Sunday, May 31, 2009

De La Rosa's Struggles Show Rockies Should Have Fired Apodaca As Well

Jim Tracy quickly put his mark on the Colorado Rockies when he took over on Friday.

He moved Troy Tulowitzki to the seventh spot in the lineup, Clint Barmes to the second spot, and Garrett Atkins back to the cleanup spot.

The moves seemed to work beautifully as Barmes went 5-for-11 in the first two games after the change. Atkins, hitting below the Mendoza line at .194, even came through with a big hit on Saturday, tying the game in the ninth inning before scoring the winning run a batter later.

Tracy, however, was unable to solve Jorge De La Rosa's problems on the mound. The Padres fought back to avoid a sweep, defeating the Rockies 5-2 on Sunday at Coors Field.

De La Rosa had been one of the Rockies few bright spots in '09, but remained winless due to a lack of run support. In his last three starts, including Sunday, however, he has looked horrible. His troubles are very similar to what has plauged him for the duration of his short career. He cannot figure out how to forget about the previous batter and focus on the batter at the plate.

On Sunday, De La Rosa cruised through the first two innings, then missed location on an 0-2 pitch that Adrian Gonzales drilled into the left field seats.

De La Rosa struggles with the big inning. While he seems to cruise through a few innings, he always seems to walk a batter, then give up a slowly hit ball, then, after getting frustrated, give up a big hit that spoils his entire outing.

In fact, mental issues seem to plague several of the young Rockies pitchers.

Along with De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez, dubbed as the next Rockies ace, often times struggles with battling through a tough inning. He can be rolling along with all of his pitches working, then he lets a few bad pitches start to affect him and before he knows it, the opposition has put up a big number.

Possibly one of the most affected pitchers for Colorado has been former closer Manny Corpas. Corpas came up to the big leagues with electric stuff. His pitches had so much movement that in 2007 when closer Brian Fuentes began to struggle, Corpas was quickly moved into the closer's role.

He was a huge reason that the '07 team found its groove and went on to the franchise's first pennant. Down the stretch Corpas saved 16-of-17.

Since then, however, Corpas has been a mystery. He looked horrible in April of '08 and was removed from the closer's role. After 2008 was said and done, Corpas was the exact opposite of what he had been in '07. His ERA was more than double at a pedestrian 4.52. His WHIP was nearly 1.5, a terrible number for a reliever.

While many of the Rockies hitting problems may have fallen on the lineup that Clint Hurdle made out on a daily basis, the pitching was not the area that Hurdle had much to do with.

After '08, Hurdle and general manager Dan O'Dowd gutted nearly the entire coaching staff. The move was designed to show that there must be accountability for the squad playing under their potential. The only coaches spared were first base coach Glenallen Hill and pitching coach Bob Apodaca.

Keeping Apodaca was a head scratcher for most who follow the team. While the Rockies struggled at the plate in clutch situations, just as many games were lost due to poor pitching as could be blamed on the offense. The Rox pitching staff ranked near the bottom in almost every single category in the National League, yet Apodaca was spared.

Many thought that Apodaca and Hurdle were given another chance because the front office believed that the two had the ability to reign in a clubhouse that had too many excuses. The leash would be short and if 2009 started out poorly, the two would be let go.

For Hurdle, that was true. Before May was done, the Rockies, sitting 10 games below .500 pulled the trigger on Hurdle, citing a need for a change.

Apodaca, however, was spared once again.

The fact that Apodaca remains the pitching coach seems a mystery. The pitching staff is not playing well, possibly worse than in '08. They rank near the bottom of every category once again in the National League. Not only do the numbers show that they are struggling, the fact is, all of the pitchers are dealing with the same issues that they dealt with in '08. None seem to have improved.

Jimenez has not turned the corner yet, De La Rosa is still a headcase, and Corpas pitches with no consistency or confidence. The only pitchers that are doing well are veterans like Jason Marquis who has been pitching in the Major League's long enough to know how to get outs and is not necessarily in need of a pitching coach to hold his hand.

The Rockies undoubtedly will be reevaluating the team during the offseason. It will be interesting to see if Apodaca remains with the club for the 2010 campaign. Until then, it remains a mystery why the Rockies have decided to stay with him.

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