Hirsh a surprising cut from Rox squad
Right-hander among 13 players to go as club pares down roster
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jason Hirsh believed he was starting to move forward in his long quest to regain career momentum.
Little did he know he was about to be moved out of the Rockies' Major League camp on Monday. Hirsh, 27, was the most notable of the 13 players who were either optioned to the Minors or reassigned to Minor League camp.
Hirsh was competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, but was 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA in four games. In his last appearance, he pitched two innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits with two strikeouts on Thursday against the Angels.
"My last outing in Tempe, I thought I had turned the corner," Hirsh said. "Before that, I was erratic. I didn't have my base to work with, didn't have a lot going for me. But that last game in Tempe and my bullpen after that, I got back to my base and definitely felt like I got command of my body, my pitches and everything else. So what I need to do is go down there and carry that over."
Hirsh was a member of the Rockies' rotation for much of 2007 (5-7, 4.81 ERA), until suffering a fractured fibula in August. Last Spring Training, he suffered a shoulder injury in a bullpen after his first appearance. The problem lingered throughout the season, and he went 0-0 with an 8.31 ERA in four Major League games and 4-4 with a 5.80 ERA in 18 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Still competing for a rotation spot are left-handers Greg Smith and Franklin Morales, and right-handers Greg Reynolds and Josh Fogg. It's unclear if righty Matt Belisle, whose innings are being increased, is being looked at for that spot, but he can pitch out of the rotation or the bullpen. Fogg also could be looked at for the bullpen.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the innings were going to become less available in Major League camp, so going to Minor League camp is the best way for him to continue his improvement.
"I've applauded his effort all offseason and through Spring Training," Hurdle said. "Honest self-evaluation is going to be very critical for him. He's almost completely healthy. I think there's more velocity there that he'll get as he continues to pitch, and sharpness to his pitches."
Hirsh said when the coaching staff put up a pitching plan for the game against the Angels that had Morales starting and Hirsh throwing two relief innings, he saw the writing on the wall. But, at the same time, he was surprised the decision was made this quickly.
Hirsh said he would meet with assistant general manager Bill Geivett, as all players cut on Monday will, to hear the organization's plan for him, but from what he knows he'll receive a normal starter's workload.
"I'm supposed to throw four or five innings in my next outing, so I guess they're going to build me up in a hurry," Hirsh said.
Other players optioned to the Minors were right-handed pitchers Samuel Deduno, Shane Lindsay, Ryan Mattheus and Steven Register, and infielders Hector Gomez, Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. Young was used frequently in Major League Spring Training games so the staff could work with him closely. Register appeared briefly for the Rockies last season. Nelson was the club's top choice, ninth overall, in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Non-roster invitees sent to Minor League camp were left-handed pitcher Cedrick Bowers, right-handed pitchers matt Daley and Brandon Hynick, catcher Michael McKenry and outfielder Matt Miller.
The Rockies have 43 players, including 12 non-roster invitees, in Major League camp.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.