Tag:Colorado Rockies
Posted on: June 28, 2010 10:42 pm
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Jimenez lining up for All-Star start

Looks like Ubaldo Jimenez, the major-league leader in wins and ERA, will be plenty rested in order to start the All-Star Game for the National League if Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel is so inclined.

And given Jimenez's sensational 13-1 record and 1.60 ERA through his first 15 starts, you would think that would be among Manuel's easier decisions come Midsummer Classic time.

New rules this year will preclude any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the break from being eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game. That could make things dicey as rosters are chosen and strategy begins to take shape.

There should be no such issues, however, with Jimenez. Following Monday night's outing in San Diego, Colorado manager Jim Tracy projects him to pitch Saturday against San Francisco and then Thursday, July 8 against St. Louis.

That would put him on his regular five days' rest for Tuesday, July 13 in Anaheim.

Posted on: May 12, 2010 8:10 pm
 

Two Billmeyer friends amused by accusations

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As word of Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer getting busted with binoculars and allegedly stealing signs boomeranged around the game Wednesday, two men who worked with Billmeyer a decade ago found the idea of Billmeyer doing such a dastardly deed laughable.

"I hate to throw him under the bus but, knowing him, I'm sure it had nothing to do with signs," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who, during his 31 years in the Angels' organization, became friends with Billmeyer (who was the Angels' bullpen/workout coordinator from 1994-1999).

"I'd bet on it. I can say that because he's a single guy."

Across the field here Wednesday, one of Billmeyer's former roommates -- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher -- chuckled and agreed.

"I honestly believe he was either checking out the scenery," said Butcher, who lived with Billmeyer for a time when Butcher was pitching for the Angels (1992-1995), "or checking out his own catcher.

"I know he's the catching instructor there. I wouldn't be surprised if he was bearing down on his own guy."

Evidence uncovered by the Rockies was incriminating enough that major-league baseball delivered a stern reprimand to the Phillies on Wednesday.

The Rockies noticed Billmeyer with binoculars in the Coors Field bullpen during a game earlier this week looking in at Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo from the center field bullpen with the Phillies batting in the first inning. The Rockies asked their television network to zoom in on Billmeyer, and television cameras caught him looking in at Olivo in the second.

"Sign-stealing is going on all the time, and I think it's one of the lost arts of the game if you doing it the right way," Maddon said. "If you're doing it with technology, I totally disagree with it. But if you're doing it through observation ... binoculars, I'd say, are technology."

First generation, apparently -- though Maddon did not elaborate on that part of it.

"When you can get the other side's signs through old-fashioned detective work, it can really impact a game," Maddon said. "If some people are upset with that, then I'd say shame on them for not concealing their signs better."

Even with binoculars in Billmeyer's hand and video evidence, though, Maddon still found it difficult to believe that Billmeyer was studying Olivo's signs.

"I'd love to know what was [in the stands] behind Olivo," he quipped.

Likes: Nothing like a good, old-fashioned, sign-stealing controversy. ... The Phillies have been accused of this before (see Dodgers coach Larry Bowa's radio comments from last October when the Phils were playing the Yankees in the World Series). But a couple of things to remember, for those thinking Billmeyer is the culprit: While you can see the catcher from the bullpen in Philly's Citizens' Bank Park, it's hit-and-miss on the road. Not all bullpens would give Billmeyer (or anybody else) a clear line of vision to the catcher (Coors Field does). Also, the Phillies scored more runs on the road than at home last year, and the same is true so far this year.

Dislikes: The pair of binoculars I have at home have been broken for two years.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply
"So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
"He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do
"So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
"Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
"Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

-- Five Man Electrical Band, Signs

 

Posted on: May 4, 2010 1:56 am
 

On night of pitching stars, Jimenez stands out

SAN DIEGO -- Pitchers were packing heat all over the majors on an extraordinary Monday night, from Toronto's Brett Cecil to the White Sox's Jake Peavy to Texas' Rich Harden to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez.

In Cleveland, Cecil took a perfect game into the seventh inning before walking Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo and then surrendering an RBI single to Jhonny Peralta as Toronto clipped the Indians 5-1.

In Chicago, struggling starter Jake Peavy worked 4 2/3 no-hit innings until Kansas City's Mitch Maier's single. Peavy, who entered the game with a 7.85 ERA, wound up pitching seven scoreless innings in the White Sox's 5-1 win.

In Oakland, Texas starter -- and former Athletic -- Rich Harden carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before A's center fielder Rajai Davis cracked a one-out double.

And in San Diego, Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez fanned a career-high 13 in the Rockies' 5-2 win.

Amid that constellation of pitching stars, Jimenez is the guy who continues to stand out. If voting were to be conducted for the NL Cy Young right now -- granted, there are five months remaining, everybody knows that, so no wise cracks -- Jimenez easily would be the guy.

"What can I say?" Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Seven more terrific innings from the ace of our staff."

In allowing one Padre run over seven innings, Jimenez's ERA actually rose to 0.87. Still, that's a major-league low.

"His fastball tonight ranks up there with any of his other starts he's had to this point," Tracy said. "His fastball was explosive."

Jimenez also is the only pitcher in the majors who stands 6-0, and he has not allowed a home run in 41 1/3 innings pitched.

"He's become such a big-game pitcher," Tracy said. "He's grown so much, right before our eyes. He's becoming quite a force. This guy's a dynamic guy. I couldn't be prouder of the young man.

Meantime, as for pitchers bringing the heat, that 17-8 Boston rout of the Los Angeles Angels?

Not so much.

Likes: One thing that gets lost amid the offensive production, Gold Glove and trade rumors: Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is a very good guy. ... So is his first-base counterpart in Colorado, Todd Helton. ... Among other broadcasters, I always enjoy listening to Cleveland's Tom Hamilton on the XM broadcasts. He's very good (and I enjoyed him last winter broadcasting hoops on the Big Ten Network, too). ... About halfway through Nick Hornby's latest book, Juliet, Naked. As expected, very entertaining so far. ... The Leonard Cohen Live in London concert DVD is fabulous. Been meaning to catch up to it for months, finally did over the weekend and I highly recommend it. Classy guy and great sound. ... Very entertaining Kentucky Derby on Saturday, no? I'm not big into horse racing, but I usually make a strong effort to watch the Derby. It's just one more reminder that spring is really here and summer is on its way. ...

Dislikes: So a piece of one of my back teeth just up and chipped off a couple of weeks ago while I was having dinner. Felt something crunchy and, uh-oh. Clean break and no pain, but I suppose I'd better set up a dental appointment just in case. And I just got my very first cavity, a small one, a couple of years ago, too.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
"Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
"Everybody knows that the war is over
"Everybody knows the good guys lost
"Everybody knows the fight was fixed
"The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
"That's how it goes
"Everybody knows"

-- Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows

Posted on: October 13, 2009 12:33 am
 

Colorado's Street with no name

DENVER -- It was about as difficult a way to lose as there is.

Colorado scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth Monday to take a two-run lead, 49,940 purple-clad fans were ready for the ride to continue and closer Huston Street moved the club to within one strike of sending this NL Division Series back to Philadelphia.

And then blam, blam, blam.

Chase Utley drew a two-out walk on a full-count pitch, Ryan Howard followed with a game-tying double and Jayson Werth followed that with a base hit that scored what would be the winning run.

Manager Jim Tracy removed Street in favor of Joe Beimel at that point, but it was too late.

"I'm in shock, really," Street said after the 5-4 loss in the library-quiet Rockies clubhouse. "I tried to focus as much as I could on every pitch."

But he still couldn't stop the game from unraveling on him.

"I was out there fighting as hard as I could fight," continued Street, who was tagged with two losses and a blown save in the series. "Sometimes you get beat."

Across the way, Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who has been there all too often himself this year, took a moment out from the champagne shower to sympathize.

"Huston Street has no reason to hang his head," Lidge said. "Maybe he gets it done against another team."

From the beginning, the Rockies knew that Philadelphia and all of their left-handed starters was going to be a difficult matchup. Really, the Rockies matched up far better with St. Louis. Though they were careful with their words publicly, many privately were hoping that the Cardinals played their way into a first-round seeding against Colorado.

But it didn't happen. And just when the Rockies thought they were ready to roll, their season came crashing down around them.

"To have the game in your hands and then have them drop three [runs] on you," said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who struck out with two on and two out to end the game in the ninth. "We had an opportunity at the end. That's all you can ask for."

"I'm proud of every one of these guys, no doubt about it," Colorado first baseman Todd Helton said. "[Manager Jim Tracy] was talking about guys being unselfish, and there's no doubt about it.

"We do have good guys. The guys here care."

Likes: Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, the projected Game 1 starter in the NLCS and the would-have-been Game 5 starter had the Phillies-Rockies series gone that far, never made it to Colorado. His wife delivered their first baby, a boy named Caleb, last week and Hamels stayed put, preparing for Tuesday's Game 5 start if it was needed. "We would have sent him back home yesterday anyway," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. ... Colorado manager Jim Tracy is right. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is going to be a big-time star one day. ... Sam's No. 3, a terrific breakfast joint downtown Denver. "So good it'll make ya wanna slap yo momma" says the marquee outside. And I've gotta say, as I was eating my Denver omelet Monday morning -- what else are you going to order in Denver? -- I was glad my momma wasn't with me, because the food was as advertised. ... In case you missed it when the season ended two Sunday's ago, Hal McCoy's sign-off column was exceptionally eloquent. The Hall of Famer is done as a beat writer, and reading this column, you can see why he lasted 37 years covering the Reds, one of the great runs of our time.

Dislikes: The Astros are interviewing 10 men as prospective managers. Ten? That's paralysis by analysis. If it takes a team that many interviews, then that team really isn't sure what it's looking for. Good luck, Houston fans. ... OK, I get it. Playoff ratings are up on television. Great. Now TBS and MLB, will you quit bombarding everybody with non-stop updates boasting about that fact? And if TBS doesn't pick up its camera angles, replays and certain broadcasters, the ratings won't remain up. And I'm not watching the George Lopez Show just on principle. Just as I wouldn't watch Frank TV, or whatever it was called, last year.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And you can't find your waitress with a Geiger counter
"And she hates you and your friends and you just can't get served without her
"And the box-office is drooling, and the bar stools are on fire
"And the newspapers were fooling, and the ash-trays have retired
"'Cause the piano has been drinking, the piano has been drinking
"The piano has been drinking, not me, not me"

-- Tom Waits, The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

Posted on: October 11, 2009 9:09 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2009 9:12 pm
 

Game 3 in Denver: Game on, ear muffs required

DENVER -- It's 35 degrees here roughly 80 minutes before first pitch, the Rockies are finished taking batting practice, the Phillies are hitting now ... and no snowmen have been sighted.

What we're going to get here tonight is the coldest Division Series game in history. Current record holder: Game 2 of the 1999 AL Division Series, when it was 48 degrees at game time in New York for the Rangers and Yankees.

Tonight, that record will be shattered.

Still, it's a heck of a sight better than it was on Saturday night, when it was in the 20s with the wind howling.

"We couldn't have played in that wind," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said.

Had they, it would have been ugly.

There is no wind tonight. The flags at Coors Field are hanging, not flapping.

As for the effects, Tracy says he thinks the most difficult thing during Game 3 tonight will be for fielders to get a grip on -- and a feel for -- the ball.

Philadelphia skipper Charlie Manuel thinks the most difficult thing will be for the pitchers to get the feel of the ball on their breaking pitches.

Incidentally, the coldest game-time temperature in history for a Rockies game came in 1997, when it was 28 degrees for a Rockies-Expos game on April 12.

Oh, and one more thing: Aside from that Rangers-Yankees game that is about to get toppled from the record book, the only other two Division Series games to start in temperatures less than 50 degrees were Game 1 of that Yankees-Rangers game in '99, when it was 49 degrees at first pitch, and Game 1 of the '99 ALDS in '99 in Cleveland, when it was 49 degrees at first pitch between the Indians and Red Sox.

Likes: We've seen some wretched umpiring already this fall, and it should be far better than this, but if you can take a breath and stop screaming and hollering for a minute, this piece from the Newark Star-Ledger on umpire Phil Cuzzi is very well done and gives a glimpse into that agony a guy goes through after he blows a call.

Posted on: September 15, 2009 9:22 pm
 

Colorado's Cook on target to return

SAN FRANCISCO -- Simulated games are big around here these days. Colorado's injured starter trio of Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and Jose Contreras each threw one Tuesday afternoon, and probably the best news from the Rockies' perspective was that Cook continues to progress well enough that we could see him back on a mound before the regular season.

No need to describe what a boon that would be for the Rockies, who have maintained without their ace since Aug. 22 when an elbow strain sidelined him. Cook is 10-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 25 starts this season.

"He threw the ball fine, physically he's fine," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "I can't tell you he was pinpoint in his pitches, but I didn't expect that. He threw good breaking balls and good sinkers that had that good Aaron Cook depth."

Cook next will throw another simulated game on Saturday and, if all goes well, he'll likely go from there to the Instructional League for more work. In a perfect Colorado world, he'll come back for at least one regular season start and then move into the playoffs with the Rockies.

"I am optimistic," Tracy said. "I'm very optimistic."

The manager said he definitely wants Cook to work a regular season game first, rather than re-joining the team in the playoffs.

"I think anytime you can get him back in the pool before waiting to involve him in really significant things, I that it's huge," Tracy said. "I think it's of utmost importance."

As for the other two, Francis, who has not pitched in 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery, is working toward next year. Contreras' arm is fine but his strained calf remains sketchy. The Rockies are not yet comfortable with him moving quickly off of the mound to field bunts or to cover first base.

 

Posted on: September 1, 2009 12:43 am
Edited on: September 1, 2009 1:30 am
 

Dodgers acquire Thome and Garland

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going for the jugular in the NL West: Still maintaining a six-game divisional lead over Colorado and San Francisco when the evening started, the Dodgers struck late and dramatically Monday night to acquire slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox and starting pitcher Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks.

The moves not only answered, but upstaged, their closest rivals on a day that saw a flurry of moves as contenders scrambled to acquire stretch-run help before the midnight EDT post-season roster deadline:  Colorado acquired starter Jose Contreras from the White Sox and, earlier in the day, the Giants signed two-time All-Star Brad Penny, who had been waived by the Red Sox, and subsequently went unclaimed.

But on a day that got crazy in the last few minutes before the deadline, nobody was more bold than the Dodgers. In acquiring Thome, they strengthened their bench with a slugger, albeit past his prime, who has cracked 23 homers and collected 74 RBI this season.

Scouts say that Thome, 39, can no longer move well enough to be a viable option at first base, so expect manager Joe Torre to spot Thome into key, situational at-bats as a pinch hitter (and, should the Dodgers reach the World Series, they'll certainly have a veteran designated hitter ready and warmed up for games in the American League park). A full-time DH now, Thome has played only four games at first base, total, in the past four seasons.

The trade not only kept Thome away from the offense-starved Giants, who well might have blundered in passing on him on the waiver wire, but also reunites a couple of former Clevelanders from the Indians' 1990s glory days, Thome and Manny Ramirez.

Known universally throughout the game as a good teammate and good player to have in the clubhouse, maybe Thome's calm, positive and familiar nature can help Manny get back to being Manny. Ramirez, since the All-Star break, is batting just .268 and averaging a mere home run per 29.8 at-bats -- as opposed to one homer per 13.4 at-bats before the break.

The Dodgers acquired Thome for minor-league infielder Justin Fuller, and the White Sox are including cash to cover a pro-rated portion of the remainder of Thome's $13 million salary for 2009.

The Dodgers acquired Garland for a player to be named later, and the Diamondbacks, according to sources, also are including cash to cover the remainder of the pitcher's $6.25 million salary for '09, plus the $2.5 million buyout of his 2010 option. Consequently, that will improve the caliber of player to be named later Arizona receives.

While Thome is the biggest name, Garland (8-11, 4.29 ERA) fills the Dodgers' most dire need. Caught looking as Philadelphia acquired Cliff Lee at the July trade deadline (and as Toronto hung onto ace Roy Halladay), the Dodgers have lacked a veteran workhorse in a young rotation that had been ultra-dependent on Chad Billingsley. Increasingly, that has been a scary proposition: Over his past 13 starts, Billingsley (12-8) has just three wins and a 5.61 ERA.

In Garland, the Dodgers are getting a veteran with playoff experience (he was a key member of the 2005 White Sox's World Series champion rotation) and a right-hander who has worked 190 or more innings in each of the past seven seasons (he's at 167 2/32 now). He is expected to take the place of knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, his former Chicago teammate, in the rotation.

As for the Rockies, Contreras gives them another stretch-run arm -- and they can use all comers with ace Aaron Cook sidelined -- though he has been  awful in Chicago (5.42 ERA, six earned runs allowed to the Yankees on Saturday in just 3 1/3 innings).

Clearly, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is disgusted and has lost patience with his slumping club. When he acquired ace pitcher Jake Peavy from San Diego and outfielder Alex Rios from Toronto several weeks ago, they were deals both to help the Sox now and in the future. Both Peavy and Rios are signed long term -- Peavy through 2012, with a club option for 2013; Rios through 2014, with a club option for 2015.

Now, the emphasis clearly is on the future. In addition to dumping Thome and Contreras, the White Sox also shopped outfielder Jermaine Dye and set-up man Scott Linebrink earlier Monday, according to sources. Clearly, Williams' re-shaping of the Sox has begun.

Posted on: May 29, 2009 6:56 pm
 

Fond memories of Rocktober ... and not much else

Outside of two fantastic months in 2007, the Colorado Rockies have been as irrelevant as any team in the majors. Whether Friday's sacking of manager Clint Hurdle will change any of that, I don't know.

What I do know is this: Judging from past directional changes in Colorado, odds are, it won't.

Even counting their World Series season in '07, heading into Friday night's series opener with San Diego, the Rockies stood at 117 games under .500 since Dan O'Dowd became general manager in 2000.

They have finished with a losing record in seven of the past eight years and in nine of the last 11. They have finished either in last place or next-to-last in 13 of their 16 seasons. And at a major-league-worst 14 games back in the division right now, they're poised to add to it.

Even under new skipper Jim Tracy.

What got Hurdle gone is that, even measured against this historical sad-sack level of play, this year's Rockies are lagging. Take away the Dodgers, and the rest of the NL West stinks worse than the dumpster outside of a fish market. Yet the Rockies still can't help but belly up to the underachiever's bar.

Both Hurdle and O'Dowd entered '09 in the final year of their contracts, and if Troy Tulowitzki doesn't snap out of his slumber sometime soon, it might be O'Dowd's turn to say the next farewell. Tulowitzki, awarded a six-year, $31 million deal that takes him through 2013, has been awful.

One of the main questions asked all season in Colorado has been, "Is Tulo pressing?" and, whether the answer is "maybe a little" or "Hell, yeah!", there's no getting around the fact that his numbers directly relate to the Rockies' dive and Hurdle's axing: He has just three hits in 38 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and recently just snapped an 0-for-27 skid in those situations. Tulowitzki currently owns a .318 on-base percentage, a .393 slugging percentage, a .227 batting average and 34 whiffs.

He's not alone. Garrett Atkins (.195, three home runs), Ian Stewart (.187), Clint Barmes (.234), former closer Manny Corpas (6.65 ERA) ... the list of culprits is a long one.

And it extends upstairs to the owner's suite: In trading free-agent-to-be Matt Holliday over the winter, the Rockies were implicitly signing a non-compete clause. Again: The NL West reeks. It wasn't going to take that much to stay in contention this summer (especially when building the team last winter, before it was a given that the Dodgers would re-sign Manny Ramirez and bag Orlando Hudson). Clearly, winning is not at the top of the Monfort family's to-do list.

Two years ago, I wondered how the Rockies could justify extending the contracts of Hurdle and O'Dowd through 2009. Six months later, they capped the best season in their history by winning an incredible 21 of 22 games and storming into the World Series.

What that is now, though, is the exception to the norm. And an organization that has changed directions more often than Magellan over the past decade sets sail in a new one yet again.s

Likes: Clint Hurdle is a good man and I hate to see him go. After I ripped the Rockies in the '07 column linked to above, he confronted me a couple of months later and it was the beginning of an entertaining give-and-take, which I detailed in this column from October, 2007. We both share a passion for music and we even exchanged a few CDs after that. I'm listening to one he gave me, Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II, as I write this. In fact, when I last saw him earlier this month, I asked him what he thought of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive. It was after an interview as the Rockies were scuffling, and he misunderstood at first and said, "Oh, I'm staying positive." Knowing Hurdle, he still is today, too. Even as ex-manager of the Rockies.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You don't care who you aggravate
"You don't care who you alienate
"I'm tired of your heart of stone
"I just want to be left alone
"Lesson learned
"Bridge burned
"That's why
"I say so long, I'm gone, goodbye"

-- Stone Coyotes, So Long, I'm Gone, Goodbye

 
 
 
 
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