Rockies pleased with all-around team effort
Dickerson, Blackmon providing thump; Lyles, Kahnle strong on the bump
DENVER -- The Rockies have tried the headline-grabbing offseason signings before -- see Mike Hampton and Darryl Kile.
They didn't work.
They have tried patience, waiting for the farm system to produce the necessary bodies to fill all of the needs at the big league level.
That didn't work.
So this winter, they embarked on a different approach. This winter, they put the focus on emphasizing the need for roster depth.
So far, so good.
Now, be warned, it is early. Their season is only 21 games old.
The Rockies, however, are 11-10. They have only had six better starts in franchise history. Thanks to an 8-2 win against the Giants on Monday night at Coors Field, combined with the Dodgers getting beat by the Phillies, Colorado is just a half-game back of second-place San Francisco and 1 1/2 behind division-leading Los Angeles in the National League West.
That's with starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin having opened the season on the disabled list, and still most likely having rehab starts with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday and April 29 before a possible activation.
It's with major offseason rotation addition Brett Anderson out for at least two months after suffering a broken finger while batting in his third start.
It's with All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez in a 5-for-35 slump that has seen him drive in one run in the last 10 games, defending NL batting champ and heart of the clubhouse Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain, and Jorge De La Rosa not earning his first victory until Monday's win over the Giants.
And De La Rosa could only make it through five innings in that game, allowing one run but laboring through a 102-pitch effort that included only 59 strikes. He did, however, ease some concerns when he pitched out of a two-on, nobody-out threat in the fourth and escaped unscored upon with Giants runners on first and third with one out and the middle of the order coming up in the fifth.
"It was a good sign to see him pitch out of those jams," manager Walt Weiss said. "It's what was a staple for him last year, but early on [this year], he hasn't been so good at it."
What's been good about the Rockies, though, is the help they have received from throughout the roster.
"I talked about it this spring," Weiss said. "I felt we are in a better position to take on some adversity throughout the year. I hoped we wouldn't be tested so early, but the guys have stepped up."
Guys like Corey Dickerson, joining the lineup in center field on Monday when Charlie Blackmon moved to right, filling the defensive void of Cuddyer. Dickerson responded with a double, a two-run home run and a single in his first three at-bats.
Blackmon himself was supposed to be part of a revolving center-field door, but he has played so well he's forced himself into the lineup in 16 of the first 21 games -- and not only leads the team with a .411 average but raised his home run total to four with two in Monday's victory.
And then there's the emergence of Jordan Lyles in the rotation and Tommy Kahnle in the bullpen.
Lyles, who was recalled from Triple-A before the season began, is 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four games.
Kahnle, a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Yankees, has given the Rockies a much-needed right-handed power arm who can work middle innings. He delivered two hitless innings with five strikeouts against San Francisco on Monday.
"What it takes [to win] is everybody," Weiss said.
Right now, the Rockies are competing.
Hey, it's a starting point for a franchise that has never won a World Series and has claimed only one NL pennant (2007).
"Everyone talked coming into Spring Training that we had depth from last season," Cuddyer said. "Obviously every guy we had [added] has played well."
• Outfielder Brandon Barnes, who came along with him from Houston in the Dexter Fowler deal, hitting .303.
• Kahnle has picked up two wins, compiling a 1.59 ERA in eight appearances and twice providing that two-inning mid-game relief in victories against the Giants.
• Dickerson, a product of the system, is now hitting .375 in 10 games.
They may not be the heart of the order, like Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer; or the foundation of the rotation; or the bullpen closer. They are, however, all critical parts of what Colorado envisions as long-term success.
"We have a team that has embraced the team concept," Weiss said. "It is a matter of sustaining it."
Can it be done? Sure.
Will it be done? Time will tell.
So far, for the Rockies, however, it has been so good.