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Rockies prepare to face division rival Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West

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Rockies news and links for April 28, 2017.

Okay, the series against the Nationals wasn’t pretty. But it’s ultimately three games, and the Rockies are still well positioned to wrap-up April with a better record than could have been expected given all of the players missing time due to injury. The club will travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks this weekend. They’ll need to at least be competitive to continue justifying the optimism that’s still sticking around.

Rockies' bullpen gets workout against Nats |

Even after a rough three game stretch in which the the team gave up a whopping 42 runs, Bud Black isn't fatalistic about the team. "We do a pretty good job of turning the page, good or bad," Black told's Daniel Kramer. The bullpen has been worked, but Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland haven’t pitched since Monday. They’ll be ready to go if needed.

Rockies' hot start no fluke. Carlos Gonzalez declares: "We are more talent than noise." | Denver Post

Here's a healthy dose of optimism from Mark Kiszla. It's not just that the Rockies are winning, but it's how they're winning. The Rox have been, for the most part, strong in every facet of the game. Carlos González provides the player's voice here. He told Kiszla: "It used to be when we were leading by one-run lat win the game and I went out to right field, I thought: 'Oh man, I better put my batting helmet where I can find it.'"

The stronger pitching has quieted those thoughts. But it's not all good yet. There's a long season ahead, and the Rockies will, sooner or later, have to deal with stretches of losses. Another fact of baseball that they'll have to confront is the grind of a long season. That will be particularly significant for the young players who haven't done it before. Rockies coach Vinny Castilla told Kiszla: "You've got to be strong in this game . . . physically and mentally."

Nationals' manager Dusty Baker praises revamped Rockies team | Mile High Sports

Before the series opened on Monday evening, Alissa Noe spoke with Nationals' manager Dusty Baker about coming to Denver for the one and only time of the season. Baker acknowledged that the Rockies are a different team this year, particularly in the bullpen. Yes, this was Monday, before all that other stuff happened.

The Most-Changed Teams Since Opening Day | FanGraphs

Jeff Sullivan compares projections as of yesterday morning to projections at the beginning of the season. First, he looked for changes in expected wins for the season. There's some news here for three of the five National League West teams. The Diamondbacks and Rockies have altered their expected wins the most in the positive direction. Arizona's outlook is almost six wins better, while it's about five for the Rockies. The Giants are at the other end. According to FanGraphs' projection model, they've fallen from an expected 88.5 wins to 80.1. As of yesterday, they're expected to finish behind both the Diamondbacks and Rockies.

The change in wins is partially based on the wins that the team has banked so far. Sullivan also looks at changes in rest-of-season win percentage, which is designed to reflect more accurately a change in true talent. This view also shows that the Rockies have improved, but they're behind the Brewers and Diamondbacks in the NL here. The Giants' outlook has worsened the most from this perspective, too. That's something you probably care about.

Why can’t the Rockies hit outside the Rockies? | FiveThirtyEight

Neil Paine has a look at one of the real disadvantages the Rockies have faced over the years: hitting. Specifically, the handicap batters face on the road due to the dramatic changes of environment. Even more specifically and branded: the Coors hangover effect. Paine considers a few ideas as to why a hangover might exist—recalibrating to flatter pitches, pitchers deliberately adjusting to the park, and offensive roster construction a bit too tailored to Coors Field. He doesn’t favor one over any of the others, and he identifies reasons why those might not hold water. But “whatever the cause, the Coors Field hangover doesn’t show many signs of letting up.”

Kyle Freeland talks “tweaking” mechanics for “health” | BSN Rockies

Drew Creasman spoke with Kyle Freeland about re-tooling his mechanics in order to remain healthy. He only pitched 46 innings during his first full season of pro baseball, and it was due to injury. Freeland said that he and the Rockies worked to make his delivery "more directional down on the mound instead of rotational." This is a good reminder that, however polished a college arm might seem upon being drafted, there could be good reason to be patient and modify mechanics as needed.

Who's in line to become the next Eric Thames? | Sports on Earth

Eric Thames, if you haven't heard, has returned to the major-leagues from South Korea and is currently smashing baseballs thrown his way. The natural question to ask is, who else can come over from the KBO and do the same? One possibility Will Leitch floats here is a familiar name: Wilin Rosario. Rosario's been hitting well since signing with the Hanwha Eagles. One of the reasons Thames has been successful is that he improved his plate discipline while in Korea, and that has translated back to the majors. Rosario had the same problem, but he hasn't improved in the KBO.