Good news! We will have real baseball this week. Months of speculation — exacerbated by a global pandemic — are about to end, and fans’ questions will finally be answered!
Before the Rockies left for Texas Monday, Bud Black visited with media and provided (kind of) a sense of what the Rockies are thinking and what fans can (maybe) expect this week. (To be fair, he also left many questions unanswered.)
Who will pitch Opening Day?
We have an answer.
Today, Black announced his plans for the top of the starting rotation. Germán Márquez will pitch Opening Day followed by Jon Gray on Saturday and Kyle Freeland on Sunday.
Márquez was excited about getting the nod. “I’ve worked for that,” he said.
“It going to be fun,” he said. “It means a lot to me. It’s one of my goals. It’s pretty amazing.”
So now we know what to expect for the first three games of the season, but Black did not reveal the rest of the rotation, saying that the Rockies needed to “get through this weekend” before making additional decisions.
In terms of the two exhibition games, Ashton Goudeau will start on Tuesday, and Antonio Senzatela will pitch on Wednesday. This would put him in line to start the fourth game of the season. The fifth starting spot has yet to be revealed.
What about the bullpen?
After the Rockies released Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee on Friday, it became clear that bullpen change is in the air.
Black is upbeat. He acknowledged that, at least initially, consistency in relief pitching will be key, and he thinks the Rockies are equal to the task.
“I do feel good about the pen,” Black said. “I think all managers and coaches are always a little nervous about it’s going to play out, but I like where we are health-wise. I like how the guys’ stuff are, with the exception of Scott Oberg,” who has been sidelined due to back issues.
“His arm feels great,” Black said. “The back is just a little worrisome.”
Oberg’s status will be assessed in the coming days.
Will Sam Hilliard become a starting outfielder?
The Rockies also like their outfield options, even as they adjust after Ian Desmond’s decision to sit out the 2020 season and Charlie Blackmon’s COVID-19 diagnosis, which delayed his Summer Camp work. Black pointed out Sam Hilliard’s defensive progress, noting he’s “really improved as a defender.”
This was an area Hilliard concentrated on while working his way through the minor leagues.
Black also likes Hilliard’s offensive ability.
“The guy can run,” Black said, “and he covers a lot of ground. In our ballpark, that’s helpful.”
In addition, Black spoke highly of the Rockies’ possibilities in the outfield, including Raimel Tapia, Garrett Hampson and Chris Owings.
“It’s good that we’re going to have a lot of options out there,” he said.
Will Charlie Blackmon be ready to play on Friday?
Charlie Blackmon arrived at Summer Camp last week with many assuming he would lag behind the rest of the team in terms of being prepared to start this week. Bud Black disagrees.
“Don’t discount Charlie playing right field opening night,” he said.
Blackmon played six innings in Sunday’s intrasquad game, and he will play Tuesday. While Black acknowledged that the Rockies could choose to play Blackmon in the DH role, he didn’t rule out Blackmon spending time in the outfield.
“We’re confident about where he is,” Black said. “I’m staying positive on Charlie.”
Will Daniel Murphy have a better season?
Black is very enthusiastic about Daniel Murphy, reiterating that Murphy’s finger injury during the 2019 Miami series hampered his season. Now, however, for Black, Murphy is back.
“He’s swinging the bat well and doing well at first base,” Black said. “So I suspect with Murph, both with the bat and in the field, you’re going to see a different player, so we’re excited about that.”
Who will be catching?
Black is pleased with where the Rockies are in terms of catcher though he declined to identify the primary catcher.
“There will probably be a sharing of the duties,” he said. “We’re still working through those decisions.”
It’s worth noting that he spoke highly of 38-year-old Drew Butera. “Drew has really played well,” Black said. “Really happy where he is.”
The conventional wisdom is that Tony Wolters will be the primary catcher with Butera in the back-up role and Elias Díaz on the taxi squad, but Black is keeping that to himself.
What about the new rules?
Black likes both the new three-hitter minimum and the introduction of the DH in the NL (at least for this season).
“I’m looking forward to the new strategy of the three-hitter minimum. I’m looking forward to the DH and how we use our bullpen. I think that was a good idea this year. There’ll be some new twists for National League teams,” Black said.
He noted earlier that the Rockies had been practicing with the extra-innings-runner-on-second-base rule.
Will there be more roster changes?
“There’s always tough decisions at the end,” Black said. “There are a few other decisions we have to make with our pitching staff.”
So while Rockies fans know a little more than they did, much remains to be revealed.
What moves do you see the Rockies making in the coming days? Let us know in the comments.