Notes: Rotation still to be decided
Rockies' ace, fifth starter to be determined this spring
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Rockies have four of their five starting pitchers from last season in camp this spring, and two of them, Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim, saw action in Wednesday's game against the Brewers, though neither did much to solidify his grasp on reclaiming his job.Last year's rotation set Rockies records for ERA (4.72), innings pitched (a league-best 985) and least number of home runs allowed (103). Though ace Jason Jennings, was traded to Houston in the offseason, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Kim and Fogg remain in the fold. "I think our starting staff was one of our strengths last year," Fogg said after his rocky start against the Brewers on Wednesday. "Obviously, we lost J.J., and that was kind of a big thing for us. He was the guy that everyone leaned on last year. Whenever we had a couple bad starts in a row, he was the guy that went out there and threw his seven or eight innings and give up one or two runs. "I think Cookie's going to be that guy this year," Fogg continued. "I would hope that he steps up and does that. Losing J.J. was tough, but the back end of the rotation definitely got stronger. Brian Lawrence is a proven guy that's been doing it for years. Jason Hirsh probably has more talent than just about anybody on this staff, stuff-wise. To see him throw is pretty impressive. There's definitely options. What happens with those options is kind of a team decision. We'll see how that goes." In addition to the four alumni from last year's staff and the additions Fogg mentioned, add former Orioles ace Rodrigo Lopez, sophomore acquisition Taylor Buchholz and a pair of wild cards in Mexican League standout Oscar Rivera and homegrown Rockies prospect Ubaldo Jimenez to the mix of options. "We're going to leave camp with the best staff we have," manager Clint Hurdle assured, downplaying the degree to which incumbents like Fogg and Kim hold an advantage. "We need guys throwing strikes. Quality strikes." Coming in the wake of Fogg's and Kim's combined outing of 5 1/3 innings allowing seven earned runs, the implication was anything but an endorsement. "We're just going to let guys pitch, and we'll figure things out," Hurdle stressed. "It is nice to see quick and efficient innings." Fogg was the first to admit his start was anything but efficient.
"Not even close," he said, pointing out that although his fastball and cutter were effective, the same could not be said of his other two pitches. "The changeup and curveball were up in the zone, and the results proved that."I wasn't finishing the pitches well," Fogg added. "That's the story of my career. When I get beat, I get beat up. That's what happened today. I'll work on it. It's a long Spring Training. It's good to get those out of the way early than late." Fogg's share of the burden was three runs on six hits in three innings, and Kim fared no better, yielding four runs on four hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings. For Kim, the streaky results -- from dominating to debilitating -- have had the Rockies alternatively enthused and frustrated. "That's an area that he needs to make some improvement in, that he needs to tighten up," Hurdle said of Kim's unnerving inconsistency. "There's not any pitcher that can have any success without consistent command. And 63 pitches is a lot in two-plus innings, any time." If nothing else, Kim was able to keep his sense of humor, hoping that by his next outing, he could extend himself to 80 pitches in two innings. The key to a successful spring -- or at least the alternative to simply pitching effectively and consistently -- is to remain calm in the face of explosive results, maintaining perspective and keeping focused on the isolated work that often belies the long-term results. In Kim's case, his focus on Wednesday was on his changeup and his two-seam fastball, which he felt were close, but not close enough to convince the umpire. The attention to those two pitches, however, cost him some effectiveness with his slider, which wasn't working for him. "We don't need to overreact on anything right now," said Hurdle. But with two viable candidates for each of five slots in the rotation, the time for action, if not overreaction, is drawing near. The Rockies are determined to build on the success of last year's starters, and the five men breaking camp with a starting assignment still need to earn their way. Names and numbers: The names remain something of a mystery, but the numbers are falling into place as the Rockies prepare to whittle their roster down to 25. Hurdle outlined the available spots on Wednesday: eight position-player starters, five starting pitchers and seven relievers. "You're looking at a five-man bench, right?" Hurdle said. "You got your extra catcher. You've got [middle infielder Jamey] Carroll. You've got [outfielder/corner infielder Jeff] Baker. You need two more." Hurdle emphasized that in addition to the starting three -- expected to be Matt Holiday, Willy Taveras and Brad Hawpe -- he envisioned keeping Baker and one more outfielder. The field of candidates for the final spot includes Steve Finley, Corey Sullivan, Ryan Spilborghs, Jeff Salazar and Alexis Gomez. On deck: The Rockies face the White Sox on Thursday for their fourth Cactus League game against their Tucson neighbors, not including a fifth "B" game already played, and another "B" game scheduled for 10 a.m. MT on the back fields at Hi Corbett Field on Thursday. Buchholz, who pitched three shutout innings of relief against the D-backs on Sunday night, will make his first start, facing Chicago's Gavin Floyd at Hi Corbett Field at 1:05 p.m. MT. Cook is scheduled to start the "B" game.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.