While some Rowbots were playing around with Russ's non-Rockies post yesterday, some Rockies vying for the fifth starter position faced off against minor leaguers. Lefthander Greg Smith looked sharp in his return from the flu in two innings. Patrick Saunders reports that Smith struck out four. The same can't be said of Josh Fogg or Greg Reynolds, apparently, with Fogg giving up five runs in four innings, Reynolds four runs in five. According to Jack Etkin in that last link, Matt Belisle also struggled a bit while Ryan Speier put up a zero in one inning of work.
Could the Rockies pursue Josh Bard for minor league depth, now that the Red Sox have released him? The team has had interest in Bard in the past, but he would obviously like the best shot at big league playing time he can find, I don't know if that opportunity's with the Rockies or not. In other cut news but unrelated to the Rockies, Andruw Jones looks likely to be cut by Texas and the Mets appear to be headed to making a decision to keep Livan Hernandez over Freddy Garcia. Good luck with that.
Tracy Ringolsby also writes extensively about the state of the Rockies pitching battles, with Smith very much still in the hunt for the fifth starter position, or even the fourth slot should Jorge De La Rosa not find the cause of his effect, or rather the cause of his defect, for his effect defective comes by cause. The Rockies, like many other teams this year, are not in need of a fifth starter until later in April. If they were not to make a decision until then, I'm not certain of how they would work that with the roster, which has to be cut to 25 by the weekend before the season starts. Does this mean that there will be an additional bullpen opening for two weeks while Franklin Morales, Reynolds and Smith duke it out for the job at AAA? At any rate the article does mention that Glendon Rusch continues to be fairly secure in his pursuit of the long relief role, I'm sure that's particularly true in light of Fogg's recent performance.
So let's look at the current state of the fourth and fifth starter's around the division, sans the irrelevant Padres, to see where the Rockies are:
Arizona - Garland, Scherzer/Petit
This could easily be the division's best pair if I was at all confident that Scherzer's schoulder could carry a starter's load. I'm not. He'll go five starts and then sit out for a month, and the problem could be getting worse every time he throws without having something done surgically.
Los Angeles - Kershaw and Schmidt, McDonald, Estes, Vargas, Stults or Milton.
Now this is just a trick with Torre's rotation construction, which has Kuroda and Wolf being LA's one-two to start the season and their two young studs three-four. I suspect that the real reason they're doing this is to lessen the workload for the two Verducci Effect candidates. As a Rockies fan, I hope it doesn't work, but Kershaw's good as long as he's healthy. We'll see him face off today against Frankie Mo'. I can't say the same for whoever else that they decide to pair with Kershaw at the bottom.
San Francisco - Johnson, Zito
Got to like the reliance on Cy Young winning Trojans, but this pairing is no longer close to what it would have been six years ago. Zito in particular continues to be a shell of his former self, and while Johnson performs well when he's able, he's not as able
Colorado - De La Rosa and Morales or Smith.
Like the Giants, it appears that the Rockies will be going with an all left handed bottom.
What I see is question marks for all four teams, some bigger than others. The Rockies will likely have the most durable pair, which is a bit of a bonus, probably the hardest throwing two as well (Kershaw and McDonald could be close) but will also likely have the pair that gives up the most walks, which is a bit of a handicap (LA's two would challenge them there as well). I like the potential and youth and health we've got relative to the other three contenders in those last two slots, but there's an obviously substantial risk that's also being carried by the Rockies in the lack of a track record.