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Goodbye Hi-Hello Pitchers and Catchers

By Chris Jacobson


While Hi Corbett Field held its charms, what most remember was the hot bleacher seating and the lack of “lawn” in the outfield that spring training baseball fans love to lounge in. Hi Corbett Field is a nice piece of the history of the Colorado Rockies, but it seems that now the most operable word in that sentence is “history”.

The Colorado Rockies welcomed their pitchers and catchers to their new digs; Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The Rocks share their new $100 million dollar facility with a division rival, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not to worry, the complex has six full size practice fields for each organization as well as a full separate clubhouse. The main selling point to the Rockies is the fact that the team no longer has to make the long bus ride to Hi Corbett, a change that will probably get the Colorado front line players more pre-season innings. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Colorado Rockies right now. They had one of their best off seasons of record, and they are bringing a pitching staff to “The Stick” that may be among baseballs top ten.

The 2010 season saw a Rockies staff that was decimated by injury and a few perennial underachievers. Manager Jim Tracy blames much of the injury woes on a poor approach to last year’s spring training. He and pitching coach Bob Apodaca monitored their pitchers by time not pitch count, a move that had pitchers who went through their actions quickly to have accelerated pitch counts. In addition, they felt that competition for slots were too wide open and had young pitchers trying to win spots in February.

This offseason saw the departures of local favorites like fan favorite but oft injured Jeff Francis and fan punching bag and seldom accurate Manny Corpas. The purging of the staff does not mean that the boys from Blake Street are any less armed. The key returns are the surprise re-signing of Jorge De La Rosa and the young gun Ubaldo Jimenez. De La Rosa seemed to be headed for “greener” pastures and the return of the staff’s number two starter is a shot in the arm to an already decent staff. Jimenez is a different story; he is a super star in the making. Few can forget the 15-1 2.20 era that Ubaldo posted before the 2010 All-Star break, and the young man looks to improve of what was just shy of a twenty win year. Jhoulys Chacin seems to be on the cusp of becoming a next level pitcher having held a 3.28 2010 era with twenty decisions. Aaron Cook would like to rebound from an injury plagued (turf toe) 2010 campaign and show more of the form of the previous two seasons in which he was a combined 27-15. Jason Hammel will finish off the rotation assuming there are no major surprises this March.

The relievers are slightly different to last year but the improvements could be dramatic. Huston Street will keep his closers role, but he missed 69 games last year and may need re-enforcements. This is where former Astro Matt Lindstrom steps in. He too is a former closer and they should make for a formidable duo. Rafael Betancourt should finally be fully healthy, Matt Belisle is steady if not better and Franklin Morales might be ready to live up to some of his enormous promise if he can find the strike zone. The enigma may be Esmil Rogers and his ability to see where he fits in, he can compete anywhere form starter to closer, but his eye seems to be on one of the five places in the rotation. There isn’t much by way of minor league help but RHPs Clay Mortensen and Bruce Billings seem the most ready to see the majors.

The catchers are not nearly as impressive. The Rockies sent Miguel Olivo packing much to the chagrin of the Coors Field faithful. In his spot, the starting catcher position seems to be being handed to “Mendoza line” hitter Chris Ianetta. This is made all the more apparent with the placement of Jose Morales as his back-up. Who someday could make someone a nice back-up, but doesn’t look to give Ianetta any competition. This had better be Ianetta’s breakout year as the Rockies have gotten rid of fan favorites Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba to make room for him over the last few years.

All in all, it should be a very solid season from the Rockies pitching staff. It seems both good and deep; while they are not the Phillies or the Giants, they are going to be a formidable bunch. Tickets to Ubaldo Jimenez starts may be harder to find than Josh McDaniels around here and with a little luck the Rocks will move way up from fifth worst in blown saves.

2 comments:

  1. Oh yeah, and for the love of all that is sacred and holy, GO GET MICHAEL YOUNG!

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  2. I'm pleased baseball is on the horizon. The Rocks are new spring training digs were long overdue. Love the signings of Tulo and Cargo. Hope the contracts don't bottle the Rocks up long-term though. Here's hoping the Rocks stay healthy and let's go get Michael Young

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