Notes: Lopez injured, but not forgotten
Righty out with hurt elbow, but serves as analyst for Televisa
BOSTON -- Amid the strange and wonderful factors that went into the Rockies making their first World Series appearance on Wednesday night, consider this: One of the pitchers that should have been a key contributor was wearing a tie, preparing to speak into a microphone.
The Rockies acquired right-hander Rodrigo Lopez from the Orioles in December, thinking that his veteran leadership would push a young staff forward. Lopez, however, battled elbow problems the whole year before they finished him for the year in late July. He finished 4-4 with a 4.42 ERA.
The 21-of-22 stretch that put the Rockies in the World Series came not only without Lopez, who pitched his last game on July 26. Rookie Jason Hirsh suffered a season-ending right fibula fracture on Aug. 7, and veteran Aaron Cook suffered a left oblique strain on Aug. 10. Cook will return to start Game 4 of the Series.
Lopez was the Rockies' most consistent pitcher during their rough beginning, posting a 1.59 ERA before the elbow problems began in April. As the World Series begins in October, he is serving as an analyst for the Mexican television network Televisa.
"Definitely, I'm happy for these guys," Lopez said. "The Rockies are a great team, and it's so exciting to have been a part of it. I'd rather be with the team, out there pitching, but I'm still excited to be here."
Lopez will be a free agent after the season, but there will not be much of a market. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said Lopez is likely to miss the entire 2008 season because he suffered tears of the flexor tendon and an elbow ligament.
"We'll just see how his rehab goes," O'Dowd said. "We're going to be helping him oversee his rehab. We're going to stand by him. We'd love to have him back."
The Rockies set Lopez up to rehab near his offseason home in the Phoenix area and he will check in periodically with the team's training staff. Lopez said he would like to return when he's healthy.
The Rockies connection helped Lopez receive the gig with Televisa. Former Rockies player Vinny Castilla usually serves as a World Series analyst. But in his role as special assistant to O'Dowd, Castilla has worked with the club all year and was on the field in uniform Wednesday.
When the Rockies arrived for a workout at Fenway Park on Tuesday, Lopez's No. 31 was hanging in his locker. He has been with the club at various points during the postseason, also. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said Lopez hasn't been forgotten.
"He's somebody that won 15 games in two different seasons in the American League East, facing the hairy-chested guys in Boston and New York and Toronto, and pitching successfully," Apodaca said. "He gave us instant credibility. I love that little guy that says he can. Unfortunately, things happen.
"He is so well thought of. He's loved by everybody in the clubhouse. He left his guts out on the mound every time he took it."
Lights, camera, series: The first sign of World Series nerves came from veteran first baseman Todd Helton.
Fox television taped Helton reading the starting lineup for its Game 1 broadcast. Helton, already wearing a gametime expression 2 1/2 hours before first pitch, needed about five takes to get through it. Unlike other players, he didn't ad lib and didn't throw in any jokes or nicknames. Heck, he didn't even mention players' positions.
Helton then dashed 20 feet away to begin warmup tosses, but then felt he had to do the lineups once more. He didn't add any more flair to the next take, but he made it through.
No need for nerves: O'Dowd was in the Cleveland Indians' front office when that club went to the World Series in 1995 and 1997. As farm director and assistant general manager, he helped build both clubs. That gives him some experience that he can impart to whoever needs it.
The best advice he could give to manager Clint Hurdle was to treat it as nothing special.
"Clint and I talked about this, and I said to eliminate the distractions as much as you can, and focus on slowing things down to the best of your ability as best you can," O'Dowd said. "Just do what you've been doing now. It's just another game.
"If we keep it that way, it'll be an extremely competitive series, and hopefully we'll come out on top."
As for Hurdle, the nervousness hadn't arrived by the time he addressed the media before the game.
"Butterflies? I haven't had any," he said. "Maybe they'll jump on me when I get out there. Maybe I'll get a big one out there when I hear the opening lineups."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.