The Colorado Rockies open their 2015 Major League Baseball season this afternoon at 12:10 pm, taking on the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Colorado has lost 282 games since the launch of Rox Walk Off in 2012, but they look to contend in 2015 as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez enter the prime of their careers. We’re told that if that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.
The off-season started on an optimistic note, with the resignations of the Devil Incarnate, Dan O’Dowd, and his loyal sidekick (in an office just outside the clubhouse), Beelzebub. Jeff Bridich ascended to the General Manager’s office, promoted from within, and appears to be an intelligent, well-spoken young man, especially for someone we are likely to refer to as painfully stupid, overmatched, and morally corrupt in about 6 months.
Bridich elected to play it cool in his first off-season, making only modest additions, catcher Nick Hundley, utility infielder Daniel Descalso, and pitchers Kyle Kendrick (10-13, 4.61 with Philadelphia in 2014), who starts today vs the Brewers, John Axford, David Hale, and John Lannan. But the Rockies will roll-out an infield that features batting champion Justin Morneau at 1st base, and gold-glovers DJ LeMahieu (a poor hitter), Tulowitzki, and Nolan Arenado around the horn. Corey Dickerson takes over in left-field, where his improving defense is nevertheless doomed to be “much maligned.” Handsome Charlie Blackmon, Chuck Nasty, is back in center, and Gonzalez, who is going to Prove It to us in 2015, is now the right-fielder.
Hundley, the one-time Padre, was acquired to “stabilize” the catching position, and he’ll be backed-up by Michael McKenry, who materialized out of nowhere in 2013 and turned-out to be a major-leaguer. Fan favorite Wilin Rosario, the Bull, has been recast in the role of a latter-day Gates Brown, that fearsome bat off the bench, a component Colorado has lacked since the early days of the Golden Thong era. Rosario will back-up Morneau at 1st-base, in addition to occasionally catching, or so they say. The late Gates was also listed as a “1B-C,” although I never once saw the man donn the gear, but I’m guessing that’ll be all right with RMH.
Drew Stubbs will be the extra outfielder. The Rockies will keep only one, which I guess makes Rafael Ynoa, who Refused To Be Denied, the emergency OF, and Ynoa will also play 2nd, short, and 3rd, as Colorado’s futile mission to replace the long-lamented Black Bean soldiers-on. Descalso, who will also back-up at 2nd, short and 3rd, is out of the St Louis organization, so let’s hope some of that regal background rubs off on the rest of the Rockies, although rumors persist the Cardinals have for years been illicitly funded by traffic fines and penalties levied on indigent offenders by the municipalities of surrounding St Louis County.
Hundley’s assignment is management of a staff of starting pitchers that “hinges on the continued effectiveness of left-hander Jorge De La Rosa,” which is an alarming assessment considering the effusive DLR will start the year on the 15-day Disabled List. Kendrick, a right-hander, consequently gets the opening day gig, and he’ll be followed by fellow righties Jordan Lyles and Eddie Butler in Wisconsin, with lefty Tyler Matzek taking the home opener Friday against the Cubs. Colorado will rotate those four until the need for a fifth starter arises on April 14, when the hope is that De La Rosa, who is a pussy, will be ready. Clearly this is duct tape and baling wire, even to an optimist, and this is where the Rockies’ pretensions about contending will rise or fall. If this group, along with Hale, who also starts on the DL, Lannan, Chad Bettis, and the big wild card, Jonathan Gray, can somehow perform “workmanlike and competent,” we may have something to watch. If not, all bets are off (and I already said that once).
The bullpen, where many potential victories went to die in 2014, has been extensively re-tooled, and on paper looks like it will be an asset. The big loser in the shuffle, Rex Brothers, starts the season in AAA, a demotion about 10 months overdue. Disappointed as he must be, Brothers should take comfort the move was made in March, before things start to count, especially considering the increase in popularity beheading has attained since the end of last season.
LaTroy Hawkins, the Hawk, retains the title of closer, but it’s an open secret everybody hopes Adam Ottavino, in his fifth MLB season, is ready to relieve the 42 year-old Hawkins of the burden. The fireballing Axford, whose 2014 imploded in ruin, also figures to be in the late inning mix, along with left-hander Boone Logan, who allegedly is “finally healthy,” but I believe we heard that at least three times in 2014, and it generally ended-up being false. Christian Friedrich made the team and will be the other lefty, and if there was ever a guy who’s had a Tough Row to Hoe, it’s Friedrich. Rafael Betancourt, the human rain-delay, returns from Tommy John surgery at age 39, and wouldn’t a return to form for Raffy be a bonus? Brooks Brown, Ag’s favorite, rounds-out the true relievers, and Christian Bergman makes the team as the long man. In his own words, “I’m the bridge.”
Should the duct tape and baling wire hold, the big lineup’s primary objective is to ensure 4 plate appearances a game for the starting pitchers, especially on the road. Roll into the 6th with an 8-5, 8-6 lead, 5-3, 5-2 on the road; get to the 7th before needing the ‘pen. Turn those 21 pitiful 2014 road wins into 42 in 2015— maybe we’ll be talkin.’
Kendrick will match-up today with Brewers’ right-hander Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54 in 2014). Lohse faced Colorado twice in 2014, in back-to-back appearances in late June. He beat them in Denver, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 5 complete. A week later in Milwaukee he gave up only one on 7 hits over 7 innings, but missed out on the victory in a 3-2 Brewers’ win. Kendrick matched-up against the Brew Crew twice in 2014 as a Phillie. He lost in April, surrendering 6 on 9 hits in 5 innings, and beat them in July despite allowing 7 in 5-2/3 on 11 hits.
Rockies’ manager Walt Weiss has Blackmon back in the leadoff spot, followed by a murderer’s row of Gonzalez, Tulo, Morneau, Arenado, and Dickerson. Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke will counter with a group that features Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, and Alexis Ramirez in the 2-3-4 slots. I have unhappy memories of wishing to never lay eyes on those three again after Colorado opened with the Brewers in 2013.
Milwaukee’s opening day weather will be cool and cloudy, but the Miller Park roof will be closed and the High Lifes will be going down like it’s mid-July. Root Sports is back with Rockies’ TV, and you can bet some combination of Drew, George and Huey will be handling the play-by-play, Jenny and Marc thrilling us with fascinating human “interest” reports. Jerry and Jack will have the radio on KOA.
Around the all star break the Earth will jostle into place, aligning nicely with Mercury, Venus, and the sun. By Labor Day Mars and Jupiter will be sliding into position. Some time September 13 Saturn ducks out of sight; a week later Uranus will disappear. Neptune’s invisible as of September 27, and by October 4 Pluto will vanish.
But dammit Scotty, Jupiter’s so vast! You can’t see a thing beyond it!
Are the planets in alignment?
Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS
Justin Morneau (R) 1B
Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
Corey Dickerson (L) LF
Nick Hundley (R) C
DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
Kyle Kendrick (R) P
Carlos Gomez (R) CF
Jonathan Lucroy (R) C
Ryan Braun (R) RF
Aramis Ramirez (R) 3B
Adam Lind (L) 1B
Khris Davis (R) LF
Scooter Gennett (L) 2B
Jean Segura (R) SS
Kyle Lohse (R) P