|Jordan Lyles is setting the Rockies up for some difficult decisions.|
Everything changed when Tyler Chatwood's competitive flare got the best of him.
Chatwood hit a double in the gap in his final spring training start. With the ball still in the outfield, Chatwood decided to push himself and push for a triple. The result was a strained hamstring that landed him on the disabled list and gave Lyles a shot in purple.
After his first two starts, the right-hander is setting up a very difficult decision for the Rockies when Chatwood returns to health. On Monday night Lyles went 6-2/3 innings, giving up just one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out four. Most important at Coors Field, he recorded 10 outs via the ground ball.
Lyles was so good on the mound that the only Rockies hitter who out shined him was himself. Channeling his inner-Chatwood, Lyles drove in more runs at the plate than he gave up on the mound. He went 3-for-3 at the plate, including a double and two RBIs.
Since 1993, the question mark for the Rockies is their pitching. There is never enough starting pitchers for any team in the big leagues. However, the need for depth is greater for the Rockies than for any other team in baseball due to the mental side of pitching at Coors Field. The altitude may be the excuse, but the sheer size of the outfield at Coors Field ensures a starting pitcher is going to give up more hits, which results in more pitches in situations with runners on base, in pressure situations. The Rockies need all the starting pitching that they can get.
Lyles presents a good problem for the Rockies to have. Not only will Chatwood be back soon, but eventually Jhoulys Chacin will return to the rotation, which means that there will be two odd-men out. With Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson as fixtures in the rotation, Franklin Morales, Juan Nicasio and Lyles are going to have to fight it out for the final spot.
As difficult as that might be for a pitcher or two who are throwing well and keeping the Rockies in baseball games, it is very good news for the Rockies and their fans.
Throw in the fact that both Eddie Butler and Jon Gray should be knocking on the door all season long, and the Rockies suddenly have starting pitching depth that no one anticipated. The Rockies haven't had options like Butler and Gray in the minors since Ubaldo Jimenez and Morales made their ways to the big league rosters in 2007. As the Rockies front office likes to remind everyone, 2007 was a very good year.
On Monday, the Rockies also did something that they need to do all season long. They defeated a bad pitcher whose talent level is below that of the Rockies offense. It may be fodder for the doubters to point out that the Rockies are feasting on horrible pitching, but the fact is, that is actually an argument for the Rockies apologists. Throughout the Rockies last place campaigns over the past two seasons, one of the many consistently bad things was that they made bad pitchers look very good.
Very early on, the Rockies have taken advantage of bad pitchers. On Monday, it was old friend Felipe Paulino. The Rockies took advantage of their former teammate and had in in the showers before the 5th inning was complete.
The Rockies balanced offensive attack saw every starter record at least one hit--with the exception of the hottest Rockies hitter--Charlie Blackmon, who was the victim of good defensive plays twice on the night.
On April 7th, it is certainly too early to declare this team as completely turned around. They have plenty to prove. Fans still have the right to be skeptical. However, the Rockies have played with heart. They play like they want to be at the park. That is different than the recent history of the Rockies, where the few fans who watched every pitch intently wondered if they cared more about wins and losses than the guys on the field.
The reality is, most Rockies fans don't have illusions of grandeur. Most level-headed Rockies fans have lowered their expectations that were elevated after 2007 and 2009. Most fans now realize that a .500 season would be satisfactory after the disappointments of the past.
However, what the Rockies are showing is how talented they are. Both the lineup and the starting rotation have enough talent to give fans hope that if they find a way to make a run, or find a way to steal some games on the road, that anything might be able to happen once September rolls around. It is far too early to talk about that at this point. Beating bad pitchers and dominated Coors Field is a great place to start.
Follow me on Twitter @RockiesReview. Like me on Facebook, search "Rockies Review"