Morales earns spot in Rockies rotation
Starting five set; Hurdle also announces backup infielders
PHOENIX -- Now that left-hander Franklin Morales has shown the Rockies that he learned from a rough 2008, he'll have a prominent role quickly in '09.
In announcing most of the Colorado roster decisions on Tuesday, manager Clint Hurdle said that Morales, who won a competition for a spot, will start the third game of the season against the D-backs next Wednesday.
Hurdle also said that star center-field prospect Dexter Fowler, infielder/outfielders Jeff Baker and Ian Stewart, infielder Omar Quintanilla and catcher Yorvit Torrealba have won backup jobs.
Catcher Sal Fasano, infielder Jonathan Herrera, outfielder-first baseman Daniel Ortmeier and outfielder Scott Podsednik, all on Minor League contracts, did not make the season-opening roster. Neither did infielder Christian Colonel, who will be optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Fasano and Podsednik can seek big league jobs elsewhere, as can right-handed pitcher Josh Fogg, who was informed Monday that he did not make the team.
Hurdle has yet to announce is his bullpen, but it falls into place with right-handers Manuel Corpas, Huston Street, Jason Grilli, Ryan Speier and Juan Morillo, and left-handers Alan Embree and Glendon Rusch. Hurdle also plans to announce soon whether Corpas or Street is the closer.
Morillo is out of options, but has had a strong camp, and it is unlikely the Rockies would try to sneak a pitcher with a 100-mph fastball through waivers to send him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. That would leave as the odd man out non-roster right-hander Matt Belisle, who had a strong camp, but doesn't have a spot because the Rockies opted to go with five starters. Belisle also can seek a big league opportunity elsewhere, or can be in position to join the team once it sends down Morales.
Hurdle said many combinations for the roster were discussed. Not keeping Podsednik or Ortmeier and going with Fowler lowered the experience quotient, but Hurdle said in a recent meeting that the Rockies decided to go with "our best 25."
Hurdle said he hasn't set the rotation beyond De La Rosa's April 11 start. Colorado is off on April 14 and 16, which means there are options to keep pitchers on a normal rotation. One of them is to send Morales down to Triple-A Colorado Springs after his first start and keep him on a regular rotation until the schedule normalizes.
"Franklin has made such progress in Spring Training from Day 1 until now," Hurdle said. "There's a lot of thought about having him pitch, then getting him out, and stay in a routine with the starting rotation. That's one of the things we've talked about.
"We think enough of all of them, that we've got five that have shown up and made strides and have worked hard. Everybody's last time out has shown improvement."
De La Rosa's performance in the Rockies' 4-1 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday was a prime example. De La Rosa, who struck out eight in five scoreless innings against the White Sox last June 14 at U.S. Cellular Field, fanned nine, gave up seven hits and a walk and yielded one unearned run Wednesday.
De La Rosa struggled early in camp, which is why he finished Cactus League play with a 6.86 ERA. That didn't even include a poor outing against Mexico's World Baseball Classic team.
Previously, he had one sparkling outing -- three scoreless innings against the Dodgers on March 15, also at Glendale. Otherwise, his performances were of the ilk that, as Hurdle often says, if you look for positive, you'll find positive, but if you look for negative you'll find that, too.
De La Rosa's name has come up in much hand-wringing about the rotation. Whether that's justified will be seen, but De La Rosa knows how he feels about poor spring numbers.
"I don't care," he said. "I just try to make good pitches."
De La Rosa commanded his fastball and had an effective changeup and slider and flashed his curveball.
A key moment in Wednesday's game occurred in the sixth, after De La Rosa gave up a single to Carlos Quentin and walked Jim Thome with one out. Speier, looking for an important late-game role, entered.
The runners moved on a passed ball charged to Torrealba, and Jermaine Dye singled to drive in Quentin. But Speier worked Paul Konerko into a double-play grounder -- one of four double plays the Rockies turned. Speier and Grilli are competing for opportunities with runners on base.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.