Rockies Ready to Build off Foundation
The Rockies are a team that is coming of age.
Think about it.
Outfielder Mike Tauchman, a likely extra outfielder, could be the only rookie on the Rockies Opening Day roster.
Now, the Rockies have potential impact players who could wind up at Triple-A Albuquerque, including outfielder David Dahl and first baseman Ryan McMahon and catcher Tom Murphy, each of whom would have been in the Opening Day lineup on Rockies teams in the past.
That underscores the evolution of the franchise.
And outsiders are taking notice.
When the Rockies announced the hiring of Black in October of 2016 a national columnist wrote Black was the perfect hire for a team that was about to undertake a major rebuild that would take four or five years. When it was mentioned to him that the Rockies management considered Black the perfect hire for a team that had post-season ambition.
“Everybody says that when they hire a new manager,” the writer said.
The Rockies, however, weren’t everybody. They meant what they said. And during the 2017 season that took a major step in the direction of proving their point. They advanced to the NL wild-card game, where they were knocked off by the Diamondbacks.
This year the Rockies have sights set on taking the next step.
“Last year we got to the point where we were noticed by the league and people who follow this game that this is a good team,” said Black.
The expectation is it will be even better this year.
“We have to do it on the field,” he said. “Last year we heard nice things but we had to do it between the lines. We had to do it on the field. We have to do it this year, hopefully the next year and year after year so that people talk about us being a good, solid team.”
The foundation is in place with a veteran lineup in which an original Rockies product, Chris Iannetta, returned as a free-agent addition in the off-season to returnees Ian Desmond at first, DJ LeMahieu at second, Nolan Arenado at third, Trevor Story at short, Gerardo Parra in left, Charlie Blackmon in center field and Carlos Gonzalez in right field.
Story, entering his third big-league season, and Arenado, who will attain five years of big-league service at the end of April, are the regulars with the least experience.
There is a rotation in which Chad Bettis, who turns 29 in late April, is the old man, but the five others in the battle for the four other slots in the rotation are big-league tested – Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela. And then there is Jeff Hoffman, whose spring was put on hold because of some shoulder soreness that sidelined him for nearly two weeks.
The bullpen was augmented by off-season free agent additions Wade Davis, the closer, and Bryan Shaw, who has made 70 or more appearances in the each of the last five seasons to go with holdover lefthanders Jake McGee, Mike Dunn and Chris Rusin, and right-handers Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg and Carlos Estevez.
That’s nice, but more importantly the Rockies have potential that will be at Triple-A Albuquerque for a call to the big leagues, which the Rockies know well from a year ago is vital for success.
Remember, this is a team that opened the season last year with Bettis, Desmond, projected catcher Tom Murphy, and David Dahl, among others on the disabled list, but managed to get off to a dominating start that was the foundation for success.
It is a team that went to spring training expecting one rookie in the rotation, but by season’s end had used four, who combined not only for 93 starts, and went 38-28, the fourth all-time for wins among rookie starting pitchers, second only to the 40-10 A’s of 2012 for a team that advance to the post-season.
The pieces are in place.
“But,” said Black, “what counts is what happens when the season starts.”