Saturday, April 18, 2009

Colorado Rockies Review: Rockies Spoil De La Rosa's Gem, Bullpen Missing Buchholz

Jorge De La Rosa knew that he needed to come into Friday's outing knowing that he would need to pitch well to prove to the Rockies that they had made a good decision by trusting him in the fourth spot in the rotation.

Last Saturday, De La Rosa fell victim to the same issue that has hampered him throughout his young Major League career; himself. When De La Rosa gets in trouble, his nerves get the best of him and a big inning gets the best of him.

Tonight was a different story. De La Rosa battled out of trouble and went 5-1/3 innings without giving up a run.

De La Rosa's gem went for naught, as the bullpen gave up four runs as the Rockies lost 4-3 in the series opener.

The loss underscored a major issue that the Rockies have been dealing with since the middle of Spring Training. Going into the spring, the Rockies were touting the back end of their rotation as possibly one of the best in the National League.

The clubs claims looked legitimate, with Taylor Buchholz slotted into the seventh inning, and Manny Corpas and newly acquired Huston Street vying for the closer job, with the loser being given eight inning duties. Beyond that, veteran lefty Alan Embree was brought in to handle tough left handed situations.

Everything lined up perfectly for the Rockies until Buchholz went down with an elbow injury. The diagnosis is a partial tear of a ligament, not bad enough to require surgery.

Buchholz's development was a major bright spot last season for the Rockies. After spending the '07 season bouncing between the starting rotation and long relief, it seemed that Buchholz had found his place in the late inning role. He posted a minuscule 2.17 ERA, while striking out 56 and walking only 18.

With Buchholz out, the bridge to the eighth inning has become longer. The Rockies have been forced to piece together the typical six and seventh inning of work, mixing in Glendon Rusch, Matt Belisle, and Alan Embree.

Belisle is a member of the team strictly because Buchholz is out. While Belisle may be a quality member of the clubhouse, he is not the replacement that the team was hoping for. Last season with Cincinnati Belisle posted a 1-4 record with a 7.28 ERA. He did battle some injuries, but even in seasons before that, Belisle's numbers were less than desirable. In '07 he posted an 8-9 record with a 5.32 ERA in the starting rotation.

Buchholz is scheduled to come back no earlier than the beginning of May, but the reality of his injury would suggest that he will not be back until June.

The other concern for the Rockies and Buchholz is that the elbow injury is worse than they had originally thought. If rehabbing the elbow does not help, it may be determined that he needs surgery, which would put him on the shelf for the entire season. That would be a blow the Rockies would have a tough time recovering from.

Until Buchholz returns, the Rockies and manager Clint Hurdle are going to have to figure out the best way to keep a lead into the late innings.

The Rockies get another shot at the Dodgers tomorrow. The game will be a nationally broadcast game on FOX. Last season the Rockies were abysmal on national TV, going 0-4.

It should be a good pitching matchup as the Rockies put ace Aaron Cook on the mound to face the Dodgers young phenom Clayton Kershaw. The game will be at 1:20 mountain time.

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