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Hammel's success with Orioles is just more painful news for the Rockies

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

The Rockies' rotation woes are painful to all involved.

I hate to make things worse, but I'm about to, anyway. I can't avoid it.

Yes, this is about Jason Hammel.

It's bad enough that he's 7-2 with a 2.87 ERA for the Orioles, while the guy he was traded for, Jeremy Guthrie, has a 6.68 ERA and just got sent to the bullpen. It's bad enough that Hammel just threw a complete-game one-hitter, something no Rockies pitcher has ever done (they've had a Ubaldo Jimenez no-hitter and a combined one-hitter, but no complete-game one-hitters).

But it's worse than that, because Jason Hammel insists that getting out of Coors Field had nothing to do with his success. The way he sees it, he could have been doing for the Rockies what he has done for the Orioles.

"It's an 'If I would have known then what I know now' thing," Hammel said this week.

He's gone from a guy with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.403 WHIP in his three years with the Rockies to a guy who has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.163 WHIP in his first 13 starts with the Orioles.

"Whoever's working with him in Baltimore has done a great job," said Chipper Jones, who watched Hammel one-hit the Braves last Saturday.

Fair enough, except that Hammel credits the turnaround to a guy who worked with him in Colorado. Everything changed, he said, when he was taken out of the rotation and spent a month working with bullpen coach Jim Wright.

"I finally learned how to pitch," he said.

And a guy who was known for showing flashes of excellence (4-0, 3.41 in June 2009) amid months of mediocrity has become more consistent.

His numbers, the Orioles say, should be even better than they are. Hammel was bothered for most of May by a sore right knee. He couldn't run in between starts, and he struggled with his delivery.

"It affected him for about four or five starts," Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair said.

Throw out four starts, and Hammel would be 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA that would be the best in the American League. As it is, Hammel ranks seventh in the AL ERA race.

And he just threw a one-hitter.

"That was the real deal," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. "That wasn't smoke and mirrors."

Now Hammel is one of two pitchers who can try this weekend to match R.A. Dickey's feat of back-to-back one-hitters. Hammel starts Friday against the Nationals. The Angels' Ervin Santana, who one-hit the Diamondbacks last Saturday, starts against the Dodgers this Saturday.

The Rockies, meanwhile, are allowing their starters just 75 pitches a game as part of a desperation plan to go with a four-man rotation (with Guthrie in the bullpen). It's hard to see how it works, but it's also hard to see how things can get any worse.

Colorado starters have combined for a 6.37 ERA, which is a run and a half worse than the next-worst team in the National League. And rather than improving, they're getting worse; over the last 29 games, Rockies starters have a 8.46 ERA.

Guthrie, the opening day starter, wasn't helping. He had a 9.20 ERA in his last six starts.

The Rockies would like to trade Guthrie, but the Blue Jays were the only team that showed any interest, and Toronto had no interest in taking on Guthrie's salary, or in giving Colorado any prospects in return.

The Orioles are looking to add a starting pitcher, too.

Sorry, Rockies, they don't want Guthrie back.

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