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Rockies 4, Cubs 2: Esmil Rogers Graduates to Rotation With Distinction

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It is not official by any means.  There is still two weeks of Spring Training left to play.  Yet after today, any circumstance that leads to Esmil Rogers not being Colorado's fifth starter in April would have to be considered an upset.

Rogers made a specific effort to work more quickly on the mound, and the results were as dominant as I have ever seen the 25-year-old Dominican.  He worked five shutout innings on just 60 pitches, striking out three while allowing just one baserunner.  That was Carlos Pena, who sprayed a single to left field only to foolishly challenge the laser arm of Carlos Gonzalez.  Pena was thrown out by fifteen feet at second base.

Other than that, Rogers retired every Cub he faced, notable in that all but two projected Opening Day starters for Chicago were in the lineup - Kosuke Fukudome and Starlin Castro.  Rogers also effectively kept the ball on the ground in getting seven groundball outs to just three air outs, and the Cubs rarely got the barrel on the ball.

Efficiency.  Ground balls.  Strikeouts.  No walks.  If he continues as such, he's overqualified for the fifth starter role.  

But that role was already taking shape before Rogers even took the mound.  With Clayton Mortensen optioned to AAA today, the only remaining contenders with Rogers are John Maine (who likely won't be available Opening Day) and Greg Reynolds.  

Today also ironically represents a step back in the likelihood of Jordan Pacheco starting the season with the big club.  Rogers' strong start gives the Rockies' brass confidence in carrying a fifth starter, lowering the possibility Pacheco takes Aaron Cook's spot on the roster.  Also, Ian Stewart will start tomorrow in a spring training game, a day ahead of schedule.  If he responds well, the Stewart-to-the-DL path may be closed for Pacheco as well.

Offensively, it was not as impressive for Colorado, as the club managed just four hits against Randy Wells and his relievers.  One came as an infield hit from Carlos Gonzalez in the fourth, immediately to be followed by a line drive single to right field by Jose Lopez.  Todd Helton followed with an opposite field sac fly to the left field warning track for the first run of the day.

Chris Iannetta walked to start the fifth (he also reached on a HBP in the second), and Hernan Irribarren got the Rockies' third hit on an infield single to second.  Chris Iannetta stole third after running on a slug bunt attempt, which Rogers missed.  The throw to third was poor, and Iannetta was safe.  Irribarren, the trail runner, broke late for second, and was safe after another poor throw.

So with two runners in scoring position, Esmil Rogers spanked a Randy Wells pitch to left field for a sacrifice fly.  Alfonso Soriano missed his cutoff man by fifteen feet, and the ball rolled pathetically into the Rockies dugout to score Irribarren, surrounded by guffaws and laughter.  It was not a banner day for defense for the Chicago northsiders.

Alfredo Amezaga walked and Ben Paulsen solid single in the eighth, allowing Wilin Rosario to drive in the Rockies' final run with, of all things, a comebacker to the mound.  

In other roster spotlight news, Edgmer Escalona was hit hard in the ninth by Cubs minor leaguers, allowing two doubles, a single and a sacrifice fly as the balls just kept flying past his ear.  This is significant, as the Rockies have a full 40man roster, and Escalona entered the day as a favorite among those to get a DFA when Jason Giambi is added to the 40man roster at the end of Spring Training. 

The Post has a video of Esmil Rogers talking about his outing today through a notable interpreter.