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Minus Chatwood, Rox go with young rotation

Righty signs with Cubs; GM Bridich plans to bolster 'pen, catching
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies are likely to stick with a young rotation, even though they officially waved goodbye to their most experienced 2017 starting pitcher when righty Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs on Thursday.

A starting five that saw righty Jon Gray, 26, provide top-of-the-rotation production over his final 13 starts (2.64 ERA), and at times had four rookies was a key to the club earning its first postseason berth since 2009.

DENVER -- The Rockies are likely to stick with a young rotation, even though they officially waved goodbye to their most experienced 2017 starting pitcher when righty Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs on Thursday.

A starting five that saw righty Jon Gray, 26, provide top-of-the-rotation production over his final 13 starts (2.64 ERA), and at times had four rookies was a key to the club earning its first postseason berth since 2009.

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Chatwood struggled with walks at times and went 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA in 33 games (25 starts), although his rate of hard contact suggested he pitched better than his record.

Interestingly, despite injuries to Gray (right foot stress fracture), 27-year-old lefty Tyler Anderson (arthroscopic knee surgery), 28-year-old righty Chad Bettis (lengthy recovery from testicular cancer) and Chatwood (right calf strain), the Rockies used just eight starters in 2017, tied for second-fewest in the Majors. So, even without Chatwood, the Rockies enter '18 with the basis of a solid rotation.

With the Winter Meetings starting Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., general manager Jeff Bridich has pinpointed the bullpen and catching as focuses, with the possibility of adding a run producer at first base or the corner outfield, or some combination. So replacing the experience of Chatwood, who had spent six seasons with the Rockies, is not high on Bridich's list.

Video: Rockies looking to build off strong 2017 season

"It's always a possibility as we try to keep our minds open, but not a central focus right now," Bridich said this week when discussing general offseason plans.

Of the current starters, Gray, Anderson and 24-year-old lefty Kyle Freeland were Rockies first-round Draft picks; Bettis was a club second-rounder; righty Antonio Senzatela, 22, was an amateur signing out of Venezuela; and righties German Marquez, 22,-- a Topps All-Star Rookie honoree -- and Jeff Hoffman, 24, a Blue Jays top pick, were acquired in trades before they made the Majors.

The Rockies generally have had better luck with such pitchers than those acquired as free agents or pitchers who have built careers elsewhere. Yet, even though he has not made acquiring a veteran this offseason a top priority, Bridich said there are no hard-and-fast rules.

"It comes down at the end of the day to the people involved," Bridich said. "Let's take one example: German Marquez. Was he an original Rockie? Could have been way back in the day [the Rays signed him out of Venezuela when the Rockies couldn't fit him in the budget after signing Senzatela, then traded for him before the 2016 season]. But he didn't grow up in our organization.

"He didn't spend much time with us in the Minor Leagues and was pretty soon in the big leagues, a starting pitcher who had a good freshman year last year."

Video: Morosi discusses the Rockies' offseason outlook

However, 25 seasons of baseball at mile-high altitude and 23 at Coors Field provide evidence that a pitcher has to deal with park effects or adjusting between home and road. Homegrown pitchers and those acquired young enough to spend time in the Rockies' system provide a chance for the team to learn about their psyches.

"We try to make judgments on the people, as best we can, equal to the judgments on the talent," Bridich said. "It's tough because you don't truly ever know people until you live with them."

Bridich said he doesn't plan to rob the rotation's depth to pay the bullpen.

"An important part of who we are at the moment is that we are focused on the development of our young starters," Bridich said. "That's not just five guys. We were very fortunate last year that we used just eight."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies