Monday, July 23, 2012

Colorado Rockies continue to struggle, drop opener in Arizona

Carlos Torres pitched well on Monday night.
Jonathan Sanchez fits right in with the Colorado Rockies.

The former San Francisco Giant, then Kansas City Royal made his Colorado Rockies debut on Monday night in Phoenix. The lefty went four innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits. He struck out five but walked four, an issue Sanchez has dealt with his entire career.

The pitching has been the issue. That might be the most obvious statement made in the history of Major League Baseball. However, if this Rockies team even had decent starting pitching, their record would be closer to .500 rather than potentially losing 100 games.

A poor pitching performance from Sanchez was all the Diamondbacks needed with Ian Kennedy on the mound. The 20-game-winner from a year ago pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He struck out seven and didn't walk a batter. It was a performance that the Rockies would love to see just once or twice from their starting pitchers.

While it is easy to be negative, there are still a few positives that can be taken from Monday's game for the future of the Rockies.

Josh Rutledge continues to be impressive. Quickly he is looking more and more like the second baseman of the future for the Rockies. On a night when Kennedy looked like he couldn't be touched, Rutledge blasted his first big league home run off of the righty. Later, he doubled came around to score. In a small sample size, Rutledge is showing no signs of a learning curve. He is hitting .368 through his first week and a half.

The challenge for Rutledge will come over the next few weeks. Major League scouts are very good. They will suddenly start finding holes in his swing and start challenging him with pitches that he probably isn't seeing right now. If he can make that adjustment, it will be incredibly impressive. Getting him enough at-bats to go through the adjustment, which might entail a prolonged slump, is crucial to his development.

Another positive for the Rockies was the performance from reliever Carlos Torres. The righty went three hitless innings in relief of Sanchez. He walked one while striking out three. If Torres can prove to be a solid middle reliever, it will help the Rockies be able to some much needed rest for Josh Roenicke, one of the most unsung heroes of the 2012 Rockies.

The game unraveled in the 4th inning, when Sanchez intentionally walked Ryan Roberts to face Kennedy with the bases loaded and two outs. Instead of attacking Kennedy, Sanchez threw what Jim Tracy described as a "lollipop" pitch, in which Kennedy was able to drive for a bases-clearing triple.

The weird thing about watching these Rockies is that they have more talent than what their record suggests. They are not a bunch of re-treads, they can hit the ball with authority, and have a lineup that should be feared. If they had starting pitching that wasn't a colossal joke, this team would be in a much different boat.

Will the young Rockies starting pitchers continue to get better and suddenly be good enough to win games? If they do, this team could quickly make a turnaround and be much better than they are currently. However, that is going to take development and seasoning, which means the current 2012 team must provide support for their young pitchers in order to develop. 

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