We are underway! Opening Day is always a special time in baseball, not quite as good as when it is at home, but still special nonetheless. The wonderful atmosphere that surrounds the first “real” game of the season will still be there on Friday when the Rockies host the Padres at Coors Field.
One game certainly does not make a season, but win or lose, it is nice to speculate on observations from the initial action of the season. The Rockies offense lived up to its advance billing with home runs from Tulo, Cargo, and Dex. The only complaint was the missed opportunity to expand the lead in the 4th inning when a missed sacrifice bunt and a baserunning mistake short-circuited a potential rally. The defense also looked sharp with several nice plays turned in, especially a running catch and a throw out at second base in consecutive at-bats by Carlos Gonzalez. The bullpen faltered, but it will still be one of the team’s strengths over the course of the season. Wilton Lopez certainly ran into some tough luck in Milwaukee’s three-run rally in the 8th inning, but of course, that’s what baseball can be like in certain games.
The biggest positives were two. Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, and Michael Cuddyer all looked 100% healthy and made contributions throughout the game. The most encouraging aspect of the game—even in a loss—was the strong start from Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin went 6 2/3 innings of three hit baseball, allowing just one run on a homer. What I liked was his consistent work down in the strike zone and his competitive nature. Jhoulys may not always show it in his body language, but he is an intense competitor. The television shot of a frustrated-at-himself Chacin in the dugout after a 2-out walk in the 7th inning led to his removal was a terrific display of how much he wants to be “the man” in the Rockies rotation. Now let’s hope Jorge De La Rosa can do the same in Game 2 against the Brewers.
Today’s CHECK IT OUT has to be theme appropriate. Bernie Williams was a terrific player for many seasons with the New York Yankees, but many of you may not know that he is a wonderful guitarist. Classically trained, Bernie has released several discs that feature his musical talents. You have to check out his version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Getting ready to back up here in the desert, and I have to admit it’s is always an interesting time. After nearly two months, everyone is eager to leave, but at the same time, spring training seems to go by so swiftly. The regular season begins on Monday, and like it or not, the games will begin to count when Jhoulys Chacin and Yovanni Gallardo square off at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Constantly, Jerry and I are asked by media members from other cities, as well as you fans, about what to expect from the Rockies this season. If we were certain of the answer, we would be cashing in at some Vegas casino. The beauty of baseball is that no one can honestly predict what the 2013 season will bring expect for the usual surprises and disappointments. Do I think the Rockies will be better in 2013? Absolutely. Can they contend? Who knows. As my 28th season in Major League Baseball unfolds, the only certainty I have about this year’s Rockies team is that they will be highly entertaining. There will be plenty of offense—even on the road—and the pitching performances at times will resemble a roller coaster ride.
With good health, and that is always a variable as was discovered in last year’s avalanche of injuries, the Rockies offense has the potential to be as good as any in baseball...not just the National League. Continued growth from Dexter Fowler, Chris Nelson, Eric Young, Jr., Josh Rutledge, and Willin Rosario, combined with Tulo, Cargo, Todd, and Cuddy, will provide Walt Weiss with an offense that can rival any the Rockies have had in their history. And there are reinforcements, too with the likes of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Cory Dickerson, and others eager for their chances in the near future.
Last year’s struggles and this year’s question revolve around pitching. That’s not a new story for Rockies fans. Last night’s encouraging effort from Jon Garland, combined with the excellent spring turned in by Jeff Francis, give hope that the team will have veteran help around the trio of pitchers that will be the key to the season. Messrs. Chacin, De La Rosa, and Nicasio are healthy again, and that alone should mean better results compared to last year. How much better? That’s what is going to be fun to watch unfold this season.
We often falsely believe that great blues guitarists have to be male, but of course, people like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi prove that theory wrong. Here’s another for you in this blog’s CHECK IT OUT. Her name is Joanne Shaw Taylor, and this woman can make her axe do things that are quite impressive. Find her White Sugar album and dig into Blackest Night.
It’s getting closer! Three weeks from today, we will be at Miller Park in Milwaukee to begin the 2013 season. This is usually the time in the spring where boredom can set in because almost everyone has been here for at least month and yet the season still seems far off. The drills can feel repetitive, and even though there are plenty of things to work on in the exhibition games, everyone knows they are just that: exhibitions.
That atmosphere is missing here at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, however, for a variety of reasons. Having Walt Weiss as manager, along with the presence of other new coaches like Dante Bichette has created a freshness that something different always brings. The sting from last year remains paramount in the minds of the Rockies. The determination to eradicate that feeling dominates the thinking around here. There is no question that the players believe this is a competitive team when healthy, so their dismissal by the national media is a driving force. The lineup will mash; the pitching will decide everything.
Speaking of the pitching, I believe progress has been made in terms of developing a starting rotation. There was progress in the efforts by Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio to gain consistency in their last starts. Jeff Francis has been solid all spring, and there are good signs from Drew Pomeranz, too. Maybe best of all, Team Venezuela lost in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic. While it was important for Carlos Gonzalez, Jhoulys Chacin, and Ramon Hernandez to represent their country, having them back with the team rather than in Florida for second round, or San Francisco for the finals, works better for the Rockies, especially with Chacin. Jhoulys will be able to stay on his pitching schedule—he should get at least four more outings here in spring training—and he will do it under the team’s supervision rather than by long distance. Again, I know I am the eternal optimist, but this is going to be a breakout season for Chacin, in my opinion.
Boz Scaggs has returned to his blues roots with a recently released disc, Memphis. I love his rendition of the Jimmy Reed tune, You Got Me Cryin’. CHECK IT OUT!