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Lack of pitching depth sinks Rockies

Dave Krieger
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Barry Gutierrez/Rocky Mountain NewsRockies pitcher Kip Wells shows his frustration before leaving the game after giving up seven runs and seven hits while getting only one out in the first inning against the Dodgers at Coors Field on Monday.
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DENVER, Colorado ” Admit it: For a minute there, you thought your miracle Rockies were starting their long-awaited charge to the top of the National League Worst. After all, they roared out of the All-Star break by sweeping the Pirates, catapulting from 18 games below .500 to 14 games below .500.

True, the Bucs are the only team in the National League with starting pitching worse than the Rocks, but this is no time for discouraging factoids. Was it over when the Etruscans bombed Valley Forge? Heck, no. And it ain’t over now.

Unfortunately, with the Dodgers in town and a chance to gain ground on a division rival, the Rocks had to come up with a starting pitcher not named Cook or Jimenez. All season, this has been a challenging task, which might explain a composite ERA of 5.30 for their starting pitchers.

The suspect Monday night was Kip Wells, who gave up eight runs, seven earned, in one-third of an inning. That might sound bad, but Mark Redman gave up 10 in the first at Dodger Stadium earlier this year and rookie Greg Reynolds gave up seven to Florida in an inning and a third. The Rocks’ ERA is no fluke.

“We’re looking for somebody to help us solidify the starting rotation,” manager Clint Hurdle said before the game.

“(Wells) is going to get the first shot at that. This is not going to be eight, 10 starts to figure it out. This needs to be something you come in, you embrace, you make pitches, you keep the ball down, you throw strikes and we’ll go from there.”

OK, so Wells was 0-for-4. Anybody seen Elmer Dessens lately?

You might remember we had a little contest earlier in the year to localize the old Boston Braves slogan, “Spahn, Sain and pray for rain.”

The winning entry was “Cook, Francis, then take your chances.” I preferred “Cook and then some schnook.” Francis later vindicated my choice.

More recently, a column correspondent suggested an update: “Cook and Jimenez, then it doesn’t matter who he says.” This might need a little work, but at least it’s on the right track.

Anyway, the charming thing about the NL Worst is no matter how bad you are, you’re never really out of it. The Rocks may be 15 games below .500, but they’re right there. And with Troy Tulowitzki returning to action with a career-best five hits Monday, who knows? Maybe they can slug their way back to the top. All they need is a starting pitcher or two who can get out of the first inning.

Their fans certainly still seem to believe. They drew 38,291 for Monday night’s game.

Still, it’s hard to believe a division that gave us four teams over .500 last year can be as bad as its five sub-.500 records this year.

“When you say, ‘Is it as bad,’ it’s evenly matched at this point in time,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “To me, I think all the clubs are going to get a little better in the second half. I don’t believe this division will stay under .500. That was really a surprise to me, that everybody was under .500, even though it was my first year here, just knowing what went on last year with San Diego, with Arizona, with, of course, the Rockies.”

Somehow, it feels sort of perverse discussing the postseason chances of a team now 43-58, no matter how many games out of first place they are. What is this, the NBA?

“I don’t ignore the record but I don’t ignore the situation, either,” Hurdle said. “There’s a lot of things that happen in life that sometimes logically don’t make sense. But then, when you look at the way it’s played out, you look at the other teams, their records, OK, it makes sense. Nobody’s run away with it. Nobody’s done that well.”

It is clear by now that the Rocks badly miscalculated their starting pitching. Franklin Morales and Jason Hirsh were supposed to be ready and weren’t, which is how the club ends up relying on suspects like Wells and Redman and Glendon Rusch and Jorge De La Rosa.

Even if the standings say they’re very much in the race, Bill Parcells’ dictum still applies: You are what your record says you are.

“I put a lot of weight into that,” Hurdle said. “We’ve got a lot of holes this year. A lot of things haven’t worked the way that people thought they were going to work.”

“Bill Parcells is a friend of mine and I certainly respect the way he thinks and the way he does his job,” Torre said. “But this is a little different situation, when you play 162 games as opposed to 16. I certainly believe we’re better than our record.”

They might be, I suppose, but as for the Rocks, they’ve made their record the old-fashioned way. They’ve earned it.


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