josh Outman

CATCHERS (2) — Ramon Hernandez, Wilin Rosario

INFIELDERS (7) — Todd Helton, Marco Scutaro, Troy Tulowitzki, Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson, Jason Giambi, Jonathan Herrera.

OUTFIELDERS (5) — Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin, Eric Young Jr.

Hitting coach wants better mechanics from Fowler

Rockies hitting coach Carney Lansford heard that center fielder Dexter Fowler visiting Las Vegas with Jason Giambi, Troy Tulowitzki and others for offseason workouts. He saw a stronger Fowler arrive at Spring Training.

Now he is looking at Fowler’s .114 batting average through his first 14 Cactus League games and wondering if there is a connection.

“He lifted a lot this offseason, got a lot stronger, so he’s trying to hit the ball farther, which is a huge mistake for him,” Lansford said Tuesday morning. “I don’t mind him lifting. I just don’t want him changing mechanics from what he did the second half of last season.”

Fowler added a leg kick to his swing in the middle of last season, during a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He returned with improved timing and put up strong second half numbers. But Lansford and manager Jim Tracy have noticed that the kick wasn’t the same. Corrections are being made in hopes of avoiding a slow start, something Fowler has suffered through the last two years.

“He was picking [his foot] up too far, and his hands were not in the right spot, either,” Lansford said. “He’s going back to where he feels comfortable with his hands. He’s actually starting to swing the bat better. We’ve got nine days left. It would be the perfect time to get right, going into the season.

Fowler had another rough day at the plate Monday against the Angels, but Tracy said his swing was bettr and he hasn’t carried his offensive struggles to the field.

Usually the leadoff hitter, or No. 2 hitter on days Tracy experiements with Marco Scutaro in the top spot, Fowler hit eighth Tuesday afternoon against the D-backs. Eric Young Jr. batted leadoff and started in left. Jonathan Herrera, fighting the numbers game for an Opening Day roster spot, is hitting second and Scutaro is batting third.

ROCKIES LINEUP

Eric Young Jr., LF

Jonathan Herrera, SS

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Ramon Hernandez, C

Todd Helton, 1B

Jordan Pacheco, 3B

Tyler Colvin, RF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Jeremy Guthrie, RHP

ROCKIES RELIEF PITCHING

Rex Brothers, LHP

Josh Roenicke, RHP

Rafael Betancourt, RHP

Keith Weiser, LHP

Zach Simons, RHP

D-BACKS LINEUP

Gerardo Parra, LF

Aaron Hill, 2B

Justin Upton, RF

Lyle Overbay, 1B

Ryan Roberts, 2B

Henry Blanco, C

John McDonald, SS

Patrick Corbin, LHP

D-BACKS RELIEF PITCHING

Craig Breslow, LHP

Joe Paterson, RHP

Bryan Shaw, RHP

Mike Zagurski, LHP

Brad Ziegler, RHP

Also, the Rockies are using right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso in a Minor League game.

Multiple injury updates, lineups for Rockies-Dodgers

– After hitting and taking groundball Friday, Rockies third baseman Casey Blake — who must prove he is healthy after neck surgery last year to hold onto a starting job — planned a full workout on Saturday with hopes of playing Sunday. Saturday will be the sixth straight day Blake has missed five days because of soreness in the trapezius muscle.

– Left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer was “virtually pain-free,” according to Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger, when he threw a bullpen session on Saturday morning. Moyer planed a long day of strengthening, flexibility and treatment after the session. Moyer had been scratched from a Minor League start on Friday.

– Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who left Thursday’s start with a blister on his right index finger, said Saturday morning he was about to throw a 30-35-pitch bullpen session. Chacin left his start Thursday with the ailment after throwing 44 pitches in three innings. He said he does not expect to have any problem making his next scheduled start, on Tuesday against the Padres at Peoria, Ariz.

– Chris Nelson, competing to step into the void at third base if Blake can’t answer the bell, will start Saturday against the Dodgers at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Other players in the lineup needing big performances to make the squad are outfielders Eric Young Jr. and Andrew Brown, and catcher Wil Nieves.

– Rockies righty Drew Pomeranz threw 35-40 bullpen pitches Friday, will throw again on Sunday, and will start in a game on Wednesday. Pomeranz left his last start with right glute tightness.

ROCKIESS LINEUP

ROCKIES RELIEF PITCHING

DODGERS LINEUP

Dee Gordon, SS

Mark Ellis, 2B

Andre Ethier, RF

Adam Kennedy, 1B

Juan Uribe, 3B

Tony Gwynn Jr., CF

A.J. Ellis, C

Cory Sullivan, LF

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

DODGERS RELIEF PITCHING

Alberto Castillo, LHP

Fernando Nieve, RHP

Will Savage, RHP

Ryan Tucker, RHP

Logan Bawcom, RHP

Brent Leach, LHP

Chacin leads Rockies against Royals

Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin’s spring devoted to fastball command continues today as he starts for the Rockies, and most likely goes three innings, against the Royals at Surprise Stadium. Also, fast-working lefty Christian Friedrich will appear, on the heels of his two scoreless innings with one hit and two strikeouts against the D-backs five days ago. Friedrich entered camp as a darkhorse candidate for the starting rotation, and has been impressive.

Center fielder Dexter Fowler is the only clear starter in the lineup, but the game is a big one because several players seeking key reserve roles made the trip.

Rockies batting order

Eric Young Jr., LF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Charlie Blackmon, RF

Brandon Wood, SS

Nolan Arenado, 3B

Chad Tracy, 1B

Chris Nelson, 2B

Brendan Harris, DH

Wil Nieves, C

Rockies pitchers

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP

Christian Friedrich, LHP

Rex Brothers, LHP

Matt Belisle, RHP

Joe Gardner, RHP

Dustin Molleken, RHP

Stephen Dodson, RHP

Royals batting order

Alex Gordon, LF

Johnny Giavotella, 2B

Eric Hosmer, 1B

Billy Butler, DH

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Jeff Francoeur, RF

Lorenzo Cain, CF

Alcides Escobar, SS

Royals pitchers

Luis Mendoza, RHP

Joakim Soria, RHP

Sean O’Sullivan, RHP

Tim Collins, LHP

Noel Arguelles, LHP

Items of interest for today’s Rockies intrasquad game

– Rockies fans in the Scottsdale area can watch the game from a berm above Field 1 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. But get there early for the game, which should start at 10 or 10:15 a.m. The scrimmage might not go more than 4 1/2 innings.

– Eric Young Jr. has played the outfield twice, in Friday’s intrasquad game and Saturday’s 1-1, 10-inning tie with the D-backs in the Cactus League opener. But he will play second base Sunday.

– The intrasquad contest will be the first game action for right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio, who has made remarkable progress in his return from a broken neck that he suffered when hit in the face by a line drive last season.

– There is plenty of competition for outfield jobs. Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Colvin and non-roster candidates Andrew Brown and Jamie Hoffmann will be competeing in the game.

– Righty Tyler Chatwood, obtained from the Angels for catcher Chris Iannetta during the offseason, makes his Rockies debut. Chatwood threw 142 innings for the Angels last year at age 21.

– Two hard-throwing relievers who could make a big impact thsi year — left-hander Rex Brothers, who is in line for chances to close games when Rafael Betancourt needs a rest, and right-hander Edgmer Escalona, who showed promise during a late call-up last season — are scheduled to appear.

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