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Rockies Review: What do you mean, it's still spring training?

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In one of those unique, unexplainable twists of fate known as "coincidence," I have not been able to pay much attention to the Rockies this week, while no doubt you have been able to do just that. Yet I will still attempt to recap the week's goings-on for you, instead of vice versa. Hey, don't look at me, I just work here.

The important bit (i.e. I put it in bold so you read it): I'd like to ask the community at large if they find Rockies Review, as currently constituted, a helpful feature. After all, should it be assumed  that we Rowbots are all deranged dedicated enough to either follow every game live, or to catch up on it from the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, Purple Row, Yahoo!, etc, etc. directly afterwards? Therefore, do you already have the highlights/lowlights already consigned to memory, and don't really need my mini-caps? Or are they a helpful crash course on the week for those of us who might have been like me, i.e. occupied with real life to the detriment of baseball-watching time? I am aiming to market a product that fills a niche, so definitely let me know how I, Baseball Genie, can best serve you. (Unfortunately, the only wishes I can grant are confined to blogging. Sorry about that).

Anyway. In case you do need 'em, here they are.

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March 16: COL 8 @ ARI 3. 8-9
The big excitement here was the fact that Jhoulys Chacin, who is still best known as the Machine, got the start in place of Aaron Cook, and proceeded to... well, he wasn't very machine-y, as he allowed three runs on four hits in three innings, walking none and striking out one, but all the damage came in one inning, the third. He did collect his first Cactus League win (such a milestone). Meanwhile, Huston Street pitched two perfect innings, a good sign -- he struck out two and got his ERA down to 10.38, which means he'll be competing for the lead here. Alan Embree, the Gas Can, and Glendon Rusch combined to keep the Snakes scoreless the rest of the way.

Offensively, the Rockies benefited from a trio of longballs -- one from Todd, one from Christian Colonel, and one from former D-back Carlos Gonzalez, who we are all hoping will continue to torment his fellow club thusly. Todd and CarGo's were two-run shots, and KFC provided insurance with a three-run blast in the ninth. Paul Phillips's sac fly accounted for the eighth run, and the Rockies beat the Dbacks, which is always a very notable event. If only that would be a more familiar sight this season, everyone would be pleased.

March 17: COL 9 @ KC 9. 8-9-1.
Oh gawd, the Royals. True to form, they provided us with another painful contest -- Ubaldo Jimenez, back from the WBC, got tagged for eight runs on six hits in just 4.2 innings, thus raising fears that he can only pitch against Dutchmen. Since said Dutchmen are notedly light-hitting, maybe U-ball forgot to turn back on his competitive setting -- in any case, the results were ugly. Juan Morillo and Manny Corpas combined for a tandem of mostly spotless innings, the only blemish Manny's lone walk, before Randy Flores allowed the Royals' ninth run. Ryan Speier and Franklin Nunez managed to shut them out for the eighth and ninth innings, and thanks to some heavy work by the lumber, the Royals, despite their best efforts, weren't able to force us into painful failure.

Todd launched his third spring home run, and Tulo (2-4, 2-run HR, 3 RBI) and Spilly  (1-2, solo HR, BB) helped out. Dex and CarGo also contributed RBIs, as the Rockies came up with a three-run burst in the bottom of the eighth to draw level -- after jumping out to a 5-0 lead, they'd fallen behind 8-5 as the Royals' damage came in the fourth and fifth innings. But hey, it's the Royals. We should be glad that a tie was the worst that came out of it.

March 18: OFF. And much-needed.
After the Royals game, the Rockies understandably decided to toss back a few -- it being St. Patty's Day and all -- and descended on the Tucson house shared by Tulo, Atkins, Glendon Rusch, and the currently absent Very Special Boy, to celebrate the first annual Tulopalooza. Apparently there were T-shirts and posters made to commemorate this Very Special Event, promoted as an excuse team bonding, and while I cannot report for certain, I imagine that they had more fun after the coaches left. Therefore, it is also likely that they spent a majority of March 18 thinking how lucky they were that it was an off-day.

March 19: COL 2 @ LAD 3. 8-10-1.
Tulopalooza hangovers were definitely the rule of thumb for the offense, which only scratched out a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh innings -- one on a Christian Colonel double-play grounder and the other on an RBI single by some enterprising fellow named Colt Mike McCoy. Franklin Morales weebled and wobbled through five innings, allowing six hits and three runs (although only two were earned, thanks to Yorvit committing catcher interference) walking one, striking out one, and allowing one home run, just for symmetry. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, pitching on his twenty-first birthday, blanked the Rockies through his five innings, allowing only one hit, and then put a cherry on the celebrations by cranking a solo shot off Morales. Then, it can be reasonably inferred, he went out and got his own hangover.

March 20: TEX 11 @ COL 5. 8-11-1.
The Rangers came to Hi Corbett with an unpleasant hostess gift: worse than fruitcake, it was the 11-run thumping they administered to Jason Marquis (5 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR) Juan Morillo (1 inning, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB, 1 K) Manny Corpas (1 inning, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 K) and Jason Grilli (1 inning, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB, 1 K). Marquis is apparently tweaking his delivery, but whatever he was doing, it wasn't working, and he's now 0-2/9.28 on the spring. I'm not particularly worried about him, since he'll be a slightly better version of Josh Fogg, but he should probably knock off the tinkering. (Then again, the Rangers were teeing off on everybody). Remarkably, the only Rockies pitcher who managed not to be scored on was Huston Street, turning in a second consecutive clean outing; he didn't allow a hit or a walk and struck out one

Meanwhile, thanks to some Don Baylor adjustments, Spilly continued his spring tear -- 3-for-4 with a walk, he's now batting .371 in Cactus League play. Everyone is, of course, salivating over the idea of this at the top of the lineup, and Spilly has even shown some ability to replace the speed lost by Willy T's departure. Of course, the Rockies aren't exactly the Maserati of teams -- more like a Honda Civic. Nothing flashy, solidly reliable, affordable and middle-of-the-road. Hopefully they can put their foot on the accelerator and get ahead of the competition; the Diamondbacks are in a Toyota Camry, the Dodgers in a Thunderbird, the Giants in a Ferrari (the pitching) without an engine (the offense), while the Padres clunk along back in a Yugo. And yes, now that I've said that, I have doomed us to lose the season series against them. I am sorry.

Ian Stewart, who has been disappearing since the Angels game, did make a nice effort to reappear, with a matching 3-for-4 day and a solo shot in the fourth inning. This Paul Phillips character also reappeared with 2 RBI, and the Toddfather added another -- he looks like he's recovered, at any rate. But it wasn't enough to overcome the pitching problems, and the Rockies got a red light. But not the Amsterdam kind.

March 21: COL 4 @ TEX 8. 8-12-1.
A second straight look at the Rangers didn't exactly improve the boys' results, as they were good guests and allowed the Rangers to capture another win. Having now mastered the home-run-hitting part, the Rox have as yet failed to figure out how to string this together with more runs; the three they got today were all from third-stringers (Paul Phillips, Matt Murton -- who needs a nickname -- and JoKo) and all were solo shots. Jeff Baker, who looks like the most likely trade candidate just because there's no room for him, also contributed an RBI single to the cause, but his .188 spring batting average isn't exactly going to drive his value upwards so we can, you know, get Tim Lincecum for him.

Jorge de la Rosa had a mediocre outing, allowing six hits and three runs in his four innings, but the disappointing part for Rowbots was to see the highly prized Machine experience a definite hiccup -- 2.1 innings, 5 runs (4 on a grand slam by ex-Dback Chad Tracy) and 4 walks qualifies by anyone's measure as an ugly line, and may have to remind everyone that El Saviour still is a 21-year-old kid who hasn't pitched above A-ball. While he will be fast-tracked, he still needs some seasoning. LIke a fine roast. And then he can come back and roast everyone. See, optimism is easy.

March 22: CLE 3 @ COL 4.  9-12-1.
I think Aaron Cook can do this in his sleep by now. After getting roughed up in his last outing against the Indians, he bounced back with his usual five-inning, one-run, multi-groundball effort (9, to three outs in the air). It brought his spring ERA down to 1.89 and is making me, for one, excited about Cookie repeating his performance and moving into that next step as a legitimate ace. I think the title got assigned to Francis based mainly on his 2007 and the general feeling that he should be the one, but it's definitely Cookie now. Fun times.

Juan Morillo followed up with a scoreless inning of his own, but Randy Flores was not quite so fun-timey, as the first thing he did upon entering in the seventh was to yack up a homer that tied the game at 3. The Rockies got these three thanks to a RBI single by Bake, and the same, plus a sac fly, from KFC. The tiebreaker came in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to an RBI single from Stewie, and Glendon Rusch overcame a one-out double in the top of the ninth to salt the win away. What did I discover from this game? Andy Cannizaro will appear in my nightmares tonight.

What's to Worry? First, Ian Stewart needs to show up again, as does Jason Marquis, and the plague of injuries starting up already is making me a little edgy. Hawpe, Tulo, and Atkins -- all of whom, you might say, are somewhat crucial to our success -- have had to miss time with assortments of ailments, and yeah. That needs to stop. Marquis needs to stop fooling around with anything that makes him resemble Kip Wells, and it would be nice if Ian Stewart started hitting again. But to the best of my recollection, he had a mediocre-to-bad spring last year. And Tulo had a great one. And we know how that turned out. So yeah, extrapolating from spring stats is worthless.

ARGH IS IT THE REGULAR SEASON YET???

What's to Like? We may actually have a legit closer battle on our hands, as Huston Street appears to be coming around after his iffy start. With Bucky out, we'll want both him and Corpas in top form, and after a high-water mark of 33.75, Street should be commended for getting his ERA all the way down to a comparatively shiny 7.11. Spilly's continued destroying of the world is pretty enjoyable to watch, and he especially deserves kudos for working through this at a tough personal time. He's really one of the good guys and we're glad he's on our side.

In addition, the Toddfather is doing pretty damn nicely for himself, with his hit today raising his average up to .300. With 3 HR, 7 RBI, and a 1.192 OPS in the spring ledger, he's showing that reports of his demise may be greatly exaggerated, which is a comforting sight.

What's on Tap? FSN Rocky Mountain has now started televising games, which means we're almost there. As a matter of fact, we are moving into the second-to-last full week of exhibition games, two of which will be televised: tomorrow's 2:10 PM MT contest against the Brewers, and Saturday's 2:10 game against the Cubs. In between, the Rockies practise some final tune-ups against the Cubs again (Tuesday) Angels (Wednesday) Dodgers (Thursday) and Mariners (Friday). Definitely time for the regulars to get in for six or seven innings. And definitely time for full speed ahead. (But keep a look out for icebergs).