Rox Blast Into 2017 in Milwaukee; Home Friday vs Dodgers
The Colorado Rockies’ 2017 MLB campaign begins with a prayer for No. 35, the right-hander Chad Bettis, presently working a chemotherapy regimen, with vigor, pointing toward a late-summer return to bolster a rotation pushing toward October and the playoffs.
Construction of the current issue of the Rockies dates to late 2016, when then manager Walt Weiss was heard muttering on his way out of the dugout, “one more nasty crack from that Bob K guy on RWO and I’m outta here.” A day after the season ended, Weiss handed in his playbook, saving a week or two of hemming and hawing, and clearing the way for general manager Jeff Bridich to commence his renovations.
Bridich moved quickly, and after a decidedly boring vetting and interview process accented by the usual dose of rumor and speculation, chose Bud Black, the one-time Kansas City Royals lefthander and manager of Division rival San Diego, to become the new clubhouse leader in Denver, which was what everybody figured he’d do in the first place. Upon accepting the job, Black tapped former MLB catcher and Florida Marlins manager Mike Redmond to be his right-hand man, alongside returning Colorado coaches Stu Cole, Steve Foster and Darren Holmes. Duane Espy is back as the hitting coach, and he has an assistant, Jeff Salazar. Tony Diaz is on to direct traffic at first base, and long-time organization man Ronnie Gideon and bullpen catcher Aaron Munoz complete the staff.
Leadership in place, Bridich headed off to Disney World for the MLB Winter Meeting, and came away with a major prize, erstwhile Washington Nationals infielder Ian Desmond, late of the Texas Rangers, who signed a 5 year, $70 million deal to play 1st-base, a perplexing move that led to another round of rumor and speculation, with RWO denizens waiting in anticipation of “the next shoe to drop.” As the Aroldis Chapman—Kenley Jansen—Mark Melancon sweepstakes broiled among the big spenders, Bridich inked instead a secondary level free agent reliever, left-hander Mike Dunn, another former Marlin, to slide into the slot vacated by the departure of Boone Logan, and following a pause for the holidays, made his riskiest, high-reward-potential transaction, acquiring the former prohibitive Royals closer, Greg Holland, recovering from 2015 Tommy John surgery, to come aboard and solidify the back-end of the Rockie bullpen. A “make-good” minor league deal was enough to dissuade 1st-baseman Mark Reynolds from a summer in Japan, and Black got to add former Padre Alexi Amarista to the bench for a year and a million bucks.
The group convened in Phoenix to execute the proverbial Rites of Spring, but almost before everyone had their socks and underwear sorted into the appropriate drawers, wheels started flying astray in disparate directions. The Bettis revelation came early, along with news of a “stress reaction,” which I’m told is not as bad as a “stress fracture,” which is not as bad as a broken bone, to the sixth rib on the right side of budding outfield sensation David Dahl. Left-hander Chris Rusin, who modestly practices the Jorge De La Rosa approach to Spring Training without raising the ire of Ed the Ump, turned-up with a strained oblique, and no sooner had the exhibition season careened into gear than Desmond got a taste of what it’s like to be a Rockie, the Ron Hunts of getting hit in the hand, absorbing a break to the second metatarsal in his left one. Then March 14 catcher Tom Murphy, looking to throw-out a runner at 2nd-base, slammed his right forearm into the bat of hitter Anthony Rizzo, another break, another trip to the DL.
Wounded as they are, the Rockies head into 2017 featuring an all-world infield that includes MVP candidate Nolan Arenado at 3rd, second-year shortstop Trevor Story, and 2016 NL batting champion DJ LeMahieu at 2nd. Reynolds will hold-down 1st until Desmond returns, backed-up by the Stephen Cardullo Story. You have to be left-handed to play the outfield for Colorado, and Gerardo Parra, who is projecting a .371 BA, 140 runs scored, and a 1.000 fielding percentage, will be in left until Dahl can recover from his issue. The exquisite Charlie Blackmon, Chuck Nasty, will be in center, with veteran Carlos Gonzalez, heading into free-agency after the last season of his 7-year deal, rounding things out in right.
The starting pitchers are tasked with covering not only the leadership void created by the loss of Bettis, but also his 14 2016 victories and 186 innings pitched. Right-handers Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood will bookend left-hander Tyler Anderson on a ridiculously young staff that will also include some combination of rookies Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and German Marquez. Freeland, a lefty, appears to have nailed down the No. 4 slot, but expect Black to engage in avoidance behavior with respect to the fifth starter, at least until Rusin, who can be good when he’s not getting shelled, can get his act together. The starters will throw to a catching corps that features more unfettered youth. 2016’s big surprise, 24 year-old Tony Wolters, takes-over the starting role from Nick Hundley, another Bob K favorite who’s moved-on to backing-up Buster Posey in San Francisco. 29 year-old Dustin Garneau will back-up Wolters until the return of Murphy, who turns 26 on Monday.
Hudson comprises the final line of defense in a reconfigured bullpen where last year’s emergency closer, Carlos Estevez, will in 2017 be tasked with a 6th or 7th inning role, and that in and of itself should be telling us something. Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee and Dunn are in the mix for the 7th and 8th, and Jordan Lyles and Scott Oberg (“love his stuff, love his makeup;” chicks dig the long ball) will accompany Estevez and whoever doesn’t make the rotation on the long end of the ‘pen. Cristhian Adames joins Cardullo, Amarista, and Garneau on a bench where everybody who has a top of the head higher than 66 inches above the ground will be looking over their shoulders, and is out of options.
It’s all primed for big fun and it all starts at 12:10 MT Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee where Gray (10-10, 4.61 in 2016) will face-off against righty Junior Guerra (9-3, 2.81 in 2016) of the Brewers. Anderson gets the nod Tuesday in a 5:40 start against Zach Davies, Chatwood will go against Wily Peralta at 6:10 on Wednesday, and all signs point to Freeland Thursday versus Chase Anderson at 11:40 am. The home opener is set for Friday at 2:10 in LoDo at Coors Field, and RMH will be here to tell you about that one.
Let’s get this party started. PLAY BALL!