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Friday Rockpile: Unprecedented spring leaves few questions

The decade truly is opening a new era for the Rockies.  For the first time in franchise history, not only does the team expect to compete for its first division title, but so do analysts outside of Colorado.  How they handle expectations remains to be seen, but the disappointment that was 2008 can only aid in the roster's experience.

Additionally, the projected 25-man roster has never been so close to being set.  The rotation members are set, with the starting lineup and bench written in hard pencil.  There are just no position battles for us to debate.  Thus, all of the articles we get at the spring onset are features about certain players.  I'll get to those after the jump, but first, I'll note a few things about the Dodgers.

Rox Girl has consistently ascertained that Andre Ethier is prime for a regression in 2010.  Words don't always convert to the field, but Ethier says he isn't satisfied with his strong 2009:

I'll come in mentally thinking I have a lot to prove and to achieve. It's not a situation where you can get complacent just because you had a good year or because you signed a two-year deal. That isn't the right way -- to come in knowing you have a job and all that. You have to keep proving yourself.

Colorado is fortunate to avoid having roster decisions pressured by the number of options of several players.  Conversely, Los Angeles will be dealing with a Niemann/Hammel situation in Spring Training.  Both lefty Eric Stults and knuckler Charlie Haeger are competing for the fifth starter role, both out of options.  James McDonald and Josh Lindblom are also competing for the spot.  TrueBlueLA is assuredly undecided.  This is a position battle I'll be paying attention to this spring.  While Jason Hammel had to make the Tampa Bay rotation or be traded, the loser of the fifth starter battle could find himself in the Dodger bullpen, but we may see Los Angeles forced into a trade as well.

Gagne picks Dodgers over Rockies | News
If Eric Gagne makes the roster in Dodgertown somehow, he will be the seventh pitcher to win a Cy Young Award, move onto another team, then return to the team he won his award.

More Rockies links after the jump.

Joe Posnaski at SI has thrown his spaghetti on the wall, attempting to project the 2010 season.  His method - turn the league into a video game, rating every player on an arbitrary numerical scale and adding up value.  Feel free to ignore him picking Colorado 2nd in the NL West, but feel free to pay attention to him rating Troy Tulowitzki as the best overall player in the division and Ubaldo Jimenez as his Cy Young favorite.

Rockies' Olivo quick study on defense - The Denver Post - Two interesting point to take from this:  one - Olivo has only recently started to focus on his defense, suggesting he could potentially improve over a career of substandard defensive play.  Two - former Sky Sox pitching coach and current Royals pitching coach Bob McClure may be responsible for Olivo signing with the Rox.

Olivo gets early start on day catchers and pitchers report | All Things Rockies
Troy Renck came away impressed with Olivo's physique and work ethic.

Barmes unfazed by contract-year pressure | News
The Rockies' second baseman has no real security financially or in his role going forward, but the man continues to handle the situation well..

Rockies LHP Francis returns after missing 2009 - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
Inside the Rockies' Jack Etkin wrote a feature on X-factor Jeff Francis for Yahoo.  There's not much new to see here.

Corpas returns as Rockies' pitchers, catchers start spring training - The Denver Post
The bullpen is already fairly strong, but Troy Renck points out two huge potential areas of organic growth.  Manny Corpas thinks it will be a "bueno year" and Taylor Buchholz is slightly ahead of schedule in his attempt to return around the All-Star Break.

Colorado Springs Sky Sox: News: All Decade Team - has been compiling an all-decade roster this offseason, which I just noticed last night.  The newest announcement was for the fourth starter, who was 11-11 with a 4.67 ERA over four seasons at AAA Colorado Springs.  Hopefully, the 201X decade will yield a better 4th AAA starter than Denny Stark.