Rockies rotation returning to normalcy

Justin Edmonds

Is respectability next?

It has been a rough couple of years for the Rockies' pitching rotation.

Fourteen different hurlers started a game -- and nine of those started at least 10 contests-- for the disaster that was the 2012 Rockies. There was the four-man rotation, 75-pitch count experiment that was intriguing as an idea but lacked direction. There were injuries. Oh God, were there injuries. There was a 50-year-old who was the team's best pitcher for a month and a half. There was Jeremy Guthrie and Alex White and--

I have to move on, for my own sanity.

The 2013 season, by comparison, was exponentially better. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood won 49 combined games and posted a collective 3.40 ERA. The team had only six different pitchers make at least 10 starts and had 11 hurlers total begin a game with the ball in hand. The front office still required manager Walt Weiss to work with a soft pitch count of 100, but he was able to exercise his best judgement on several occasions, including a couple of outings in which his pitchers flirted with complete games.

Only Chatwood actually came through with one of those, but that's not the point. The point is that the rotation made a huge step toward a return to respectability, and the unit could very well find itself in that category when all is said and done in 2014.

The addition of Brett Anderson, who absolutely must stay healthy, could potentially be huge for the Rockies. De La Rosa, Chatwood and Juan Nicasio all should be fully recovered from various nagging injuries. Those four and Chacin, who has dominated on the road during his career, have compiled a total non-Coors Field ERA of 4.25. And De La Rosa and Chatwood have mastered the art of pitching in Denver, combining for a 44-16 record with an ERA in the low-4.00s at altitude. In addition, the type of reinforcement the Rockies have maybe never seen -- and certainly haven't sniffed since perhaps Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales in 2007 -- is on the way in Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. All of this is perhaps trumped by the news that the tinkering with the rotation and its pitch counts is apparently over, according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding.

And that's not even to speak of the depth the club has attempted to acquire as rotation insurance. Christian Friedrich was once on the way to being a useful big-league pitcher and could get there again. Jordan Lyles has flashed promise despite being rushed to the level. We've all seen what Morales can do on the rare occasion that he can harness his pitches. Perhaps this is a bit of a case of spring training optimism, but the Rockies appear to be in good shape with their starting rotation and, unlike what they've generally done with the depth behind their two star position palyers, have come up with a pretty good plan B and C in the event of a catastrophe.

Those happen more often than not at 20th and Blake. With a little luck, the catastrophes will stay away this year and we'll see what this club is really made of.

Off-topic.

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