Thursday, June 4, 2009

Garrett Atkins Answers The Challenge; Rockies Call Up Carlos Gonzalez

Garrett Atkins, mired in a season-long slump, was called out by his new manager on Wednesday night after failing to deliver in two key situations.

Jim Tracy told the press that it was time to make a move with Atkins and that sending him down to Triple-A Colorado Springs was not out of the question.

That kind of move for a player with the track record and longevity of Atkins is almost unheard of. Atkins coming into 2009 was a .298 career hitter and had averaged over 100 RBI's over the last three seasons.

Apparently just the mention of Colorado Springs was enough to snap Atkins out of his 200 at-bat slump.

In the third inning, with Todd Helton on first base and the Rockies poised for a big inning after a double by Ryan Spilborghs, a triple by Clint Barmes and an RBI single by Helton, Atkins strolled to the plate and the groans coming from Rockies fans could be heard from Denver. It was the first big blow in the Rockies 10-3 romping of Houston.

One night after being the goat in a tough loss, Atkins got a pitch over the plate from Astros started Wandy Rodriguez and he crushed it. There was never a doubt that the pitch would be well out of the yard. The two-run homer turned a good inning into a big inning.

It was Atkins first home run since April 25th, a stretch of over 120 at-bats.

Atkins was not done showing that he could still hit. In the fifth inning, with two outs and no one one, Atkins launched his second home run of the night. The swings were reminders of what the big third baseman used to do on a routine basis.

To see the smile on Atkins face was worth a thousand words. It looked as if Atkins was so relaxed that he could beat Dexter Fowler in a foot race.

Atkins quickly became the talking point of the night for the Rockies, stealing the thunder from Rockies starter Jason Hammel.

Hammel, battling to show that he belongs in the big leagues, as Franklin Morales gets closer to a return, made a great case for his spot on the 25-man roster. He was able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate, which enabled him to use his curveball on a regular basis.

The final line for Hammel read two runs on four hits through seven innings. He walked two while striking out four. It was his longest outing of the season.

The game was a rare opportunity in 2009 to say that the Rockies played a complete game. The offense did not quit when they got a lead, or when there were two outs. The pitching never laid down or quit getting batters out. It may be the first chance to gain some momentum heading into another tough four game series in St. Louis.

After the game the Rockies also made some news by announcing that they have called up Carlos Gonzalez, the center piece of the Matt Holliday trade, from Colorado Springs. Matt Murton, who has been impressive, was the odd man out, sent down to make room for Gonzalez.

The move leaves Colorado with plenty of lefties. Between Gonzalez, Hawpe, Helton, Ian Stewart, and Seth Smith, the oppenents situational lefties should plan on getting quite a bit of work.

That move was not the last for the Rockies. They also designated struggling reliever Jason Grilli for assignment, meaning that the team has 10 days to trade Grilli, after which they can send him to the minor leagues.

Grilli was effective in '08, but has been the latest Rockies reliever to struggle with command. The team clearly hopes to be able to keep the right hander, as they feel he has more upside than what he has shown so far in '09.

The move cleared a spot on the roster for Matt Daley to rejoin the team after spraining his foot on a bat in Pittsburgh and landing on the disabled list.

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