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Sunday Rockpile: Ubaldo Jimenez likely to start opening day, Rockies to honor Bichette's blast

Ubaldo Jimenez is the team's ace now, so that he'd be the likely opening day starter probably isn't a surprise. The Denver Post piece also includes uplifting notes on Greg Smith and Taylor Buchholz. While we're here, we might as well add this Troy Renck article on Rafael Betancourt. This is all still positive spring spin, and while it should prove to be somewhat exaggerated once again come the regular season, I'm not seeing any of the warning flag stories thus far. Like I was saying yesterday, these healthy and lively pitch movement stories are a lot better reading than the foreboding "arm's just a little stiff" or "all young pitchers go through this kind of shoulder pain" stories we sometimes get instead.


In the Rockpile a couple of days ago, after prettyinpurple talked about having to get ripped from last year's Spilly-slam game early by her parents, we ended up having a short discussion of the greatest Rockies games of all time. One that I mentioned would be in my top five was the Coors Field opener on April 26, 1995 where Dante Bichette hit a dramatic 14th inning HR to give the Rockies their first win of their first playoff season. Apparently the Rockies are finally recognizing that baseball has a market for nostalgia, and they are moving forward with plans to commemorate the occasion's 15th anniversary according to Troy Renck.

Mentioning the Spilly-slam game and Bichette's Coors christening in the same paragraph reminds me that the Rockies have had several memorable 14 inning games that would rank among the top Rockies games of all time, these three in particular stand out for me:

April 26, 1995 - Dante Bichette homers off of Mike Remlinger. The game's also notable for being the Rockies debut of Larry Walker, who doubled three times with three RBI. 

September 21, 2007 - Rockies extra inning games at PETCO are frequently legendary, but this one, much like its heroes, doesn't seem to get enough love from Rockies fans here, well besides SDCat. Brad Hawpe drove in the only two runs for the Rockies, including his 14th innning solo shot, and Franklin Morales pitched six stellar innings while matching up against Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, allowing just one hit and zero runs against a team that at the time was 4 1/2 games ahead of us. Given the deficit we were facing, if there was ever to be a game 163, we needed to make the Padres vulnerable to a fall, and this series, which started with Hawpe's blast off a tired bullpen and finished with Bud Black's tackle of Milton Bradley, did just that.

August 24, 2009 - Ryan Spilborghs shows San Francisco that they are the inferior team after they nearly show the Rockies the opposite of that.

Of course, #1 on the Rockies list was a 13 inning affair, so clearly there's no fast rule about 14 innings being a sign of Rockies greatness.


The last Renck column on the Bichette commemoration also has a couple of interesting notes, so be sure to click through to read it, but one that I think I'll mention a dissent to is the quick D-backs opinion he gives at the very end:

For the Diamondbacks to contend, they must get huge rebound seasons from shortstop Stephen Drew and center fielder Chris Young.

I've got to go soon, but my initial thought is that this might not, and in fact probably isn't true, particularly the "and" part. I think "or" is a bit closer, but I'll have to explore it more thoroughly when I get back this afternoon. I think my main point would be that a contending NL team usually needs five or six members of a regular starting lineup producing at an above league average level if the pitching's sound. In thinking that the D-backs could contend this year, I was actually believing that Young wouldn't necessarily have to be one of those players given that they'll get that kind of productionfrom first, third, right field and probably catcher. Second base with Kelly Johnson's also a possibility, and we probably can't rule out Connor Jackson returning from Valley Fever, but given the uncertainty of those two, I do think Drew bouncing back's pretty important to them, though.