Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jeremy Guthrie continues to struggle at Coors Field, Rockies lose

Jeremy Guthrie won't be around long.
Jeremy Guthrie made his first start for the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field since being demoted, then coming back to the starting rotation on Saturday night.

Despite working out of the bullpen at home since his last start on June 12th, the results were the same for the biggest offseason disappointment in recent years for the Rockies. The Rockies lost to the Phillies 8-5. Five batters into the game, the Rockies were down 4-0. The damage came on a double by Shane Victorino, a Chase Utley single, a walk to Ryan Howard and a long home run to Carlos Ruiz. Eight Phillies came to the plate before most fans had settled into their seats.

Guthrie settled down after the 1st inning, but the damage was done. Even for the best offenses, overcoming a four run deficit is difficult, it takes the wind out of the sails of the offense and requires nearly perfect pitching in the remaining eight innings in order to give the club a chance.

However, to Guthrie's credit, he did pitch well enough to give his team a chance. In the 5th inning, Phillies starter Vance Worley allowed a single to Jonathan Herrera and a double to Marco Scutaro. With two outs, Worley intentionally walked Carlos Gonzalez to load the bases for Michael Cuddyer. With a full count, Cuddyer, who has looked lost for the greater part of June and July, struck out to end the Rockies threat.

New father Wilin Rosario launched a three-run shot into the right-center field bleachers in the 8th inning, but the Phillies tacked on two more runs of their own to secure the victory.

The question must be asked. Why is Guthrie being asked to start at Coors Field? He readily admitted that he didn't realize how big of a challenge pitching in the park would be. He made it clear that his ball doesn't get as much movement. That mindset is the complete opposite of what a pitcher needs to have going to the mound, whether they are pitching at Coors Field or in Petco Park.

With the All-Star break, it would have been easy to re-adjust the rotation and allow someone else to start on Saturday and have Guthrie be the "piggy-back" starter if he was needed. That gives some protection to when and where the Rockies use him, instead of throwing him in as a starter when he clearly has no confidence.

Guthrie will be traded. The good thing about him is that the Rockies can make the Coors Field excuse for why he has been so bad and actually convince another team to take him. The return will be small, there is no doubt about that, but if the Rockies can get anything, including salary relief, for Guthrie, at this point it would be a huge win.

The Rockies, as bad as they are, are actually in a very good position to set themselves up for the future. Everything is aligning itself perfectly for the team to bring in a major haul at the trade deadline. First off, they are so bad that there is no chance that anyone could ever consider them in the race. Even a miracle run like 2007 would leave them several games out. That means that they are not going to teeter on the fence between keeping their players for a run, or selling them off and giving up. They are done and there are no questions about that.

In addition, this is the first year in which there is an additional wild card. At the All-Star break, all but a handful of teams were within 2-1/2 games of the postseason. What that means is that there will be fewer sellers at the deadline, and many more buyers. It means that talent that might not be great will be in demand because there are so few players available for the spot a contender is looking for.

The Rockies, who, to Dan O'Dowd's credit, have stocked up on players who have the potential to be a valuable trade candidate for teams in the hunt. If the Rockies are able to move Guthrie, Marco Scutaro, Jason Giambi, and Ramon Hernandez, they should be in a good be able to brag about quite a few solid minor leaguers that will help at the Major League level in the near future.

Of course, talking about trade candidates and the future is never a good conversation for fans to have in the middle of July. Rockies fans would much rather be on the other side of that conversation, talking about which prospects would be off limits to teams while still improving the Major League club in order to make a run.

For now, Rockies fans can only take solace in watching some of the younger talent develop and hope that talent becomes good enough to make the Rockies respectable again sooner rather than later.

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