With an improbable June and a stellar July so far, the Colorado Rockies are showing naysayers they are here to contend.
With Monday’s 10-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with the San Francisco Giants being pounded by the Atlanta Braves, the Rockies can say that if the regular season ended today, they would become the National League wild card winners for the second time in the past three years.
Problem is, there are still 68 games to play.
But with a record of 33-15 since May 29 when manager Jim Tracy took over, the Rockies look like they can compete to the end.
With the trade deadline approaching in T-9 days, what the Rockies desperately need is a strong middle reliever.
The club’s bullpen looks nothing like its opening day roster. With the exception of Huston Street, who also lost his role as closer once, the bullpen has been shuffled around and mix and matched in its entirety.
Matt Daley, Josh Fogg, Juan Rincon and Ryan Speier were not on the club’s opening day roster. Franklin Morales was, but not as a reliever. The club traded Jason Grilli while sending down players like Joel Peralta and Matt Belisle.
The team also lost a quality arm in Taylor Buchholz to Tommy John surgery and a veteran leader in Alan Embree to a broken leg. They recently added veteran Matt Herges to a minor-league deal and is reporting interest in free agent Mike Timlin.
Sure, signing a guy with the name Roy Halladay would bring excitement to Blake Street, but for what, two months? And Matt Holliday had a great stay in purple pinstripes, but a reunion tour is not what needs to be done to make an October push.
What the Rockies need is a reliable setup man.
Not some has-been or could-be. Not multiple washed up pitchers like in years past.
The organization has minor league depth in nearly every position. I’m not suggesting throwing away the farm, but package a couple prospects for a guy that can bridge the gap between the starting rotation and closer Huston Street. Or even better, if O’Dowd can find a club that will unload Garrett Atkins or Yorvit Torrealba, take it.
Chad Qualls is, perhaps, the biggest availability.
With 18 saves for a dismal Diamondback team, Qualls is paving his best year in the majors. He sports a lifetime 3.31 ERA, but one of his more impressive stats is just three home runs allowed this season. This would help in the thin air of Colorado.
Other possible names on the market: Boston’s Takashi Saito, Baltimore’s lefthander George Sherrill and Cleveland’s Rafael Bentancourt.
Colorado has a good team, no doubt. But with its bullpen ranked 14th out of the 16-team National League, it is apparent that a strong setup man is needed.
Perhaps the biggest evidence, however, is the last two nights. On Monday night the Rockies held a 10-1 lead leading up to the seventh inning, when the relievers surrendered five runs, causing our closer to get warmed up in the ninth inning.
In Tuesday’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies blew a 4-0 lead, with the relievers allowing the final runs for the loss.
In less than two months, the Rockies have jumped from 10 under to eight over. I believe it’s time the Rockies become buyers at the deadline and purchase a durable arm.
It’s amazing what one week can do. Seven simple days and it seems like half of the Rockies’ fan-base jumped off the bandwagon after a winless first week in Tucson.
The defeats can be looked at one of two ways:
1) It was the first week of spring training – the rustiness is understandable and the team still has plenty of time to work out their kinks
2) Or others could say, yes, it is only spring training, but it is also only spring training for the teams that are beating the Rockies.
Despite a week of frustration, I choose the first option.
As other writers have shown, there are several factors that could have been a reason behind all of the first-week losses. Pitchers were instructed to throw primarily, if not all, fastballs. Hitters were required to take the first pitch. Base runners were overly aggressive on the base paths.
And let’s not forget the early injuries. Players like Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Ian Stewart, Jeff Baker, and Taylor Buchholz all missed parts, if not all, of the early games. In addition, Ryan Spilborghs left camp after the death of his mother.
The point is, yes, the Rockies struggled last week. And yes, signs show that they will probably struggle at other points during the spring.
Several of the early injuries aren’t serious and the players are back in the lineups, becoming contributing factors to the team’s offensive numbers. Todd Helton quieted his naysayers with a 450-foot shot in his first at-bat after having back surgery over the offseason.
And the Rockies’ bats are finally coming along, with Garrett Atkins leading the way with a .438 batting average as of Friday morning.
Ubaldo Jimenez had a strong final outing before leaving for the World Baseball Classic and was dominant, striking out 10 and allowing no runs in four innings in his start against the Netherlands.
Chris Iannetta, although also currently away from the team, showed the nation his power with four RBI and a three-run double in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night and a home run on Wednesday.
No, the Rockies aren’t at their prime. Todd Helton will still have to play precariously, there are still issues with the rotation and there will be hiccups throughout the season without a doubt.
But the team has started to show improvement in turning things around. After dropping their first seven games (eight unofficially), they started a modest six-game winning streak, climbing their way back into the standings.
It’s still early. There’s no need to hop off yet.