Results tagged ‘ Ryan Speier ’

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.

The Dragonslayer returns

What’s cool about a small-market franchise like the Rockies having success, as they did in 2007, is guys that are considered journeymen can attain immortal status. Infielder Jamey Carroll, now with the Indians, is one. Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba has not had the same playing time he did back then, but his home run to send the Rockies to the World Series will never be forgotten.

Right-handed pitcher Josh Fogg also enjoys a status here that will never die. In 2007, he displayed a penchant for pitching the Rockies to wins when they faced big-name pitcher. Suddenly, folks started calling him The Dragonslayer.

Fogg parlayed his success in Denver into a free-agent contract with the Reds last season. The dragons caught up with him in Cincinnati. Actually, they were the dragons from within. His throwing motion becamre so out of whack that he experienced no success with the Reds, and all he could land was a Minor League deal with the Rockies for 2009. It took until now for Fogg to correct what went wrong.

Now he’s back. The Rockies jettisoned righty Matt Belisle and brought back Fogg for the long relief role. There may be some spot-starts for him, but his role will be out of the bullpen.

It’s a challenge. The sporadic work in the bullpen with the Reds helped lead to the complete destruction of his mechanics. But it’s an opportunity.

He’ll never lose his Dragonslayer status. But that was then. He’ll have to show he can handle his new role to attract greater appreciation.

Fogg’s return in a Rockies uniform — he’ll wear 51 instead of 37, which belongs to Ryan Speier — could be Monday against the Dodgers. But rain falls as this is being written. So if there is baseball, here are the lineups:

Dodgers

Juan Pierre, CF

Russell Martin, C

Orlando Hudson, 2B

Casey Blake, 3B

Matt Kemp, CF

James Loney, 1B

Jamie Hoffman, RF

Juan Castro, SS

Eric Stultz, P

Rockies

Dexter Fowler, CF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Ryan Spilborghs, LF

Brad Hawpe, RF

Garrett Atkins, 3B

Clint Barmes, 2B

Yorvit Torrealba, C

Jorge De La Rosa, P

Morales healthy, but needs work

First of all, no lineup blog tonight. I had other duties, so the game with the Braves is under way. There is a story on the site on the big lineup move, with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki being punished for an at-bat approach that manager Clint Hurdle didn’t like at all. It’s more than a story about one guy. It has to do with Hurdle’s attempt to refocus the club.

Anyhow, lefty Franklin Morales, still on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, threw a simulated game at Turner Field on Wednesday. he was healthy and threw all his pitches. He was wild, and at times scary for the hitters who faced him, Yorvit Torrealba, Omar Quintanilla, Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler and Matt Murton.

Morales said he’ll throw another bullpen session, and Hurdle said the club is looking for another simulated game for Morales before he begins a Minor League rehab assignment.

Also, lefty Greg Smith, who is recovering from shoulder problems that set in late in Spring Training, will pitch at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday, after throwing twice at Class-A Modesto. Righty reliever Ryan Speier, who suffered a left hamstring strain in April, will move from Modesto to Double-A Tulsa. Speier could appear Wednesday night. 

Losing the numbers game … updates on Corpas, Speier

The Rockies have outscored their opponents this season, 115-113. It’s not a dramatic difference, but one would think it would mean a better record than 9-14. It doesn’t.

One way to address it is to say it’s a fluke that’ll correct itself over time. But manager Clint Hurdle isn’t going that route. He freshly remembered the 2007 D-backs being outscored (732-712) yet winning the National League West.

Not only that, but Hurdle is not relying on the mantra of “it’s early” to explain the team’s issues, which have manifested themselves in an 0-7 record in one-run games and being shut out three times.

“I don’t say it’s early now,” Hurdle said. “I want us to play good baseball and I want us to focus on the things we need to play good baseball, so when they’re not happening we need to address them. And I think you can get away with it for the first couple weeks of the season. Then it’s time to move on, time to play better baseball.”

 

Rockies

Dexter Fowler                CF

Ryan Spilborghs            LF

Todd Helton                  1B

Garrett Atkins               3B

Brad Hawpe                  RF

Troy Tulowtizki              SS

Chris Iannetta                 C

Clint Barmes                 2B

Jorge De La Rosa           P

Padres

David Eckstein             2B

Brian Giles                  RF

Scott Hairston             CF

Adrian Gonzalez          1B

Chase Headley            LF

Kevin Kouzmanoff        3B

Henry Blanco               C

Luis Rodriguez            SS

Kevin Correia                P

– In a non-development, right-hander Manuel Corpas is still on the club. Of course, if he doesn’t pitch better, the possibility of a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs looms large. Hurdle spoke in an encouraging tone about Corpas on Monday, however.

“He’s worked very hard on making those adjustments,” Hurdle said. “Guys go down and watch him in the bullpen, and you see what you want to see in the bullpen. It’s transferring it into the game, and we’ve had multiple conversations. We’ve coached him up, encouraged him on the value and significance of the role he has now. He’s been there. He’s done it. He can see it from a closer’s mentality.

“We’re at the point now where we’re going to have to find him a game here or there where we’re up or down a little bit where we remove him from the flame a little bit.”

– Righty releiver Ryan Speier said he felt good after throwing a simulated game Monday afternoon. Now it’s a matter of working on his lowered arm slot, which could take a few outings. He plans to go to the extended spring training in Tucson so he can throw without the risk of being hung with negative stats. That could take one, two or three games, then he’d be ready for an injury rehab assignment.

A veteran move

Rockies left-handed reliever Alan Embree broke in with the Indians in 1992, so this is his 17th year around the game. Embree is playing on his 10th team. Needless to say, he’s learned a little something about getting along with new teammates.

So Embree pulled a veteran move on Sunday, the day before his first Opening Day with the Rockies.

“I saw a group of guys down at the tables at breakfast, and I picked up the tabs on all of them, just to kind of kick it off,” Embree said. “When you break with a new team, it’s kind of like, ‘Let’s get it going on the right foot.’ I want to let them know I’m not just here to pitch. I’m here to be a teammate.”

Embree has developed a tradition that goes a long way toward bullpen esprit de corps.

“I started something about six years ago, where I’d go around to each guy and hand him a $100 Starbucks card,” Embree said. “It’s a group of guys who will be together a lot.”

Right-handed reliever Ryan Speier said Embree reached out to him, even though they’re different pitchers. Speier said he enjoys hearing about Embree’s experiences.

“He’s been on a lot of teams, and some championship teams, so he’s got a wealth of knowledge,” Speier said. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times about the ’05 Red Sox. That was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched, so I enjoy hearing him talk about that.

“He’s made an effort to get to know everybody, and he can tinker here or there to help guys out.”

Flores on quickened course; working on the day off

Lefty reliever Randy Flores gave up a home run to the Royals’ Tommy Murphy on Tuesday. It was the first Cactus League run against Flores in three appearances, althuogh he did give up three runs in one inning of an intrasquad game.

Nonetheless, Flores — a non-roster invitee — has made himself an interesting bullpen candidate to start the season, even though he is coming off shoulder surgery in August.

“The second I got healthy, and in shape to throw, I was in games, and that’s different for me,” said Flores, who established himself as a reliever with the Cardinals 2004-08. “Typically, everyone gets in shape during the winter, but still it’s a jolt to your system to face hitters, and another jolt when you’re in a game.

“So to say I have nothing to work on would be completely wrong. I need to continue to work on my conditioning in the game, and the crispness and sharpness of my pitches. That can hopefully take place over the last couple of weeks.”

– The Rockies will enjoy their only day off of the spring on Wednesday. But left-hander Greg Smith and right-handers Greg Reynolds, Ryan Speier, Josh Fogg and Matt Belisle will throw in a Minor League game. Also, it’ll be the first Minor League outing for righty Jason Hirsh, who was optioned out of big-league camp on Monday.

– Todd Helton continues to put back problems behind him. On Tuesday, he hit his third home run in six Spring Training games. This one was a pull shot down the right-field line off the Royals’ Kyle Davies. The other two were to center field. Ryan Spilborghs also went deep. The club’s projected leadoff hitter, Spilborghs is hitting .323 with a .405 on-base percentage in 10 Cactus League contests. 

Calling out the pitchers

Rockies right-hander Jason Marquis upheld a tradition for veteran pitchers. After some ugly numbers Saturday against the Mariners — 3 2/3 innings, nine hits, five runs, two walks, 88 pitches — he chalked it up to just being in Spring Training.

“For the most part, I executed a lot of pitches like I wanted to, and [hits] found some holes,” Marquis said. “A lot of positives, a lot of two-strike counts. It was a step in the right direction. I got my pitch count up. That’s why we’re here, to work on a few things, get some things straightened out. I think I’ve got four starts left.

“I didn’t really use my changeup as much as I would during the season. I was trying to get my curveball over for a strike — not only for a strike, but bury it when I needed to and throw it for a strike when I needed to. There were certain counts when I don’t think I would have thrown my curveball normally, but today I did. I tried to get a better feel for a cutter, not spinning it so much.”

Normally, that’s a right afforded pitchers who have been around. Marquis qualifies, having pitched for the Braves, Cardinals and Cubs.

But manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t as happy with Marquis’s direction.

“He had too many deep counts,” Hurdle said. “As a staff, we’re not executing anywhere near the level we’re going to need to execute to be successful. As a group, we’re talking about throwing 70 percent first-pitch strikes. We’re not doing it. We’re talking about acute location of our fastball, arm-side. We’re not doing it, so more of the same today.

“We’ve got some guys that are showing some flashes of some things, but as a staff, we’ve got to cover some ground here.”

Informed that Marquis said he was working on some pitches, Hurdle sounded as unhappy with the explanation as the performance.

“It’s time they started making comments after a game that ‘I commanded my fastball, I threw strikes, my slider was sharp, I had a good sinker,'” Hurdle said. “That’s what we need to start doing.”

It was clear Hurdle was delivering a message, not just to Marquis but to all of the starters. Only Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez, who has done his most-recent pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, have been consistently solid. 

It’s not as if Hurdle threatening massive changes in the rotation. The Rockies traded for Marquis to provide veteran leadership. That won’t change. Hurdle has been exceedingly patient with Jorge De La Rosa, who has struggled his last two times out and will meet the Dodgers on Sunday. The team is still trying to sort through a host of pitchers for the fifth starting spot.

Hurdle’s call for better quality might be as much a clarification as a declaration.

Some of the ugly early performances from starters occurred because the pitchers were under orders to work on one thing — fastball command — and had to pitch to a specific pattern. Hitters quickly figured out what pitch was coming. The Rockies relaxed those orders after each pitcher had a couple of starts.

But how close are the Rockies supposed to be to the form they need for a regular season that starts 23 days from now? The way Hurdle spoke on Saturday, it’s not close enough.

– Hurdle also was not happy with right-handed reliever Jason Grilli, who pitched well for Italy in the World Baseball Classic but gave up three hits and two runs in his inning.

“We’ve got to have improved focus and discipline off the mound,” Hurdle said. “Twenty pitches, poor fastball command, pitching one side of the plate. We’ve got way to many guys pitching one side of the plate that aren’t good enough to be pitching one side of the plate. These are things and areas we need to target and work on as we move forward.”

– Left-handed non-roster candidate Cedrick Bowers gav eup three runs on one hit and two walks before leaving with a back/rib cage injury that has hampered him all spring.

– Righty Ryan Speier continued his scoreless spring (six innings) by giving up one hit and a walk but striking out two in the ninth.

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.

Lineup time … and welcome to the Ranter

Left fielder Seth Smith, who has received so many kudos from the Rockies about his swing that he’s getting a chance to start this year, will hit from the No. 2 spot in Wednesday afternoon’s Spring Training opener against the D-Backs. Also, with first baseman Todd Helton not yet ready for regular action (he was spotted heading for a workout and hitting session), Brad Hawpe takes the No. 3 spot in the order. Garrett Atkins will bat cleanup and Troy Tulowitzki, whi hit second and seventh last season, is batting fifth.

Here’s the lineup in its entirety:

Ryan Spilborghs   CF

Seth Smith           LF

Brad Hawpe         RF

Garrett Atkins      3B

Troy Tulowitzki     SS

Chris Iannetta        C

Joe Koshansky    1B

Clint Barmes        2B

Aaron Cook           P

 

I pulled up to Hi Corbett Field this morning and saw, in all its glory and splendor, The Rockpile Ranter’s Mobile Blog Unit. Welcome to Tucson. I’d have taken a picture, but I was afraid that a security force would have apprehended me. But now that my intentions are known, a snapshot shouldn’t be a problem. Should it?

– Here’s a little more: today’s pitching schedule.

Cook (two innings)

Ubaldo Jimenez (2)

Manuel Corpas (1)

Alan Embree (1)

Juan Morillo (1)

Jason Grilli (1)

Ryan Mattheus (1)

Here is pitching schedule for tomorrow against the White Sox.

Jason Hirsh (two innings)

Franklin Morales (2)

Taylor Buchholz (1)

Huston Street (1)

Cedrick Bowers (1)

Shane Lindsay (1)

Ryan Speier (1)

Pitchng schedules are always subject to change, of course.

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