Saturday, April 4, 2009

Colorado Rockies Looking For A Strong April

Two years ago in 2007, the Colorado Rockies stumbled out of the gate in April. They finished the month 10-16, good enough for last place in the National League West. The team found their groove in mid May. In fact, they had the best record of any team in all of Major League Baseball from May 22nd on in 2007. That finish was almost not enough, as it took the Rockies winning 14 out of their final 15 regular season games just to get into the playoffs as the N.L. Wild Card representative.

In 2008, the defending N.L. Champs came into April with extremely high expectations. They started the season dropping two of three in St. Louis before coming home and being the victims of revenge at the hands of the Diamondbacks, who spoiled a weekend of celebration by sweeping the Rockies. They finished the month 11-17, again, dead last in the N.L. West.

2008 did not hold the same fortunes that the Rockies experienced the previous season, as the team finished third in the N.L. West, winning only 74 games in a horribly disappointing season.

This season the Rockies know that they do not want to be stuck playing catch-up. The pressure is squarely on manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Dan O'Dowd. Both are entering the final year of their contracts and have been given no indication that they will be offered an extension.

If the Rockies start out slow, it is very conceivable that new bench coach Jim Tracy would slide right into the manager position.

In order for the Rockies to be successful in April, they are going to need a quick start from several different contributors.

The first of which will be Ryan Spilborghs. "Spilly", as he is called by his teammates, is going to be getting his first chance to be an everyday starter. He has been productive the last two years out of the reserve roll, but has yet to prove that he can produce as an everyday player. He will starting in center field and moving over to left field when the Rockies face a lefty, with Seth Smith taking a seat on the bench.

Spilborghs will be the leadoff hitter and need to set the table for the big bats in the lineup. He is not the typical leadoff hitter, he does not possess blazing speed, but does possess the ability to put balls in the gap and jump start the lineup.

Despite losing Matt Holliday in the offseason, the Rockies still have arguably the best lineup in the division. With Todd Helton showing that his surgically repaired back is once again healthy, and Troy Tulowitzki having a great spring, the Rockies will have a lineup that should be every bit as productive as last seasons.

The other key to the Rockies success in April lies with the starting rotation, specifically the three through five starters.

Jason Marquis was brought over from the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. He has been extremely successful in his career, winning no less than 11 games for each of the last five seasons. That track record provides confidence, but he has had a terrible spring, one in which he posted an ERA above 10.00.

It has been well documented the Marquis has been tinkering with his mechanics, but a return to the Marquis of the last five years is paramount to the success of the squad.

Behind Marquis is Jorge De La Rosa and Franklin Morales. These two pitchers both have an extreme amount of talent. They both throw in the mid-90's from the left side. They both have off speed pitches that immediatley buckle the knees of a left-handed hitter.

However, both of them have struggled with the mental aspect of the game. In their short big league careers, both pitchers have had meltdowns when they gave been working with runners on the bases. When runners get on base it seems to snowball and spin out of control.

Both De La Rosa and Morales have shown poise in the spring and had their fair share of success. However, it remains to be seen if the two can carry that over to the regular season.

If the Rockies want to succeed this season, they need to start out hot. In order to do that, Spilborghs and the back end of the rotation are going to have to carry the team on their backs.

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