The Colorado Rockies return to Coors Field this evening fielding a decidedly different cast than the group that faced-off against the Chicago Cubs a week ago. Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins are off to the artificial surface of the Great White North. Corey Dickerson is on the disabled list for the 3rd time in 2015, with broken ribs from an outfield dive. Kyle Kendrick also headed to the DL with a blown-out shoulder, no doubt from repeatedly craning his neck around to watch fly balls disappear into the night. Wilin Rosario is back in New Mexico, tearing it up down there instead of occupying space in Denver, and Aaron Laffey is gone as well, designated for assignment before most of us could figure out who he was and what he was doing here.
Examining the other side of the coin, Jose Reyes takes-over at shortstop, obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays along with pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco, as the Rockies set out upon an apparent rebuilding process. Kyle Parker returns from Albuquerque as the fifth outfielder in place of Dickerson, and to cover at 1st-base against left-handers, or whatever it was Rosario was trying to do over there. Christian Bergman, Justin Miller, and Scott Oberg are also back from Isotope land, Bergman to be the long man with the immortal Yohan Flande returning to the starting rotation, Miller and Oberg to shore up a reeling bullpen depleted by the loss of the Hawk. And last but not least, the much anticipated debut of 2014 No. 1 draft choice Jon Gray is set for tomorrow evening in LoDo.
Amid all of the foregoing chaos, closer Jon Axford blew a fifth consecutive save on Thursday in St Louis, having officially lost track of what had been some fairly effective mojo, and has been moved-back in the ‘pen’s pecking-order. Tommy Kahnle looks like Axford’s replacement, at least until he does something sufficiently horrible to open the door for Oberg, the closer at Albuquerque.
But the Tulo trade was the week’s bombshell, going-down in the 9th inning of Monday’s walk-off loss to the Cubs. Colorado manager Walt Weiss had foreshadowed the move way-back before the start of Spring Training, when he opined that should the team fail to perform up to expectations, the inevitable result would be “to break the thing-up.” But Rockies owner Dick Monfort wanted really, really, really bad to see what the group former general manager Dan O’Dowd had built over the past half-dozen years could do with Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy, and so a flawed Colorado squad broke camp in April with an offense that was supposed to deliver tacos nightly, and as long as the moundsmen could hold the enemy to 6 or less, they would win 162. Easy.
Unfortunately Monfort forgot to pay heed to that age-old adage, Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting, and the Rockies fell early into a deadly swoon, the pitching fully as bad as planned. As they pulled-out of it, owing primarily to the work of Chad Bettis and Chris Rusin, they got a series of strong starts, but took advantage of none of them, and when your pitching’s bad and you blow strong starts, you’re on a Subliminal Trip to Nowhere. The break-up became inevitable, a matter of who, for what, and when. Monday night we got the answer.
In the meantime, out on the field Colorado continued along much as before, logging a 2-5 week, pretty standard for a group plodding along at a pace of .429. They got wins behind Flande on Tuesday and Jorge De La Rosa on Saturday, but otherwise got walked-off on twice and showed very little muster against two teams competing for playoff slots in the National League Central. They get 3 in Denver against the Seattle Mariners, beginning tonight at 6:40 MDT, then head back-out on the road for visits to Washington and New York, where the opponents are contending for spots in the National League East.
The always exciting Eddie Butler (3-7, 4.82) gets the call against the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, King Felix (12-6, 3.02), in a battle of right-handers. Butler took the loss to Chicago on Wednesday, going 5 innings and giving-up 3 runs on 5 hits. 2 were homers and Butler walked 3 while striking-out 4 Cubs. Hernandez was also a loser on Wednesday, turning in an ugly line of 7 runs on 12 hits in 6-2/3 against the Diamondbacks. The King fanned 7.
Seattle visits with a record only a couple games better than Rockies 44-59 mark, and features a lineup full of American Leaguers I hardly know, but Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and former Rockie Seth Smith go 3-4-5, and Smith loves to stick it to his former mates. Weiss has DJ LeMahieu in the 5-hole, which is likely to make Agbayani bay at the moon. LeMahieu will be behind Gonzalez and ahead of Ben Paulsen. Parker gets the start in left and will hit 8th.
Scattered thunderstorms are expected down at the old ballpark with temperatures in the high 70°s. The wind will blow straight-out at 5 to 10 MPH, and Drew Goodman will have the TV coverage on ROOT Sports. Jerry Schemmel and Jack Corrigan do the radio, and they work for 850 am KOA.
Ketel Marte (S) CF
Kyle Seager (L) 3B
Nelson Cruz (R) RF
Robinson Cano (L) 2B
Seth Smith (L) LF
Jesus Montero (R) 1B
Brad Miller (L) SS
Mike Zunino (R) C
Felix Hernandez (R) P
Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
Jose Reyes (S) SS
Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
Ben Paulsen (L) 1B
Nick Hundley (R) C
Kyle Parker (R) LF
Eddie Butler (R) P