Rockies' pitchers enter camp healthy and optimistic
Plagued by injuries last season, Colorado looks for improvement on mound
DENVER -- It's not just being in better weather and seeing baseballs being pitched that has Rockies manager Walt Weiss sounding buoyant over the phone. It's the people throwing them.
When Weiss took the job last year he was greeted by a rotation that had four of its five starters having missed all or most of the previous season. Weiss -- already at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., as are more than 30 of the 64 Major League players who will be in camp -- can see a much more positive outlook.
When pitchers and catchers begin workouts Monday, they'll be led by left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and righty Jhoulys Chacin, who combined for 30 of the Rockies' 74 wins in a fifth-place finish in the National League West, their second straight last-place season. But the pitching staff, which includes several additions to the rotation and bullpen, comes into 2014 healthier and expecting to move forward.
"De La Rosa and Chacin had outstanding seasons last year, two of the better seasons in our history," Weiss said after watching De La Rosa sail through a bullpen session during informal workouts. "So I look at our rotation as we sit here today, what it could potentially be, compared to what it was a year ago, and we're in a much different place."
For fans wanting to watch pitcher-catcher workouts, the Rockies will be on the fields between 9:30 and 10 a.m. most days -- possibly the later time in the first days of workouts -- and off the field by 1 p.m.
Some Rockies pitchers dealt with injuries last season, but for the most part they're not the type that are a concern going into Spring Training. De La Rosa dealt with a left thumb bruise and righty Tyler Chatwood had right elbow and left hamstring issues at the end of last season, but both have been throwing at the complex. Lefty Brett Anderson dealt with a foot issue for much of last season while with the Athletics, but finished the year on the mound and has no problems going into spring. Chatwood and left-hander Boone Logan, signed as a free agent, each underwent bone chip removal procedures at season's end.
The biggest injury from last year was the back injury that lefty Christian Friedrich suffered in July 2012. Friedrich was limited to a few Minor League and rehab appearances last year before being shut down, but he was healthy by season's end.
Friedrich, the Rockies' top pick in the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, will be part of a competition for the fifth spot with incumbent righty Juan Nicasio, newly acquired Jordan Lyles (from the Astros) and lefty Franklin Morales, who was acquired from the Red Sox during the offseason and could join the bullpen -- where he has pitched for much of his career. Weiss said Friedrich will have to overcome having missed a year, but he didn't rule him out of the contest.
"I don't ever want to put limitations on anyone in our camp -- if they're in camp, they're looking to make the club," Weiss said. "Christian is in a good place. He feels a lot of freedom because he's healthy, and that alone has him in a better place than he was a year ago. Now, he's got some ground to make up, but the key to Christian is he's healthy and able to take his best shot."
Many of the position players are already in camp, working out informally. Once those players begin official workouts on Feb. 21, Weiss can begin looking at a new batting order. Weiss wants to look at defending NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer in the No. 2 position, rather than the middle-of-the-order spots he occupied last season.
"I talked to Cuddy about it this winter, and the appealing thing about that is when you turn the lineup over there's power right away," Weiss said. "Cuddy is a professional hitter coming off a batting title and he's always a tough out and can take any at-bat in any situation that's dictated on the scoreboard.
"He's a solid runner, great base-runner. There may be fewer opportunities to drive in runs, but when you look at this in its entirety there are some positives to him hitting in that spot."