Like the title says.
It turns out that the recent injuries to Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh, and Rodrigo Lopez may have been a blessing in disguise. The Diamondbacks are starting to run away with the division, and while the Rockies are only two games out in the wild card, with this team’s history even a healthy rotation might not have been enough. But the injuries to starting pitchers have led the Rockies to have to search far and wide for available starters, when the answers were right under their nose the entire time.
Oh, sure, the rotation does need a couple of filler guys with those three out, but the sheer lack of available starting pitching has forced the Rockies to call up both Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales. It’s probably no coincidence that the Rockies’ two wins on the current West Coast road swing came in games started by those two.
Franklin Morales didn’t come away with a win last night in his major league debut, but he certainly pitched well enough to get one. In 5.1 innings of work, Frankie gave up just one run on five hits while striking out four. Perhaps the most amazing part of his outing was that he didn’t walk a single batter. Franklin’s control has been a problem throughout his minor league career, and it was perhaps the one thing holding him back from being a truly dominant starting pitcher. In 2006 at Modesto, Franklin walked 89 batters in 154 innings of work and threw 24 wild pitches. This season, at Tulsa, he was a bit better: 45 walks in 95.2 innings and six wild pitches. Of course, he walked 13 in 17 innings during a short stay at Colorado Springs, but we’re quickly learning that Colorado Springs, 1000 feet higher than Denver and without the benefit of the humidor, is such an awful environment for pitchers that we can’t really read much into how our pitchers do there. Ubaldo Jimenez walked 62 in 103 innings there this season.
And these two may be the Rockies’ fourth and fifth starters in 2008.
With two high-ceiling power pitchers who are both showing themselves to be MLB-ready, the Rockies are quickly solidifying their rotation heading into 2008. Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook will be back to lead the rotation, with Jason Hirsh likely occupying the #3 spot. Rodrigo Lopez, who will be a free agent in the offseason, can be allowed to walk, and so can Josh Fogg. Lopez has been pretty good, but there’s no need for the Rockies to keep him around; he won’t come cheap, and the Rockies should have decent rotation depth with Taylor Buchholz around and Greg Reynolds getting ready in the minors.
The lineup doesn’t have too many question marks, either. Kaz Matsui may walk, but that’s about it. Troy Tulowitzki has solidified himself as the Rockies’ starting shortstop for the foreseeable future, and the long-rumored logjam at third base is finally coming to pass. Matt Macri was dealt away last week, and it’s possible that the Rockies could part with either Garrett Atkins or Ian Stewart.
So, even if the Rockies aren’t going to make the playoffs in 2007, 2008 is shaping up to be a very good season for the men in purple and black. That’s something that Rockies fans have been waiting quite a while for.