Rockies face challenges head-on with talent |

Rockies face challenges head-on with talent

Troy E. Renck
The Denver Post

TUCSON – Everything appears set up for Colorado to win its first National League West crown. And so, of course, a sport built on humility has spent the past few weeks poking its finger into the Rockies’ chests.

You think you are tough? How about we tie one of your favorite right arms behind your back? Paging Mr. Huston Street.

Not concerned? OK, Mr. Aaron Cook, no sinker gravitational pull for you.

“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki admitted last week.

Despite progress from several players, and a pleasant surprise – hello, Greg Smith, where have you been? – the Rockies have some issues to deal with 15 days from their season opener. The major topic as camp winds down is the bullpen. This group has a chance to be the best in franchise history, but that’s going to be tough without Street as the closer. With Street out with a bad shoulder, the best guess is he doesn’t pitch until the end of April, at the earliest. And even then, there’s no guarantee he will pitch well. Upon returning from biceps tendinitis last season, he was a different pitcher, not nearly as sharp.

Multiple scouts and executives indicate the Rockies are actively looking to add another left-handed reliever. Free agent Joe Beimel is a possibility, but his price would have to drop.

Manager Jim Tracy’s genius is making sense of chaos, seeing answers before problems surface. His ideal solution is to keep everyone in their normal roles, including top setupman Rafael Betancourt, and just move Manuel Corpas to the ninth inning. That would create the smallest disruption and make the transition back to Street easy.

Corpas is definitely motivated by Street’s absence. Corpas’ stuff, however, must match his desire. He has been inconsistent, struggling to keep his sinker and slider low in the strike zone. If he can’t do it, the closer’s job goes to Franklin Morales, and the Rockies will likely add Beimel or another lefty to pair with Randy Flores – and cross their fingers that Betancourt’s shoulder is fine.

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