Jhoulys Chacin Key to Colorado Rockies Playoff Push

Anthony MastersonCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 12:  World Futures All-Star Jhoulys Chacin of the Colorado Rockies pitches during the 2009 XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium on July 12, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Though the trade of Matt Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals will dominate the national headlines as well as shift the balance of power in the National League from the west coast to the midwest, the Colorado Rockies made a couple of moves yesterday that will fortify a trouble spot for a team in the thick of a playoff race.

With a deadly offense, stellar starting pitching, and a dynamic defense, the conversation about the Rockies' major flaws as the trading deadline approached began and ended with the bullpen. 

The Rockies' offense is second in the league in runs scored, the starting rotation is sixth in the league in ERA, but the bullpen ranks 14th. 

Last time I checked, there were only 16 teams in the National League.

Thursday afternoon, in the midst of the first off-day of the second half of the season, the Rockies made waves by promoting their top pitching prospect Jhoulys Chacin from Double-A Tulsa to the Mile High City.

Chacin, without any Triple-A experience, will become the long man in the bullpen to begin with and possibly pick up some innings later in ballgames when he becomes more comfortable in the big leagues.

With the Drillers this season, Chacin is 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA and just returned from the All-Star Futures Game in St. Louis where he pitched a scoreless inning for the World squad.

The Venezuelan righty made waves in 2008, winning Colorado's Minor League Pitcher of the Year award after going a combined 18-3 with a Pedroia-sized 2.06 earned run average between Asheville and Modesto. 

Owner of a darting fastball and a Swiss-cheese changeup, Chacin has confounded hitters from coast to coast while rocketing up every prospect hot sheet in the country.

A sinkerball pitcher, Chacin compiled a nearly 2-1 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio in Tulsa this season while inducing 13 double plays, a promising stat for the rarified air of Denver.

With one of the best defensive infields in baseball playing behind him (Stewart, Tulo, Barmes, and the incomparable Todd Helton), their ability to get to ground balls and make plays will set Chacin's mind at ease and allow him to get into a comfort zone quickly.

The Rockies are hoping that Chacin can come in and contribute right away to take pressure off a bullpen that still, somehow, has journeyman right-hander Juan Rincon pitching important innings late in ballgames. 

Yes, the same Juan Rincon who owns of a 5.58 ERA over his last four seasons in the big leagues.

Changes needed to be made, especially with the unfortunate news that Manny Corpas will need to undergo elbow surgery which could possibly end his 2009 campaign.

Which is why, in addition to adding Chacin to the Major League roster, Dealin' Dan O'Dowd finally threw his name into the contender ring, trading promising pitching prospect Conor Graham to the Cleveland Indians for solid setup man Rafael Betancourt.

Betancourt, just two years removed from a season in which he was the proud papa of a 1.47 ERA which earned him the distinction as one of the best setup men in all of baseball, has bounced back from an incorrigible 2008 which saw his ERA balloon to over five.

He sat out for a full month with a right groin strain, but has since been activated and thriving with the Indians.  With the full month off, and only 30 2/3 innings under his belt in 2009, it means he should be rested and ready for the playoff push.

Now I must say this with many reservations, but kudos to Dealin' Dan for realizing that this team has the opportunity to rock the boat in the ocean of usual suspects in the National League playoff race.

This team has the talent to not only hang around until September, but with the additions of Chacin and Betancourt to shore up the team's only glaring weakness, the Rockies are built to compete with the LA's and St. Louis's of the world.

Their first test begins Friday as the San Francisco Giants come to the Mile High City to face the Wild-Card leading Colorado Rockies in a three-game set, and Coors Field is sure to rocking like it was 2007 all over again.