While excitement for the season heats up, the news on closer Huston Street was sobering.
After coming to Spring Training feeling great, then getting sore, shutting it down, starting over, feeling sore, shutting it down, getting an MRI, and throwing again only to feel stiffness once again, Street has been shut down for a third time. The Rockies do not want to re aggravate the injury, so Street will stay behind in Tucson as the team travels to Milwaukee for Opening Day.
The injury sounds eerily similar to what Jeff Francis was dealing with throughout 2008 and into the beginning of spring 2009. Francis, like Street, had clean MRI's and was prescribed rest before giving into exploratory surgery which successfully shut him down for the 2009 campaign. The injury has essentially cost Francis two seasons.
For a pitcher a shoulder injury is much better than an elbow injury. However, when talking about stiffness in the arm of a guy who essentially needs to be ready to pitch every single day, and often will throw on three consecutive days, is a very bad thing.
What is most concerning about the injury is that no one seems to know what is wrong. Major League Baseball teams have access to some of the best specialists and doctors that are known to mankind, yet no one can figure out what is wrong with Street's shoulder.
Minimizing the injury to a closer who converted 35-out of-37 save opportunities last season would be a huge mistake. However, if there has ever been a time in Rockies history that the team can sustain this type of loss it is now. Despite struggling in the role in his opportunities in the past two seasons, Manny Corpas has closed out high pressure games.
Franklin Morales, the guy Jim Tracy has anointed to keep Street's seat warm until he is ready, converted 7-out of -7 save opportunities when he was called upon in 2009. Despite questions about his ability to maintain composure during high stress situations, no one doubts that Morales has the stuff to pitch in the ninth inning.
The Rockies also have Matt Belisle at their disposal, a guy who just so happened to move into the closer's role at Triple-A Colorado Springs during parts of 2009, with great success.
Those options afford the Rockies the ability to leave Rafael Betancourt in a position that he is comfortable in, pitching in the 8th inning.
The Rockies will patiently wait for Street to come back, but will be in more than capable hands while Street nurses himself back to health.
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