Colorado Rockies Review: Battle For Positions Narrowing
When the Colorado Rockies came to spring training there were many questions that were left to be answered before opening day.
Who would be the fifth starter?
Would Todd Helton's surgically repaired back be ready to play?
Would Ian Stewart be playing left field, third base, second base or in Colorado Springs?
Who would be the closer?
Many of these questions still remain, but the picture is starting to get more clear.
The Rockies may have gone into spring training with more pitching depth than they have ever had before. Even with the loss of Jeff Francis to injury, the Rockies still have many candidates vying for one position.
With Francis out, the top two spots in the rotation were clear, Aaron Cook followed by the young fireballer Ubaldo Jimenez.
In the offseason, Dan O'Dowd shrewdly dealt troubled reliever Luis Vizcaino to the Chicago Cubs for perennial twelve game winner Jason Marquis. He was immediately slotted into the third spot in the rotation.
Jorge De La Rosa was annointed early on as the fourth starter, which leaves just one more spot in the rotation opened for a plethera of pitchers.
One of the 2007 heroes, Franklin Morales struggled with wildness last year in AAA Colorado Springs and seemed to be a long shot due to his command issues.
Josh Fogg, brought back after a terrible stint with the Reds, along with Matt Belisle, Jason Hirsh, newly acquired Greg Smith, and Greg Reynolds were all duking it out for the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
The only solice for one of the losers is to be a long reliever and possible emergency starter.
It seems that Morales has taken the lead for the final spot. Fogg and Reynolds have struggled, Belisle has been battling injury, Smith had a long battle with the flu, and Hirsh has already been sent to minor league camp.
Smith still looks like a possibility, especially because, due to off days, the Rockies will not need a fifth starter until April 23rd. Smith would have the opportunity to make a few more starts in Tucson, then make a couple starts in AAA to gain some strength. Either way, it looks like the fifth starter will start the year in Colorado Springs.
Due to Helton's offseason back surgery, many wondered if he would be able to come back and play like the Todd Helton of old.
Early on, Helton seemed like he was taking it easy, not playing in a game for a week and a half. When Helton decided he was ready to see time on the field, he showed he would be just fine, smacking a fastball from the Padres' Chris Young 450 feet to straight away center field.
The only question left was whether Helton could endure day in and day out activity. He has shown that so far he can, leading the team with three spring home runs along the way.
Ian Stewart may have been the biggest question coming in. It seemed that the Rockies had given the left field job to Seth Smith, and Clint Hurdle quickly said that Stewart would not play second base.
That left Stewart with only three options, backing up Garrett Atkins at third or backing up Seth Smith in left field. The third option is once again starting the season at AAA Colorado Springs, something that Stewart is not interested in.
The closer battle is still heated.
Due to Manny Corpas' struggles early on in 2008, the Rockies were not comfortable simply slipping him back into the closer's role. That is a big reason why they insisted on receiving Huston Street in the Matt Holliday deal.
Corpas has been as tough as nails early on in spring, not giving up a single run until today against the Rangers. Street struggled early, but has now had five straight appearances without giving up a run.
Still, it seems that Corpas may now be the front runner for the position.
As spring training comes closer to an end, these questions should become even more clear, until then, we can only speculate.
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