|The Rockies need Chacin to be the 2010 version.|
Before the season began, general manager Dan O'Dowd was on record saying that the righty, expected to be the ace of the pitching staff, was out of shape and that he was disappointed by reports that he didn't work hard in the offseason.
Possibly in an effort to prove his general manager wrong, and not look bad, Chacin pitched through shoulder pain throughout spring training. He looked bad, but continued to insist that he was fine. After five starts and a 7.30 ERA, it was clear that Chacin wasn't right.
The Venezuelan spent 99 days on the disabled list, as the people who replaced him on the roster continued to fail over and over. With the offense hitting the ball well enough to keep the average team in games, the Rockies continued to lose. The pitching staff was routinely blowing three, four and five run leads. The absence of a healthy Chacin was the biggest issue facing the Rockies.
On Saturday night, in his return to Coors Field, after two starts on the road, the righty was brilliant. It took Chacin just 74 pitches to get through seven innings. He struck out four and walked two, giving up five hits. His lone mistake came when Wil Venable blasted a solo home run to lead off the 6th inning.
The performance was a sigh of relief for those hoping for a big bounce back year from the Rockies in 2013. If Chacin can pitch the way he has shown that he is capable of, the Rockies should be in a great position to make 2012 look like a fluke.
When Chacin was pitching at his best, back in the first half of the 2011 season, he was challenging right-handers with his changeup on the inside half of the plate. From there, his slider with bite would freeze those same righties. The ability to throw strikes is the most crucial part of the equation for Chacin. If he attacks the strike zone, he can dominate.
What Chacin proved on Saturday was that Coors Field isn't the issue. Pitchers can pitch in the park. It isn't impossible. The altitude takes an effect on the ball. However, the simple reality is always proven true at Coors Field. If a pitcher throws strikes and stays in the lower half of the strike zone, they will get outs. It doesn't matter where the pitcher is pitching, pounding the strike zone generally results in good things. The fact is, hitting a Major League pitch is difficult for even the best hitters in the world. That means that challenging hitters is usually going to result in success.
Combine a maturing Chacin with a healthy Jorge De La Rosa, and suddenly the Rockies don't look like they possess a terrible starting rotation.
The reality is, the Rockies rotation doesn't have to be phenomenal. As the team showed once again on Saturday night, the firepower is there for this team to score runs on a regular basis. The lineup is stacked from top to bottom. There are players at nearly every position that are out to prove that they should be the everyday starter heading into spring training.
The fact is, the Rockies are going to have some really big decisions to make in the offseason about whether or not they need to stick with certain players, move others or allow a battle to ensue for starting spots in Scottsdale. Competition is always a good thing in sports. It brings out the best in players and allows the team to see who will be able to perform when there is a level of expectation on them.
This team has been good as of late. They have been fun to watch. They are taking some of the bitter taste of the first four months out of the season. Suddenly it makes sense to turn on the TV and watch this team play. They are playing fundamental baseball and are winning because of it. That gives the Rockies a reason to be hopeful for the quick turnaround in 2013.
However, the rest of the season will determine if this success is a mirage, or the real thing.
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