We have finally arrived on the eve of Opening Day after a grueling and seemingly never-ending offseason, punctuated by our resident superstar's departure to the Bay Area.
With Matt Holliday now wearing Athletic green, the Rockies are projected by the national media to struggle in replacing the power Holliday produced on a daily basis in the purple pinstripes.
As I wrote here, however, the Rockies could be primed to surprise the pundits with a possible abundance of reserve power.
The majority of questions concerning the 2009 Colorado Rockies are, as they always seems to be in the Mile High City, about the pitching.
A mixture of young guns and veteran poise will comprise the rotation, and a new acquisition will man the post of closer when the Rox take leads into the ninth inning.
Without further ado, your 2009 Colorado Rockies pitching staff.
1. Aaron Cook - A 16-game winner in 2008, Big Red will look to continue the sustained success of his heavy sinker while mixing in his breaking pitches to keep the hitters from focusing solely on his fastball. A veteran leader, Cook will anchor the rotation and serve as stopper if and when the team hits the skids.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez - This 25-year-old fireballer hopes to build off a solid first full season in the big leagues where he went 12-12 with a 3.99 ERA. Nine of those 12 wins came after the All-Star break. Jimenez's youth and live arm will lead to inconsistency at times, but when he learns how to harness his immense talent, he could be as dangerous as any pitcher in baseball.
3. Franklin Morales- Bouncing back from a disastrous 2008 where the young lefty struggled through back problems and crippling ineffectiveness, Morales has shown enough of a comeback in the spring to be named the number three starter. Long seen as the second part of the double-barrelled tandem (along with Jimenez) that could lead the Rockies for years to come, Morales has his chance to prove he's been well worth the wait.
4. Jason Marquis- Acquired from the Cubs for reliever Luis Vizcaino, Marquis will be called upon to eat innings all season long. An effective back-of-the-rotation starter, Marquis has won at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons and could provide stability for a predominantly youthful rotation.
5. Jorge de la Rosa- The term "wild card" could be considered a compliment for the Mexican-born left-hander. De la Rosa won 10 games for the Rockies last year and enjoyed a solid second-half where he went 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA, but the strong-armed southpaw has more problems between the ears than Jay Cutler has enemies in Denver. If he can harness his talent, he could be a solid number five starter.
Closer: Huston Street - The most notable name in the Matt Holliday deal, Street entered the spring in competition with Manny Corpas for the closer's role vacated by the departed Brian Fuentes. Though Manny's stats had Street beat, Skip Hurdle chose the veteran Street—owner of 96 career saves—as his go-to guy.
Setup: Manny Corpas - A bit miffed at Hurdle's closer decision, Corpas came into spring training with a chip on his shoulder due to the fact that he kept the chips out of his mouth in the offseason, arriving at camp twenty pounds lighter. With only one run allowed all spring, Corpas combined with Street could form a top-notch 1-2 punch in the eighth and ninth innings.
Best of the Rest
Jason Grilli -The hard-throwing righty enjoyed his best season in 2008 sporting a 2.93 ERA in 60 games after coming over in a trade from Detroit.
Alan Embree - The veteran lefty comes to Denver from Oakland and will be asked to fulfill a number of roles, attacking both left and right-handed hitters.
Ryan Speier - A frequent-flyer between Denver and Colorado Springs, Speier earned a spot on the roster and will look to use his frisbee slider to its flummox hitters in 2009.
Juan Morillo - His triple-digit radar gun readings have always wowed scouts, but his command issues have sabotaged his chances at big league success.
Glendon Rusch -A southpaw who will be used mostly in long relief, Rusch gives the Rockies flexibility in the bullpen and can make a spot start if needed.
The 2009 season begins tomorrow with a matinee in the desert as the Rox look to exorcise their D-Back demons from a 2008 that saw them lose 15 of 18 against the Arizona ballclub.
I can't think of two more beautiful words in the English language than "Play Ball."
Baseball is back, my friends, baseball is back.