Friday, April 30, 2010

Cook Tries To Get Cute, Loses To Giants

Aaron Cook is a good pitcher.

Good is the only word to describe him. He will never be mistaken for great, but there are things that he does very well.

The thing that he does best is to pound the strike zone with his sinking fastball. When he is winning, he throws that pitch close to 80 percent of the time. However, for whatever reason, Cook sometimes tries to be someone that he is not.

On Friday night, with the Rockies desperate for a win due to the fact that two rookies will be making their second Major League starts on Saturday and Sunday respectively, Cook tried to get cute and got beat by the Giants 5-2.

At the beginning of 2009, Cook talked about working on a curve ball in the offseason and how he was eager to start throwing it in games. Most Rockies fans recall what Cook's April looked like in '09. In five starts he lasted barely more than five innings per outing and posted a 7.11 ERA. He gave up seven home runs and posted a horrendous 1.816 WHIP.

After April, the curve ball found its way to the trashcan, only to be recycled for the beginning of 2010.

Cook, it seems, is desperate to be a dominant pitcher. He wants to be a guy who throws four or five different pitches and can strike a guy out when he needs to. The problem is, he does not have that kind of makeup. He is a finesse pitcher who induces ground balls. Much like a batter knows that a knuckleball pitcher is going to throw a knuckleball, the same is true for Cook. Batters should know that they are about to see a sinker.

The problem is that when Cook starts throwing the curve ball, he tends to get behind in the count. When he is behind in the count, he does not have the same leverage that he normally does to hit the corners of the plate. That means that when he gets behind 2-0, he has no choice but to groove a fastball.

Any hitter in the Major Leagues is able to barrel up an 87 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate.

If the redhead does not groove a fastball, he ends up walking the hitter, something he did all too frequently on Friday night. In six innings, Cook walked five batters, three of which came around to score.

In the crucial fifth inning in which the Giants put up three runs, Cook walked the leadoff batter on four pitches. What was the first pitch he threw in the inning? A curve ball that missed the zone, forcing Cook to work from behind in the count.

For Cook, the answer is simple. Ditch the curve ball.

The righty who holds the Rockies record for most wins on the mound, and most wins at Coors Field needs to realize what got him those two spots in the record books. It had nothing to do with being a dominant, overpowering pitcher. What it did have to do with was him being a finesse pitcher who broke hitters bats as they tried to hit a sinking fastball that moved six innings across the plate.

Cook needs to be Aaron Cook. The Rockies already have a dominating, overpowering pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. He needs to quit trying to be something that he is not, and simply pitch his game. That will allow him to pound the lower half of the strike zone and let his defense do their thing behind him.

Until Cook realizes that his curve ball needs to go back into the trashcan, he will continue to struggle, and therefore the Rockies will lose games that they need to be winning.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Franklin Morales: Struggling Rockies Closer May Not Fit Role

Could someone please fix the humidor?

The Rockies lost 12-11 on Wednesday after slamming their way back into a game in which they were down by six runs before they recorded a single out.

Greg Smith pitched all of one inning, giving up six earned runs on four hits and three walks. It was the exactly opposite of what the Rockies needed from him in the rubber match of the three game series.

Despite Smith's incredibly poor performance, the Rockies still brought their hitting shoes. They stormed back, taking a 7-6 lead, then 8-6, then 10-6 and finally 11-6. The taxed bullpen however, could not hold the leading, giving up six runs and losing in 10 innings.

The loss is hard to handle, especially when the offense did everything that it could to crawl back into a game that looked to be out of hand early. The bullpen has done a great job, but the loss showed a glaring weakness for the Rockies.

The big pink elephant in the room is Franklin Morales in the closers role. Jim Tracy was quick to promote him to the position after Huston Street went down. Tracy talks about Morales as a guy who can hit the mid-to-upper 90's from the left side and has a great curve ball. All of these compliments are very true. However, Morales is missing perhaps the greatest tool required of a closer.

Morales should not be in the closers role because he does not have the mental toughness for it. A closer needs to come in with the mindset that no hitter who has ever played the game or who ever will play the game has a chance to get a hit off of him. They need to trust their stuff and know that they can throw any pitch at any time for a strike. Morales does not have that.

The hard throwing lefty's performance was not an unfamiliar one to the Rockies. Morales looked exactly like Brian Fuentes, who, to his credit was and is a very successful closer. However, it is very well known that Fuentes is synonymous with "heart attack."

On Wednesday, Morales came in and plunked Mark Reynolds on a 1-2 pitch. This is the same Mark Reynolds who holds the record for most strikeouts in a season. Morales then walked two batters, only to wiggle his way out of the jam, a la Brian Fuentes. However, with the bullpen thin due to having already worked eight innings, Morales was sent back in the 10th inning. He threw a fastball to Kelly Johnson, who crushed it over the right field wall to seal the victory for the Diamondbacks.

Morales struggled with fastball command. And that is saying it nicely. The truth is, he had no clue where his fastball was going. He was able to locate his offspeed pitches decently, but was not getting any close calls on the plate because of the fact that his command was so poor.

The thought is nice. Morales has every pitch in his arsenal to be a closer. Unfortunately, he might be the worst guy to pick from the entire bullpen to close out games. He just does not have the right frame of mind to do it.

It may be time to give someone else a shot. There is a guy in the Rockies bullpen who does have the right mentality to close games, and would probably do a good job at it. His name is Matt Daley.

Daley is perfect for the role. He was undrafted out of college and has a huge chip on his shoulder. He worked extremely hard to get to the big leagues and instead of being a guy who floats back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues, Daley has pitched well enough to solidify a role for himself as a late inning guy.

Of late, Daley has struggled with pounding the strike zone like he normally does, but even with his struggles he is still sporting a Jimenez-like 0.82 ERA.

The question is why not? Why not give him a chance? Morales has done nothing but show that he is extremely shaky in that role and Rafael Betancourt, who gave up two runs in the eighth, has proven over his career that he does not fit the closer role well.

Daley does not throw hard, he does not have phenomenal pitches, but he gets outs. He has an attitude that believes he can do anything, which he proved simply by making it to the big leagues.

The Rockies should give him a shot, but at this point they should give anyone a shot over Franklin Morales.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez Continues His Domination

Roy Halladay who?

On Tuesday night Ubaldo Jimenez made it clear who the best pitcher in the National League is. He led the Rockies on the mound as the club rolled to a 12-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.

On Monday all the national baseball shows could talk about was how good Roy Halladay has been. On Baseball Tonight Bobby Valentine went as far as saying that if the season were to end today, the only two pitchers in contention for the NL Cy Young award would be Halladay and Mets starter Mike Pelfrey.

Jimenez is a man of few words. He is not one to publicly lobby for his name to be mentioned.

He doesn't have to. His pitching says more than any words could ever get across.

An offensive explosion resulted in Jimenez only needing to pitch six innings, and only throwing 95 pitches, a welcomed break from his two previous starts in which he was in the 120's.

Jimenez gave up only two hits, struck out six and walked just two hitters on the night, lowering his ERA to 0.79 and making him the first pitcher in the big leagues to win five games. His six shutout innings put his scoreless innings streak at 22-1/3, a new Rockies record, breaking one of the final records that Kevin Ritz held.

The fact is, it will not be long before Jimenez rewrites the Rockies record book. By the time his playing days are over, the Dominican flamethrower should hold ever record the club can imagine. His 5-0 start is no fluke, he is the real deal, and eventually people are going to notice.

Before the first inning was over, Jimenez had all of the run support that he would need. With Eric Young Jr. in the starting lineup for the first time it allowed Jim Tracy to move Carlos Gonzalez to the five hole. He made the move look brilliant, collecting a first inning two run double and collecting a triple and single, knocking in a total of five runs on the night.

The Rockies posted three runs in the first inning, four in the second and tacked on four more in the third inning. Troy Tulowitzki erased any doubt that he could have a good April, going 3-for-3 with two doubles. He increased his early season batting average to a white hot .325.

Edwin Jackson, one of the Diamondbacks big acquisitions in the offseason, paid the price on the mound. In 2-2/3 innings he gave up 10 earned runs. The loss put him at 1-2 with an ugly 6.67 ERA.

The Rockies lineup clicked on Tuesday night. Whether it was the spark that Young brings as a starter, or having Gonzalez in the five hole, this team figured something out. That was inevitably going to happen, opponents were just hoping that it would happen later rather than sooner. If the Rockies can bring these same bats with them on a nine-game road trip starting on Friday, there will be no concern for all of the injured players on the roster.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Time For Rockies To Pull The Plug On Iannetta

There has been a great debate going on in Rockies Nation for almost a year.

Check out the Rockies blogs out there and it will be easy to find. Many passionate Rockies fans believe that Chris Iannetta needs to be the everyday starting catcher for the Rockies.

These fans have done their research, they have the numbers to back up why Iannetta is the right man for the job. Even when Yorvit Torrealba was seemingly winning every game down the stretch in 2009, these fans held to the fact that Iannetta should have been taking the swings.

When the club signed Iannetta in the offseason to a three year $8 million deal, they breathed a breath of fresh air. Then, the team was willing to let Torrealba walk away after he rejected their lucrative offer. They Iannetta fans felt vindication.

They see the potential that Iannetta possesses. He is rock solid, he has a good arm and good receiving skills. When he connects, there are few who can hit the baseball further. The talent is undeniable.

The passion that these fans have is admirable. The only problem is, they are dead wrong.

Iannetta is one of those guys who at one point was labeled a "can't miss" prospect. The only problem is "can't miss" prospects are a dime a dozen in Triple-A.

Ask Clint Hurdle about being a "can't miss" prospect after he was supposed to be the next Johnny Bench when he was drafted by the Royals in the 70's. Hurdle underwhelmed almost everyone in his Major League career that spanned parts of 10 seasons. He hit .259 and had an on base percentage of just .341 for his career.

The Iannetta crowd argues that his 2008 season proves that he is good enough to be an everyday starter. To their credit, Iannetta had a phenomenal '08 campaign. He had a batting average of .268 and had an OPS of .895 after hitting 18 home runs. His fans point to those numbers and suggest the down '09 season was an aberration.

At this point, however, it might be time to turn the tables and realize that the '08 numbers may have been the aberration. So far in 2010, albeit a small sample size, Iannetta is hitting just .133. He has struck out 11 times to only four walks. He has been severely outplayed by Miguel Olivo.

Iannetta fans always point to the fact that while Iannetta may in fact be being outplayed by the current catcher (Torrealba or more recently Olivo), that those players are simply playing at levels above their heads and eventually they will come back to earth and the more talented player (Iannetta) will do better..

Iannetta fans think that the Rockies haven't showed their catcher enough patience. They think that if he were moved somewhere else that he might get a fair shake. The problem with that argument is that it would be tough to find a Major League city that would have more patience than the Rockies have shown with Iannetta.

Iannetta was essentially handed the starting catcher job in '07, '08, '09 and 2010, and in three of those four years he has played himself out of the starting job. Now, its not like the Rockies had someone behind Iannetta who they were dying to take a look at. They didn't even have a guy waiting on the bench who had been an everyday starter, but was on the back end of his career. The guys brought in to backup Iannetta were exactly that...backups. Iannetta did not lose his job to an up-and-coming stud. He lost his job to career journeymen.

The problem for Iannetta is not his talent, but it is his passion.

The catcher is emotionless. Most of the time the average person couldn't tell whether Iannetta hit a home run or if his dog got hit by a car. While it is not necessary, or even healthy, to have a team full of guys with Troy Tulowitzki's fire, it is important for a teammate to show that he is upset with himself when he struck out for the third time in a game.

Iannetta doesn't need to break his bat over his knee, or beat up a water cooler, but something...anything to show fans and teammates that he actually cares about what happened in his last at bat would go a long way. Instead he is simply deadpan.

Fans of the catcher point to Todd Helton, a Rockie who is notably stoic. They say that extreme passion is not everyone's style.

That reason is a poor excuse, and frankly, a slap in the face of Helton. The greatest player to don a Rockies uniform may not express his passion the way Tulowitzki does, but take one look at the man and it is extremely obvious that passion oozes out of his pours. He loves baseball, he loves winning, and he works harder than anyone else in that clubhouse to improve his game. It also doesn't hurt that he has something that Iannetta doesn't have...the numbers to prove it.

At some point, most likely soon, the Rockies are going to have to make a decision with Iannetta. They cannot afford to let him sit on the bench, but they also cannot afford to let him steal at-bats from a player who has a chance at the plate.

The fact is, Chris Iannetta may simply fall in line with the thousands of other "can't miss" prospects who missed.


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Rockies Lose Opener To Haren, Diamondbacks; Injury Bug Bites Rockies

When you face Dan Haren, you have to be perfect. So essentially the Rockies were done after Jason Hammel gave up three runs in the top of the first inning. The Diamondbacks went on to win 5-3.

Hammel looked like he was going to be just fine. He got two quick outs, then was up on Justin Upton 0-2 before walking him, giving up a single to Mark Reynolds, then giving up a three run home to Adam LaRoche.

The three run first inning was all Haren needed as he mowed down one Rockies hitters after another. In all, Haren went eight innings, giving up just two runs on five hits. He struck out 10 Rockies while walking only two.

Hammel, who has struggled his last three times out, came out of the game after the third inning. He left, not because of ineffectiveness, but due to a tight groin muscle, the second starting pitcher to go down with injury in as many days. On Sunday Jorge De La Rosa left with a finger injury. After the game on Monday Jim Tracy said that the injury is torn flexor tendon band in his left middle finger, an injury that will put him on the shelf for a while. If he throws anymore on it, it could tear the ligament, resulting in a lost season for the lefty. It is safe to assume that De La Rosa will be out for at least six weeks.

Hammel's injury is more of a day to day type of problem. However, the Rockies will most likely use it as an excuse to give the struggling righty without any options left a chance to find his mechanics and make a couple of rehab starts before rejoining the rotation.

The injuries will most likely prompt the club to recall Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin. Rogers started the season as the clubs long man out of the bullpen and did well there, and Chacin has been lights out in Colorado Springs, pitching to the tune of 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 21-1/3 innings. His control problems of a year ago seem to have gone out the window. He has struck out 21 and walked only 11 Triple-A hitters.

As Jim Tracy said in his postgame press conference, the injuries are going to test the depth of the organization. Early in the year, with the Rockies sitting right at .500 two young pitchers are going to be thrown into the deep end and given a chance to prove that they belong in the Major League rotation.

For what it's worth, losing two starters in two days would be a near season-ender for many teams in the league, but the Rockies are so full of depth at the starting pitching spot that they may take a step back, but throwing in the towel is nowhere close to where the Rockies are at. In fact, the truth is, both Chacin and Rogers have more physical talent than Hammel and probably will end up being better pitchers at the Major League level when they get their chance.

The injuries will undoubtedly test the Rockies, it will be interesting to see if they sink in the adversity, or learn to swim.

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Rockies Rout Marlins After Ceremony Honoring Their Fallen President

To say this has been an emotional week for the Colorado Rockies is a vast understatement.

No one thought when Ubaldo Jimenez threw the club's first ever no-hitter that eight days later the team would be saying goodbye to their president, who by all accounts was the heart and soul of the franchise, eight days later. The club has gone from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows.

Most never knew who Keli McGregor was before the week started. Anyone who is a Rockies fan knows who he was now. From the sound of it he made a deep impact on everyone's life around him. A man deeply rooted in faith who never wavered, he lived as a model to those around him. Former manager Clint Hurdle referred to him as his mentor, someone who taught him how to be a husband and father.

On a day when it must have been tough for the Rockies to take the field, they responded to the emotions and won decisively over the Marlins 8-4, taking two-out-of-three to win the series.

The game was squarely in the Rockies control, however in the eighth inning the Marlins threatened. Down 8-3 they had two runners in scoring position and no one out. With Wes Helms pinch hitting, Matt Daley made a decent pitch that Helms popped up to shallow center. It had all the makings of a ball that would fall into the Bermuda Triangle. With Dexter Fowler facing in and Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes racing out, the ball continued to float further into the outfield. Amazingly, Barmes came up with the over the shoulder catch, quickly spun and threw the ball back to the infield, holding the runners at their respective bases. It was a reminder of just how good of a defensive player Barmes is.

The Rockies were afforded breathing room after Seth Smith, playing left field due to Brad Hawpe's quad injury, launched two home runs off of Marlins starter Chris Volstad. Miguel Olivo also added a three run shot, his fifth of the season and third in as many starts.

The game featured the offense that the Rockies have been waiting to see. When this club is clicking offensively, there are no holes, there is no way to pitch around anyone. When Ian Stewart hits out of the seven hole, pitchers should fear for their ERA's and hope that their fifth day does not come around when they visit Denver.

With the win, the Rockies are now one game above .500 once again. If they can manage to take two of three from the suddenly home run crazy Diamondbacks, they will be in a good position to finish out April without crashing and burning the way they have the past three seasons. That will go a long way for them as they fight down the stretch. In 2007 and 2009 the Rockies found themselves exerting so much energy to crawl back into the race that they were out of gas when they needed to push the throttle.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rockies Split Doubleheader; Cook Finds His Sinker

The Rockies lackluster performance in game one of the doubleheader on Saturday was made up for in game two.

The club split the two games with the Marlins, dropping the first one 4-1 before winning the second game 8-1 behind a complete game performance from former ace Aaron Cook.

The second game allowed Rockies fans to breathe a sigh of relief, not just because the club got back to .500 with the win, but because Cook looked like he found his sinker once again. The right hander pitched a complete game, giving up just five hits, all singles, he walked just two hitters and struck out four. The complete game took just 111 pitches.

The game was vintage Cook.

After struggling mightily in his first three starts and throughout spring training, the redhead had more than just the average pessimist nervous. He had turned from a dependable ground ball pitcher who could work his way out of jams to a pitcher who could not hold a lead and was floating lifeless sinkers right into a hitter's happy zone.

His Saturday performance was a welcomed reminder of what he is capable of.

The game may have been a shutout, had Jason Giambi cleanly fielded a ground ball in the sixth inning. With a double play in order, the bulky backup misplayed a ground ball, which allowed the runner at first to get to second safely. Giambi was able to avoid an error, however, by picking up the ball and feeding it to Cook who covered first. The recovery resulted in an out, but the misplay resulted in a run later in the inning.

On the offensive side the Rockies finally looked like the team that everyone thought that they would be. Troy Tulowitzki logged two hits, Giambi finally hit a ball hard, and Miguel Olivo, who is quietly solidifying himself as the starting catcher, clubbed his 100th career home run deep into the pond beyond the center field wall.

Game one was a different story for the Rockies. Greg Smith was did not bring his best stuff to the mound. He gave up four earned runs in five innings pitched. The performance was uninspiring, yet it kept the Rockies in the game. Manny Corpas came in and delivered what the club has long been hoping to see from him. He pitched three scoreless innings of relief, giving up no hits and walking only one Marlin. It finally seems as if Corpas has found a role that will allow him to gain his confidence back once again.

The problem with the first game was the same problem that has been plaguing the club for the first month of the season, a lack of offense. The bottom of the lineup was a black hole, with Chris Iannetta and Clint Barmes continuing their downward spirals. Iannetta was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts as Barmes tallied his own 0-for-3.

For four years the Rockies have been waiting for Iannetta to step up and take the reins at the catcher of the future. In each of those years he has been crowned the starting catcher in spring training, but then simply fails to deliver. 2008 was a good year for the catcher, however he just cannot seem to find his swing on a consistent basis in the big leagues.

When the bottom of the order is a lost cause, it essentially kills three innings of the game and causes the rest of the offense to only have six innings to score runs in. It kills any momentum that the team has.

All in all, the Rockies will take a split. Especially because of the fact that Aaron Cook looked as good as he did. If he returns to form, the club will well be on their way to winning more consistently, knowing that between Ubaldo Jimenez, Cook and Jorge De La Rosa, they have a pretty good chance to win three out of every five games.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rockies Rained Out, Doubleheader Saturday

Welcome to Colorado.

Opening Day on April 9th was absolutely perfect. 70 degrees and sunny, with all of the signs of spring in the air. Colorado is notorious for tricking people into believing that summer is here, then sending a mocking snowstorm as a reminder that summer is really another month off.

On Friday morning Denver's weather looked more like the Broncos should have been playing rather than the Rockies, but the club still thought that they would be able to get the game in. They might have played, until another round of wet weather came through and ensured that the game would not happen.

What that means for fans is what has become a rarity in Major League Baseball. The Rockies will host a true doubleheader on Saturday. What that means is that a ticket to either game, Friday's rainout or Saturday's regularly scheduled game, is good for admission into either game, or both.

Major League Baseball used to play doubleheaders frequently, but it has become a lost art since teams realize how much revenue is lost by essentially giving a 2-for-1 special. Doubleheaders of the most recent variety are usually "day-night doubleheaders," which means the stadium is cleared out and fans must purchase tickets for both events.

Game time for the first game is 3:05 and the first pitch for game two will be approximately twenty minutes after the conclusion of the first game. For those looking to watch on TV, FSN Rocky Mountain will not pick up the broadcast until 5:30. What that means is that the majority, if not all, of the first game will be without TV. 850 KOA will still be broadcasting both games over the radio waves.

Two baseball games in one day may be too much for many fans, but it represents a rare opportunity to see a true doubleheader. With the weather forecast calling for rain until the 3 o'clock start time, the Rockies should be playing the first game in the sunshine.

A note for those planning on attending. The Rockies have asked for fans to wear purple in honor of team president Keli McGregor who passed away on Tuesday. McGregor was just 48 years old and clearly had a huge impact on this club. The club was also planning a tribute to McGregor before Friday night's game, so it is safe to assume that same tribute will be held prior to game one.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez: Get Used To Hearing That Name

The Rockies defeated the Nationals 2-0 on Thursday behind another incredible performance from their budding star Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jimenez went 7-1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and keeping his scoreless streak in tact at 17-2/3 innings.

It is almost comical to look back into the not-so-distant past to recall fans who were upset at the Rockies front office for not making a strong push for Roy Halladay, who was on the market.

The Rockies did inquire, but quickly hung up the phone when the asking price was Jimenez and Ian Stewart. There was a group of fans who thought the Rockies were crazy. They thought that Halladay is a proven winner while Jimenez was just raw talent. There were even reporters who suggested as recently as this spring that the Rockies should have made that deal.

How does the crow taste?

After helping the Rockies take the next step in 2007 and get to their first ever World Series, Ubaldo Jimenez's abilities were never in doubt.

In both 2008 and 2009 Jimenez took steps forward to becoming one of the league's best pitchers. In 2010, the light switch has turned on.

At the end of the day on Thursday the scoreboard read 2-0 Rockies, a classic pitchers duel. What actually transpired reveals so much more about the man on the mound for Colorado. Five days after throwing 129 pitches in the club's first ever no-hitter, Jimenez returned to the mound unfazed by expectations.

Before the game he told reporters that he wasn't worried about giving up a hit, he just wanted to pick up a win for the team. The biggest concern for the Rockies is if Jimenez would experience a no-hitter hangover. The right hander proved there would be no such thing, firing three pitches at 97 MPH in the first inning and touching 100 in the second.

Jimenez began his career with an incredible arm. His talent is nothing short of God-given. However, he was completely unrefined. He struggled with walks throughout his minor league career, and brought those struggles with him to the big leagues. All the way through the middle half of '09, Jimenez was plagued by the big inning.

The big inning no longer plagues him.

At this rate, a big inning off of Jimenez would consist of two hits, let alone a run. That is how dominant he has been.

April numbers always have to have the caveat that they are too small of a sample size to draw conclusions from. However, Jimenez now has four starts under his belt, enough to get an accurate depiction of how well he is doing.

Take a look at these numbers and try and find a reason why Jimenez will not be on his way to Anaheim in mid-July for his first of many All-Star Games. 4-0, 28-1/3 innings pitched, 25 strikeouts, 12 walks, 0.95 ERA.

For years Rockies fans have been hoping for an ace. Those years are long gone. The Rockies have their ace. Jimenez is not only the ace of the Colorado Rockies, but he may just prove to be the ace of the National League. The national media may want to ignore him, but they will not be able to do it for very long. Jimenez is as good as any pitcher in the league, and when he takes the mound, the Rockies are going to be a tough team to beat.

The fact is, Jimenez has too much talent to be ignored. At 26 years old, he is still a couple of years away from his prime. That fact should be more scary to hitters then the no-hitter or the shutout.

Ubaldo Jimenez is for real, and he is a Colorado Rockie. Enjoy.


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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rockies Blow Lead Behind Poor Defense, Lose to Nats

The Rockies are good at giving away three run leads. In 15 games so far in 2010 the Rockies have lost three games in which they held a 3-0 lead. On Wednesday the Nationals came back from a 3-0 deficit to win 6-4 late in the game.

While the Nationals strung together a nice little comeback victory, the rest of Washington D.C. must have had something else to do. A team that has struggled since it moved from Montreal six years ago has effectively lost its connection with the capitol city.

The announced crowd was 11,191. The actual crowd was nowhere near that number. If the truth were told there may have been 1,000 people there. It made a Marlins fans look die hard. For those with a long memory, it looked like Migh High Stadium when the Denver Zephyrs played in the 75,000 seat NFL stadium.

The Nationals lackadaisical fan base was eerily similar to the Rockies defensive effort on Wednesday. As the old baseball saying goes, bad defense is contagious.

While there may be no truth to that, it cannot be overlooked that every time Jason Giambi starts at first base, the Rockies defensive fundamentals go out the window.

Giambi was not charged with an error, but misplayed a ball hit right at him. The defensive wheels fell off at that point. Troy Tulowitzki dropped a routine ground ball, then Clint Barmes booted a ground ball of his own.

It is frightening how a team that could not miss a ground ball in 2009 suddenly looks like they have no business being on the infield in 2010. Tulowitzki has misplayed more routine ground balls in April than he has in his entire career to date.

Is it the Giambi effect? Are the infielders starting to think about making a perfect throw to first before they field the ball because they know that Giambi will not be able to make the same digs that Todd Helton does? At some point a decision is going to have to be made in regards to getting Helton rest. It may be important for Helton to take a day or two off every week, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Giambi should be nothing more than a pinch hitter.

The season is young and the Rockies are one game under .500. They are only two games back of the lead in the National League West, and they are currently trailing the Padres, a team that stands very little chance of finding themselves anywhere near that spot come September.

This Rockies team is going to figure it out. They have too much talent not to. The starting pitching is going to find its stride. Aaron Cook will rediscover his sinker, Jason Hammel will attack the strike zone and Greg Smith will continue to get better. However, they have to turn it on mentally.

Lackluster play in April is exactly what has gotten this club in trouble the past three years. Climbing out of a huge hole is obviously possible. This club showed that it can happen. However, getting out of that hole might take every ounce of energy. For the Rockies, it would be much better if they figure it out sooner rather than later.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mourning Rockies Break Out Bats In Washington

Usually when a team puts up 10 runs in a baseball game it is cause for celebration. Especially when that team has been struggling to score runs over the previous week.

Tuesday was not a usual day for the Rockies.

A 10-4 win over the Nationals was not met with loud music and cheerfulness. This night is not about being happy.

After receiving word around noon that team president, and friend of many in the clubhouse, Keli McGregor had passed away in the night the mood was not going to be one of celebration.

The team honored their fallen leader by placing a No.88 jersey, the number that McGregor wore as a football player at Colorado State and with the Denver Broncos, in the dugout for the game. Starting on Wednesday the team will wear patches on their jerseys that will honor McGregor.

As emotions were high, the Rockies found the baseball field as a sanctuary to start letting their minds heal.

Sporting a lifeless offense over the previous week, and having yet to fulfill their potential so far in 2010, the Rockies broke out the bats on Tuesday night. The offense put up an eight spot in the third inning, hitting the ball hard to all parts of the yard. Jorge De La Rosa, usually wielding a weak bat, smoked a bases loaded fastball down the right field line for a three run double. It was De La Rosa's second hit of the night.

De La Rosa brought his bat to the field, and looked good early in the game on the mound, but his mechanics fell apart in the 5th inning, and after throwing 118 pitches, De La Rosa was out of the game after throwing just five plus innings.
The win was much needed for the Rockies, but the fact is, it didn't really matter. Focus was not on the baseball game, it was not on the scoreboard or personal stats. Life was put into perspective on Tuesday for the Rockies. Baseball is simply a game, something that is trivial and really doesn't matter. Life is important, something that can be taken away at any point, without warning.

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Keli McGregor, Rockies President, Found Dead in Salt Lake City

The Colorado Rockies president, Keli McGregor was found dead this morning in his Salt Lake City hotel room. He was there on Rockies business.

The Salt Lake City police department does not suspect foul play and believes that McGregor died of natural causes.

McGregor had been with the club since its inception in 1993. According to the Denver Post he was the senior director of operations before being promoted to senior vice president in 1996 and executive vice president in 1998 and finally president in October of 2001.

McGregor has strong ties to Colorado. He went to college at Colorado State University before being drafted by the Broncos in 1985.

At just 48 years old, McGregor is survived by his wife Lori and his four children.

It is undoubtedly a sad day for the Rockies organization.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Aaron Cook Loses His Sinker, Rockies Lose To Nationals

When Aaron Cook struggled in Spring Training, it was chalked up to a veteran working on his pitches. When he struggled in the first two starts of the season it was chalked up to a sinker ball pitcher needing to get into a rhythm.

After getting shelled for five runs in three innings in the Rockies 5-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday night, the answer is simple.

Aaron Cook has lost his sinker.

Cook has no backup plan. The redhead throws an 87-90 MPH fastball and relies on the movement that his sinker brings in order to induce ground outs. If his ball isn't moving, he is in trouble.

In the third second inning Cook allowed two Nationals base runners before floating a hanging sinker, if there is such a pitch, to Willie Harris, who promptly took a batting practice swing and landed his second home run of the year deep into the right field bullpen.

The pitch was horrible. It started on the inner half of the plate, but stayed high in the zone and tailed right into the wheelhouse. When Cook doesn't have his sinker, he has to nibble, and when he nibbles, he misses the strike zone. Hence the four walks the righty gave up in his three innings.

The Rockies, who currently sit one game under .500 continue to live their yearly April nightmare. The fact of the matter is, this team is lucky to be just one game under the even mark.

Cook's performance was bad, but the bullpen did a phenomenal job of keeping the Rockies in it. Manny Corpas, Matt Daley, Randy Flores and Joe Beimel combined to throw seven innings of one-hit baseball, keeping the Nats scoreless the rest of the way.

The offense, however, could not pick up it's share of the burden. For the sixth straight game the offense failed to score more than five runs. The same offense that has been touted as the best the club has ever seen.

The easiest way to say it is that the Rockies do not look prepared when they take the field. The offense is flat. The defense is not on their toes, and pitchers like Cook are missing the grittiness that landed him in the All-Star game in 2008. The energy just isn't there. If the starting pitcher isn't on that day, they pack it in and hope for better results the next time. The exact same style of play that has been employed the past three Aprils.

The good thing for the Rockies is that they can afford to tread water. They do not need an incredible April to stay in the race. If they close out the month somewhere around the .500 mark, no more than two games below it, they will be in decent shape. What they must avoid is falling into the same rut that has plagued them in recent Aprils, where it takes everything they have the rest of the season to catch up.

These Rockies will figure it out. They have too much talent not to. When they do it will be fun to watch. For now, fans just have to hope that they figure it out sooner rather than later.

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Ubaldo Jimenez Named NL Player of the Week

In a move that should surprise no one, Major League Baseball announced today that Ubaldo Jimenez is the player of the week for the National League.

Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history on Saturday night against a very good hitting Braves team. He was the definition of effectively wild, walking six batters and striking out seven. The flame-throwing right hander threw 128 pitches in the performance, hitting 97 MPH on the final pitch.

With the no-hitter, the right hander has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, something that those covering the team on a regular basis have known for a long time. A no-hitter, however, is something that will turn national heads to the talent that Jimenez possesses.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Umpires Deny Rockies Series Victory Over Braves

No one wants to be that guy. No one wants to be the person who claims that a team lost because of an umpire or an official. It comes across as a petty excuse for a team not getting the job done.

To be fair, the Rockies offense did not score enough runs to win most Major League Baseball games, however, that that does not excuse two incredibly poor calls in the 9th inning that were largely responsible for the 4-3 loss.

First, confusion ensued when first base umpire Jeff Nelson called a balk on Rockies closer Franklin Morales with Martin Prado on first base. Then, in an awkward scene, Nelson changed his mind, realizing that Morales had thrown to first base for the pick off, meaning that he did not need to come set before throwing there.

The confusion caused Braves manager Bobby Cox to come out for an explanation. After the scene was settled down, Morales went down 2-0 on Brian McCann at the plate. Morales' third pitch was a called strike, however, McCann pointed to rookie second base umpire Damien Bell who had called Morales for a balk. The call erased the strike, moved Prado to second base, and caused Jim Tracy to become more fired up then any other time in his nearly one year as Rockies manager.

If that play wasn't enough, Morales ended up walking McCann, but got Troy Glaus to hit into what should have been a 3-6-1 double play. Morales covered first base and received the throw back from Troy Tulowitzki. To the naked eye it looked as if Glaus was out. The replays confirmed what the naked eye saw. However, first base umpire Jeff Nelson called Glaus safe. Morales may have bludgeoned Nelson had it not been for Todd Helton holding him back.

Morales' focus was gone, and so was the game for the Rockies. The flame throwing lefty walked shortstop Yunel Escobar on four pitches, then, after getting within a strike of getting out of the inning, gave up a base hit to rookie phenom Jason Heyward who punched the ball to left field, scoring two runs and giving the Braves the victory.

The balk call by Bell at second base may have been the most ridiculous call since the 2009 playoff debacles. Bell had just been called up and had not worked a game in the series. To put it lightly, the call was the most blatant example of a giveback call. Morales clearly came set. Hall of Fame writer Tracy Ringolsby's quote on his Twitter account said it best "Damien Bell sure arrived in the big leagues with a big chip on his shoulder. Sad watching a rookie umpire strut with arrogance."

The game was a huge letdown after the team was riding a high after Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hit performance from a night before.

The Rockies look to regroup, and frankly, find their bats on Monday night against a poor Nationals team in Washington. Aaron Cook toes the rubber for the Rockies looking to find his sinker ball.

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