DENVER -- In the pregame media session on Thursday morning, Rockies manager Bud Black was asked a couple questions about postseason possibilities. He smiled."Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Black said. "You know what I'm looking at? I'm looking at Aug. 17."Yep, Aug. 17, which was Thursday. The Rockies may
DENVER -- In the pregame media session on Thursday morning, Rockies manager Bud Black was asked a couple questions about postseason possibilities. He smiled.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Black said. "You know what I'm looking at? I'm looking at Aug. 17."
Yep, Aug. 17, which was Thursday. The Rockies may have gone into their game against the Braves holding down the top spot in the National League Wild Card race -- a game up on the D-backs and five ahead of the Brewers, who are No. 3 in the battle for the two NL spots -- but nothing is being taken for granted.
And if ever a reminder was needed, it was delivered in Spring Training.
Colorado went into the spring set on a starting lineup that was to include Ian Desmond at first base, David Dahl in left field and rookie Tom Murphy behind the plate. The club envisioned a veteran-filled rotation that had one opening with four top rookie prospects to choose from.
Then potential No. 1 starter Chad Bettis was sidelined with a recurrence of testicular cancer, and he didn't even make his first appearance until Monday. Murphy suffered a broken right forearm when on a throw to second base he hit his arm on the bat of the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo. Desmond, the free-agent investment of the offseason, was hit by a pitch and broke his left hand. And Dahl suffered a stress reaction in his sixth rib.
So much for all those offseason expectations.
And since the campaign began, Opening Day starter Jon Gray finally gave into a broken bone in his left foot that he suffered during the spring after three subpar starts in April to spend the better part of 10 weeks on the disabled list. Desmond, who had never been on the DL in his career, has been sidelined two more times since his late-April activation because of a recurring right calf strain. And lefty Tyler Anderson, who compiled the second-lowest Coors Field ERA (3.00) in 2016 for a pitcher making at least eight starts in a season, has been on the DL for all but four days since June 7 with a left knee problem that led to arthroscopic surgery on July 3.
Through it all, however, a Rockies team that not only has endured six consecutive losing seasons but finished a combined 137 games out of first place in the NL West in those six seasons, has been very much a postseason factor. Oh, they fell out of first place in the NL West in a hurry in mid-June during a 5-15 stretch that allowed the Dodgers to move into first place. The Dodgers have left scorched earth in their wake en route to amassing what was an 18 1/2-game lead entering Thursday.
But the Rox have nevertheless been in control of one of the two NL Wild Card spots ever since, despite the key absences.
Those four rookie starters who were set to battle for that one open spot in the rotation in the spring -- Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman -- were a combined 36-20 entering Thursday, while Colorado was a combined 46-29 in the 75 starts they had made.
Mark Reynolds, who signed a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training, at the age of 33 is having the best year of his career. He went into Thursday hitting .280 -- 42 points above his career average -- with 25 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .368 on-base percentage, 38 points above his career mark.
Gerardo Parra, a disappointment after signing a three-year free-agent contract and hitting .253 with seven home runs a year ago, did spend a month on the DL, but the .346 average, nine home runs and 57 RBIs he has put together in 79 games have been a key reason why the Rockies' left-field position has been one of the more productive in the game.
And now Bettis is back -- pitching seven shutout innings in his 2017 debut on Monday -- to provide a fresh arm for the rotation, for which he is the elder statesman at the age of 28. And while Senzatela is now working out of the bullpen, the idea is he could be part of the late-inning mix if Colorado reaches the postseason.
It is why the Rockies were willing at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to address two key needs -- a veteran catcher to help the young rotation (Jonathan Lucroy) and right-handed setup man (Pat Neshek) to share setup duties with lefty Jake McGee.
It's why the Rockies are in position for that postseason invitation. And it's why Black knows better than to try and look into the future.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.