Coming out of the All-Star break it is easy to forget that the Rockies returned to action this weekend. The team was 19 games under .500 and tied with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros with the fewest wins in baseball after the first half. Not a lot to root for.
But maybe that wasn’t the case as when I arrived at Coors Field shortly before the first pitch on Friday this was the scene:
Pretty full park as over 33,000 fans attended Friday night’s contest, followed by 35k+ on Saturday and the Juan Nicasio t-shirts didn’t draw as well as expected as only about 25k witnessed Sunday’s game live (only about 5,000 people didn’t get a t-shirt…usually those draw fairly well).
But if you weren’t one of the many who went to a game this weekend there was quite a bit going on with the Rockies and here are some of the highlights in case you missed out.
With the 6-2 win on Friday the Rockies had won three out of four games for the first time since early June. It was a shocking win since the Philadelphia Phillies had Cliff Lee on the mound. As reported numerous times, to exhaustion, prior, during and after the game, it was Christian Friedrich versus Lee and Friedrich was sort of an understudy of Lee’s this past offseason. Many say that Friedrich’s time with Lee this last offseason is one of, if not the major reason he has seemingly got his career back on track. Once he saw Lee’s workout regimen Friedrich got to work, reported to camp lighter and so far has been pretty good this year. A lot better than many would have thought in February or March.
Todd Helton was placed on the disabled list and Josh Rutledge made his major league debut. Helton has looked old this year, very old. I know he has had a few bounce back seasons recently but first it was his back in recent years and now his hip? He sounds like my grandfather! With Helton finally relenting and going on the 15-day DL (he has an MRI scheduled this week to look into the issue further) Rutledge made his debut on Friday night – and it was a good one. Rutledge went 2-for-2 with two RBI, a walk and a stolen base. Rutledge is 23 and primarily played shortstop in the minors the past three seasons. Recently the 2010 third round pick started to play some second base because, well, the Rockies have a shortstop for the foreseeable future. Second base on the other hand has been bleak. Rutledge moved up one level of the minor leagues each of his three years in the minors and in 947 plate appearances posted a .320/.374/.496 triple slash: pretty good. He should remain with the team for the rest of the year and hopefully Dan O’Dowd gets rid of Marco Scutaro for a bag of peanuts in the near future and Rutledge can start to refine his craft at second. Or, better yet, Jim Tracy should wise up and switch them now. Tulo is obviously the man at short and there is no sense in wasting playing time for Rutledge at shortstop going forward, not if he is to remain a Rockie.
Ramon Hernandez returns to the lineup. In the same article linked above it is noted that Hernandez returned to the lineup and catcher Wil Nieves was put on the DL with a bad foot. Here’s hoping that Tracy doesn’t go all Jim Tracy on Rockies fans and split catching time between Hernandez and Wilin Rosario. Rosario needs to play five days a week here on out and Hernandez can tutor him from the bench, where his old posterior should remain.
And finally Mike Eckstrom was recalled to replace Tyler Chatwood who sucks. Unfortunately the Rockies have a lot of pitchers who suck and even more unfortunate is the fact that they have very little worthy waiting in Colorado Springs or any of their other minor league affiliates who suck less than those who are sucking with the Rockies. Get it? Sounds like Jhoulys Chacin is throwing right now but who knows when he will be back and when he does return will he be any good? Gotta be better than Jeremy Guthrie, right?
Finally, trade rumors are swirling in Denver. On the block are guys like Guthrie, Scutaro, Jason Giambi and maybe even Michael Cuddyer?! I am not sure what O’Dowd could reasonably expect in return for Guthrie (in his last outing he failed to see the fifth inning, again) and Scutaro isn’t going to get much in return, either. It appears the Detroit Tigers were in attendance today looking at Mr. Slow Heartbeat himself and apparently the Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in Cuddyer? If the Dodgers, who are in contention for first in the NL West and have a new ownership, are looking to put all their chips into the center of the table for 2012 then maybe O’Dowd can get something decent in return for Cuddyer as it would seem the Dodgers might be ripe for the taking. One can only hope that O’Dowd does something similar with Cuddyer like he did with Ubaldo Jimenez last season**.
And at this point the Rockies should only have a few guys who are “untouchable”. In this piece it is mentioned that Rafael Betancourt is drawing interest. We shouldn’t be shocked that the Red Sox are interested; they have made a habit recently turning ex-Rockies pitching trash into pitching gold. Ex-Rockie Aaron Cook has pitched pretty well in about 23 innings with the Red Sox this year, including an 81 pitch, nine inning shutout masterpiece in late June. On top of the recent success of Cook the Red Sox have also turned Franklin Morales into a quality starter, or so it seems. It is hard to believe but Morales was only 25 when the Rockies gave up on him and now a little over a year later he owns a sub 4.00 ERA starting for the Red Sox and an 3.16 ERA overall (he has appeared in 28 games, five of them starting) in 2012 in 51 1/3 innings pitched (in the AL East). So if the Red Sox can turn around Rockies trash what will they do with a quality pitcher the Rockies let go of?
While the Rockies are fighting to stay out of baseball’s basement there is still plenty happening with the team. This weekend is the beginning of what will be a crazy few weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
**Was that only last season that Jimenez was traded?! That seems like years ago, doesn’t it?