The answer is not Troy Tulowitzki. It's not Ubaldo Jimenez. It's not Huston Street or Miguel Olivo or Carlos Gonzalez. The answer is Aaron Cook.
Cook is making $9.833 million in 2010 and the Rockies are on the hook for $10.083 million in 2011 and a half million dollar buyout in 2012. That contract is looking really bad right now.
The redhead was the major leagues best kept secret in 2008. After being the Rockies lone bright spot in the beginning of 2008, Cook found himself representing the Rockies in the All-Star game in New York. He pitched three scoreless innings in that game and looked as if he was going to be a bright spot for the Rockies for years to come.
Fast-forward to 2010 and Cook is just a shell of the pitcher that was in the All-Star game less than two years ago. The pitch that landed him in that game was his sinker. He threw that pitch when he was ahead in the count, when he was behind in the count, when the Rockies led and when they trailed. He threw the sinker when everyone in the park knew it was coming. He threw it, and no one could do anything about hitting it.
For some reason, that pitcher has gone away. The righty took the loss on a night where he once again blew a lead. His record sits at 2-4, but his game has been far worse than that. After the offense staked Cook to a 2-0 lead, the righty proceeded to blow his unprecedented 10th lead of the season. That is not a misprint. He has been given 10 leads and has blown them all.
The 10 leads that he has blown does not include the Kansas City debacle on May 23rd in which the Rockies offense gave him a nine run lead and after giving up four runs in the fifth inning, letting the Royals feel like they could crawl back into it, Cook was given the hook and failed to pick up the win.
Cook has not picked up a win on the road since late July of 2009.
The struggles of Aaron Cook bring up several questions for the Rockies. With Jorge De La Rosa getting close to being sent out on a rehab start, the Rockies are going to be forced to make a roster move that involves the starting rotation. With Jhoulys Chacin showing maturity it may be difficult to send the 22-year old back to Triple-A.
Two weeks ago it looked like Chacin may have displaced Jason Hammel, leaving Hammel either in the bullpen or designated for assignment. With that in mind, Hammel has squelched that talk with his last three performances. He has looked like anything but a fifth starter with the dominance that he has shown.
With Hammel pitching well, the easiest choice is to simply send Chacin back down. He has options remaining and it wouldn't hurt him to get some extra seasoning in Colorado Springs.
That may be the easy move to make, but the fact is, it's not the move that makes the Rockies better. If the Rockies are serious about winning now, they must make difficult decisions. That difficult decision may entail having a difficult conversation with Aaron Cook.
The fact is, he is the worst pitcher in the starting five. That is not a trend that has been taking place over his last three starts. That is a trend that has been going on since the beginning of spring training.
Sending Cook down is not an easy move to make. He is a seasoned Major League veteran who has earned the respect of his teammates. He also is out of options, meaning the Rockies cannot send him down without exposing him to waivers. While no team is likely to pick up his hefty salary, that is simply not something that big league teams do with their struggling veterans.
So what do the Rockies do? With Cook on the mound, they are giving up one out of every five games. In addition to that, and potentially more important, the Rockies are giving up demoralizing games when Cook toes the rubber. The offense gives him a lead and like clockwork Cook gives it up. While the offense is notorious for disappearing late in games, this trend cannot be blamed on the offense. The mental effect that Cook has on them is very large. If he cannot protect a lead, the offense begins to feel the burden of having to continue to grind out runs and find new ways to score, only to have to do it all over again.
The answer for the Rockies is for Cook to be hurt. Whether he is actually hurt or not, at this point in the season almost anyone could go on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. If Cook goes on the DL, the Rockies can sit him down for a few days, have him throw a few bullpen session, then send him out on a rehab assignment where he can square his sinkerball, and more importantly his head.
Moving Cook to the DL will not only allow the Rockies to keep Chacin in the rotation, but it will allow the Rockies to put their best starting pitchers on the mound every day. It is a move that needs to happen. It is a move that will also serve as a wakeup call to Cook, who for much of the season has been trying to reinvent himself and go away from his bread and butter, the sinker ball.
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