|Juan Nicasio needs some Triple-A seasoning.|
The Colorado Rockies must start making moves to salvage a season that started with so much promise. It may seem early to declare a team in need of wholesale changes when they were expected to finish in the basement of the National League West. The problem is, they have the talent to compete, and they must not swing and miss at the opportunity.
The Rockies got shelled by a terrible Chicago Cubs team on Monday night. Juan Nicasio started on the mound for the Rockies and continued to cause head-scratching among those following this team. With Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood pitching well in Triple-A, why is Nicasio still on the big league roster?
Nicasio ended up going a season-high six innings in the loss, giving up five earned runs. It may not sound like the worst start in the history of baseball, and it certainly wasn't. However, a common theme is starting to show up over and over again for the Dominican right-hander. Nicasio starts the game poorly. He seemingly gives up a 1st inning run or two in every start. On Monday, he gave up two runs in the 1st, then three more in the 2nd.
For two games in St. Louis, the offense was to blame for the losses. They simply never showed up. The bats had a very similar night in Chicago. The difference on Monday though, was that the team never had a shot. It might not make sense, but when a starting pitcher goes out and puts his team in a five-run hole before the offense has gone through the order for the first time, it changes the mindset of a game. Instead of being able to scratch out a run here and there, build up a lead and shut the door, an offense is in Mount Everest mode, where they must start climbing a mountain to get back in it.
Nicasio's story, coming back from a broken neck after getting drilled on the mound, is one that has everyone rooting for him. There is no one out there who doesn't admire his courage.
The problem is, feel-good stories are for teams that aren't in playoff contention.
It is time for the Rockies to make some very difficult decisions. Currently, the Rockies feature Nicasio and Jeff Francis on back-to-back days. When they face a team like the Cubs, a team that isn't nearly as good as the Rockies, they should go in and easily take two of three. However, with Nicasio and Francis on back-to-back nights, it isn't hard to imagine that the team feels like they must win the finale just to avoid being swept.
If the Rockies are going to contend, as they have shown that they might be able to do, it is time to send Nicasio down to Triple-A and call up Drew Pomeranz. The prized lefty is 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA, while pitching in the friendliest hitters park in the Pacific Coast League. It is time to see if he is developed enough to be pitching at the big league level.
Nicasio has options remaining, so that decision should be a no-brainer. The next difficult decision the Rockies need to make goes against everything that they believe in. This is a move that has been written on the wall for quite a while. The reality is, Tuesday night's starter, Jeff Francis, should be making his final start in a Rockies uniform. He has etched his name in the Rockies history books, but his best days are behind him. Long behind him.
With Tyler Chatwood lurking in Colorado Springs, there is no reason for a team that is serious about making a run to hold on to a guy who was essentially a stop-gap for a few prospects to develop. Those prospects are ready, and if they aren't, it is better to go down fighting with them on the mound. Francis will never be a part of the Rockies success. It is time to move on.
Those two moves would take care of the pitching issues. Now, for the elephant in the room. The offense, the one aspect of this team that had everyone gushing in spring training, hasn't shown up since the team left Los Angeles almost two weeks ago.
Everyone knows that the talent is there. However, they aren't hitting right now, and one glance at the Sky Sox stat sheet and it is difficult to ignore the fact that there are plenty of solid options waiting in the wings. The future is knocking at the door, and the annual May slide for the Rockies is making that knock hard to ignore.
In his 2012 Rockies debut, infielder DJ LeMahieu was fairly impressive. He did enough to show that he is talented enough to play at the big league level. Instead of giving him a bench job, the Rockies traded for Reid Brignac from the Rays, and LeMahieu was relegated to Triple-A. All he has done is notched a 20-game hitting streak and hit at a nearly .400 clip since the season began.
Outfielder Corey Dickerson, not on the 40-man roster, is hitting an incredible .381 in Colorado Springs.
Charlie Blackmon, called up when Michael Cuddyer went on the disabled list, was doing plenty of damage himself at the Triple-A level.
Another guy everyone loves is Jonathan Herrera. He works hard, he takes good at-bats, he is versatile and does a good job pinch hitting. He has been very good in his appearances so far in 2013. But once again, he is a guy who isn't going to win the Rockies a World Series.
If the Rockies want to get serious about winning, they must do things that will improve the team and end their May slide.
It is time for the Rockies to not only bolster their starting pitching, but they must upgrade their offense as well. If Dexter Fowler is slumping, have someone else take his spot. If Brignac is not a game-changer, find a new place for him and let a prospect get their chance.
After all, if the Rockies don't end up contending in 2013, will anyone really be disappointed? This team wasn't supposed to turn around this quickly. However, if they lose, but get guys experience and make the future come early, isn't that something productive for the club to build on?
The reality is, if the Rockies want to win, they need to make big, difficult changes, and they can't wait around until it is too late, they must make those decisions right now.
Follow me on Twitter @RockiesReview. Like me on Facebook, search "Rockies Review"