Monday Rockpile: Rockies Fan Fest Recap

So Marco Scutaro, right? Pretty great! Rox Girl gave us a good rundown on the trade and the implications on Sunday, so I'll leave other breakdowns to my contemporaries here on

Those of you who follow me on Twitter saw the Tweetsplosion that came from my phone on Saturday. I was graciously invited to the first day of Rockies Fan Fest, so I made full use of the time there by flailing at like 15 snowballs in the visitor batting cages, buying some Rockies merchandise that isn't normally available (for example: I bought Christian Friedrich's locker nameplate for when he arrives in Denver, I bought a 7 foot tall 2010 Ubaldo Jimenez street sign - the ones that hang off of streetlights and stuff, and I bought Muzia a $1 Tulo baseball cap with a built in mullet), and sitting through 3 different players/coaches panels.

The three panels I attended were: Pitchers/Catchers, Infielders/Outfielders, and Coaches/Front Office. What they ended up talking about resulted in the panels being more like: Pitchers/Catchers/Who just had kids, The New Clubhouse Culture, and What We're Doing, respectively.

The Pitchers/Catchers was really Pitchers featuring Ramon Hernandez on drums (no other catchers joined for the panel). In attendance were Esmil Rogers, Jhoulys Chacin, Matt Lindstrom, Josh Roenicke, Matt Reynolds, Jorge De La Rosa, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood, and Ramon Hernandez.

Bringing in Hernandez was a very obvious move, as he has experience working with young pitching staffs while being a decent offensive producer. When asked about joining the Rockies, Hernandez said "Every new organization I join, it's the same story: We have a young pitching staff". It would seem we got the right guy.

Hernandez had other commentary on the state of the pitching staff and Coors Field. After being asked about his expectations after playing 2 seasons in Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Hernandez claimed that Coors was a fair park - provided the pitcher makes his pitch.

Speaking of making his pitch, Hernandez had more interesting points about the relationship between a pitcher and a catcher. Much like any other relationship, it's all about communication. When Hernandez makes a trip out to the mound to talk about how to finish an AB, if his pitcher is completely sure of the pitch he wants to make, Hernandez has his pitchers' back, 100%. Of course, if it works out, the pitcher was the stud. If it doesn't, Hernandez mishandled his pitcher. For shame.

Most of the rest of the pitchers had the same thing to say: I need to improve my fastball command. Jhoulys Chacin wants to hit 200IP. Esmil Rogers wants to stop walking guys and regain some sort of consistency. Alex White spent some time this offseason with Bob Apodaca out in Chapel Hill, and it interestingly wasn't about baseball. More of a personal visit. Speaks highly to how the organization views White. Ultimately, Matt Lindstrom summed it up nicely in saying that the club looks good on paper, but the team needs to get out on the field and play hard, stay loose in the clubhouse, have some fun, but to also leave it all on the field.

The Infielders/Outfielders session consisted of Troy Tulowitzki, Jason Giambi, Dexter Fowler, DJ LeMahieu, and Casey Blake.

There were a lot of jokes about Giambi and Blake being old thrown around. Blake seems to have a good sense of humor about this kind of stuff, as well he should. Blake's comments were pretty canned, the standard "here to help" responses. It's pretty clear that the Rockies were the most interested team and had a major league offer, so why wouldn't Blake want to come here? But he's a respected player, and he respects the Rockies and their lineup. All good things to hear from the consummate professional.

LeMahieu is looking forward to the 2B competition (well, the utility competition now), but past that didn't have much to say.

Past that, we had 3 guys who now know each other very well (Giambi, Tulo, Dex) and two newcomers (LeMahieu, Blake), so the three guys on the inside had most of the important commentary. Dex spent some time working out with Giambi and Tulo this offseason, and it shows, if you saw the pictures of his biceps. He's pretty convinced that the offseason regimen is going to aid in his production in 2012.

What really stood out about the 3 of these guys talking is that it seems that Fowler has been included in the "Giambi/Tulo in club". At first, it just seems like "yay, good players do good", but remember that Fowler is a Scott Boras client. While Boras was "defeated" by Carlos Gonzalez' love of the Rockies, there's no guarantee that Fowler is going to follow any suit (provided, of course, that the Rockies will be interested in extending Fowler). If both parties should be interested in extending, it will be advantageous if there is A. A strong core that Dex is a part of and B. The team shows a recovery from the plight of the past 2 seasons and remains competitive to the last game, whether winning or losing.

The point is that the team has been torn apart pretty thoroughly since 2007, with only Tulowitzki and Todd Helton remaining from the World Series run, and this just lends credence to the idea that the team is being reassembled around Troy Tulowitzki (under the watchful eye of Jason Giambi). The team has "added character," as Tulo put it, and parts of this team are looking more like they did back in the good ol' days. Like 2007.

Finally, the chat with the execs. In all, Keith Dugger, Dan O'Dowd, Bill Geivett, Jorge de la Rosa, and Juan Nicasio were all in attendance for this panel.

Word from trainer Keith Dugger is that Juan Nicasio is cleared to pitch at full force. The only thing they're holding him back from is distance running. Jorge de la Rosa is feeling great, and has started throwing bullpen sessions (all fastballs). He's still slated for late May, early June, and we do NOT want to rush a Tommy John Surgery recovery.

One of the most interesting questions thrown at O'Dowd was from someone in the crowd, and basically summed up to this: The strategy for pitching success in Colorado is to land groundballers and more groundballers, as anything in the air is obviously a home run. O'Dowd countered this by saying that the Rockies employ their own statistical measures in tracking fly balls: was it a soft fly ball, hard fly ball, pulled fly ball, etc. He then said that they're reevaluating the pitchers they go after in the future, stating that if they limit themselves to acquiring groundballers, their world suddenly becomes that much smaller as far as pitching acquisitions go. Finally, they pointed out that at that time they had already traded the most extreme flyball pitcher in the bunch (Kevin Slowey).

Finally finally: I got a moment to say hello to Dan O'Dowd. I specifically asked him about Doug Linton being the new minor league pitching coordinator. O'Dowd's response was that Bo McLaughlin was best suited to a stable group of guys, such as a single team's pitching staff, while Linton's appointment was in part to put some fresh faces into roles and see where that takes the organization as well as just putting guys where they have the chance to make the most impact.

I then asked O'Dowd about Friedrich, and what his next steps are. O'Dowd responded: 1. Stay healthy; 2. Make baseball your #1 priority. There's still time for Friedrich, but he's going to have to take the bull by the horns.

Talking with O'Dowd, however briefly, was very informative. He has a candor about him that I did not expect. It was very refreshing.

All in all, fan fest was awesome, and if you have the opportunity to go at any point, make sure you do.

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