Rockies hope All-Star break gives them a fresh start
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The Rockies are past being concerned about defending the National League pennant.
They can put thoughts of an NL West title on the back burner.
They resume play Thursday looking to rebuild their confidence.
It may not have been shattered but it certainly has been shaken.
The three-day All-Star break wasn’t long enough to cure all that has ailed the Rockies, but it at least gave them a respite from the grind of a season that has left them with a 39-57 record, in fourth place in the NL West and at the top of the list of this season’s biggest disappointments in baseball.
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“We need to come back and play with some energy,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Rockies have a chance to get their feet back under them when the season resumes.
Sixty-two of the Rockies’ remaining 66 games are against teams currently with a losing record. The only exception is a four-game visit to Florida July 31-Aug. 3.
And the offense gets a chance to recharge after scoring only two runs total in losing the final four games before the break. The Rockies resume play with a week at home, where they have won 16 of their last 22 games.
The Pittsburgh Pirates arrive Thursday for a four-game series. The Rockies open a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.
By the time the Rockies embark on a 10-game challenge of heat and humidity that takes them to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh for three games each, and then to Florida, they also figure to have reworked their rotation.
But will they still have closer Brian Fuentes, whose pending free agency has made him the most likely Rockies player to be traded? And will they have added center fielder Dexter Fowler, whose strong showing at Double-A Tulsa has led to discussions about him skipping Triple-A.
The options aren’t as bright for trying to fix the ailing rotation.
Kip Wells made his final rehab start on Wednesday and will move into the rotation on Monday against the Dodgers, most likely in place of Jorge De La Rosa.
The hope is that by the time the Rockies need a fifth starter for a second time ” July 29 at Pittsburgh ” left-hander Jeff Francis, the Opening Day starter after tying a franchise record with 17 wins last year, will be ready to be activated from the disabled list, which puts veteran left-hander Mark Redman in jeopardy.
The Rockies have had only 35 quality starts ” a starter works six innings or more and allows three earned runs or fewer ” out of 96 games. They have, however, won 26 of those games.
The rotation problems began before the season even started. Jason Hirsh, expected to be one of the season-opening five, managed to work two innings in his spring training debut and then went on the disabled list, eventually being activated but optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs because of continuing problems with his command.
Hard-throwing left-hander Franklin Morales survived the spring, but five starts later he was back with the Sky Sox, his 17 walks and nine strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings as alarming as the 1-2 record and 6.39 ERA.
And then, on July 3, after a 3-7 start to his season, Francis admitted left shoulder inflammation was a problem and went on the disabled list.
The lineup could be back in place in another week or so. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had stitches removed from the gash in his right hand on Monday and began a rehab assignment at Tulsa on Wednesday, putting him in line for a return to the active roster during the current homestand.
A second epidural given to first baseman Todd Helton relieved the symptoms of his lower back problems, creating the hope he could go on a minor-league rehab assignment soon.
The Rockies also want to see how Willy Taveras’ achy quadriceps responded to rest and whether he will need to join the list of disabled.
“It was a good time (for the break),” Hurdle said. “We’ve got guys who have been hurt that aren’t on the DL, and we have our fair share that are on the DL. Three days now, it will give us a chance to look around and re-collect our thoughts.”