07/14/2003 6:37 PM ET
Rested Chacon key to second half
CHICAGO -- Colorado Rockies pitcher Shawn Chacon vows not to spend the entire All-Star Game doing nothing.
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"I didn't come here to sit in the clubhouse," said Chacon, who will not pitch because he has spent the past couple of weeks recovering from elbow tendinitis. "I came to take as much part as I can in everything. I'll warm up an outfielder (before the start of an inning), find a way
to do something on the field. I won't be just sitting there like a little rag doll."
Starting first baseman Todd Helton and reserve outfielder Preston Wilson will do all of the actual playing on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Beyond player introductions, Chacon might have to do some maneuvering to even get face time on television. If not out of mind, he will be out of sight.
But Chacon will be just as important for the Rockies, who are playing well enough to have postseason aspirations, as opposed to fantasies. After going 4-1 in its final homestand before the break, the Rockies are 50-47, a game out of third place in the National League West and hoping to continue to make up ground. Colorado is 8 1/2 games
behind first-place San Francisco and 4 1/2 off the NL Wild Card pace.
Helton, with hits in 27 of his last 28 games, is second in the NL in batting with a .349 average and second on the team with 21 home runs. Wilson leads the NL with 91 RBIs, leads the Rockies with 23 homers and is tied with Helton for the club lead with 22 doubles.
But the Rockies have always had All-Star hitters.
This time, they have Chacon, who could make the rest of the season count for the first time since Colorado's lone playoff appearance in 1995.
Chacon joins Mike Hampton in 2001 as the only Rockies pitchers ever chosen to an All-Star team. He is 7-1 at Coors Field and just six victories away from the club single-season record shared by Kevin Ritz in 1996 and Pedro Astacio in 1999.
The Rockies are hoping the elbow flare-up, which occurred during a loss at Pittsburgh on June 29, was a minor detour. Chacon was smooth in an injury rehab performance on Sunday at Triple-A Colorado Springs and reports feeling rested for his return to the rotation, on Saturday at San Francisco.
"For the first half, he was our ace," Wilson said. "There wasn't much
doubt when he took the mound, we had a 90 percent chance of
winning. He was that good in the first half."
Helton, in his fourth straight All-Star Game and third straight as a
starter, knows that the Rockies need Chacon to get the entire team --
instead of a few stars -- on the national stage.
"It definitely would be a shot in the arm for us if he were to come
back and pitch the way he did earlier," Helton said. "Hopefully, he
comes back as strong as he was before he got hurt."
This is the time for Chacon, 25, to show that he has taken in the
bitter lesson of last season.He finished the
season in the minors after going 5-11 with the big club. Manager Clint Hurdle said he felt Chacon had taken being in the Majors for granted.
Chacon vows to keep the same intensity that brought him to this
"You know what?" Chacon said. "They talked about the same thing in
April, after I went 4-0, they were talking about, 'Can you keep it up?
You've got so many months left and so many games left.'
"I understand it's a full season. I understand how to take it
game-by-game. I look forward to that next start against San
Francisco. That's all I look forward to."
It has been awhile since the Rockies have had such reason to look
ahead during the break.
The 50 wins is a club record at the break. Even the last time the
Rockies were above .500 at this point -- 45-40 in 2000 -- they were
seven games into an 11-game losing streak. They come out of the
break this year with hope, but also staring at an eight-game road trip
at San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"Anytime you have a little break, you want to have momentum going
into it," Wilson said. "That way, it kind of carries over. Guys feel good
about what's going on while they're sitting at home kind of
recuperating for a few days.
"I think it's good for us. Knowing that the teams that we've played
well against are the teams we have to play right after the break,
means even more."
Helton said, "If we go out and have a good road trip -- I don't know
what our schedule is after those eight games -- but even if we went
.500 or a game or two above .500 on this road trip and come back
home, we would be in a really good situation."
Chacon's start is key. It's the third game, which means if all goes
perfectly in the first two he could win the series; if not, he would at
the least keep Colorado alive for a split.
The pitching situation is much better with Chacon.
Jason Jennings (9-6) and Darren Oliver (7-5) are a combined 11-0 at
home. Denny Stark, recently back from an upper-back muscle injury,
went 8-1 at home last year as a rookie and has shown flashes of that
form in three no-decisions. The starting rotation's questionmark is
Denny Neagle, coming off three straight sub-par performances in
which he dug first-inning holes.
"I think everybody on that pitching staff has the capability of stepping
up and being the leader," Chacon said. "The way that Oliver has been pitching and Stark has come off the DL and is starting to pitch good, Jennings is starting to pitch good again, and Neagle, you know he's going to get on track with his experience and everything.
"We got a pretty darn good pitching staff. If we can get on one of
those runs where we win eight, nine, 10 games in a row, we're going
to be in a good place."
If so, the Rockies' All-Stars -- especially the one that will barely be
seen on Tuesday night -- will be front and center.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.