03/28/07 9:13 PM ET
Notes: Cook ready for Opening Day
Right-hander ends Cactus League effort with 2.13 ERA
By Tony DeMarco / Special to MLB.com
The only blemish on Aaron Cook's final spring outing was Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer in the second inning that followed an error by third baseman Garrett Atkins. But even then, it was hard to fault the Rockies' sinker-balling ace.
Soriano, a notorious bad-ball hitter, slammed a pitch barely above his shoe tops over the left-center-field wall at HoHoKam Park in a game against the Cubs that eventually ended in a 4-4 tie in 10 innings before 12,712 fans.
"That pitch to Soriano, if you throw it 100 times, he would maybe hit one homer," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was six inches off the ground -- maybe. He's a special hitter. [Cook] was very effective. His ball had good movement."
Cook lost a chance to surpass Arizona's Edgar Gonzalez for the Major League lead with five spring victories when Tom Martin served up back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to give up the lead. Still, Cook's four wins tie him for the club record with Shawn Chacon (2003) and Shawn Estes (2004).
Even more impressive is Cook's final spring ERA of 2.13 in 25 1/3 innings -- coming in a Cactus League where the lowest team batting average was .290, and team ERAs were in the fives and sixes.
"It's good for him. I hope it builds his confidence," Hurdle said. "But when you push the reset button on Monday, everybody's ERA goes back to zero."
The struggles continue: Martin's poor spring numbers only worsened on Wednesday, when he allowed back-to-back home runs to Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs in two-thirds of an inning, raising his ERA to 15.19.
There are no concerns health-wise, but Martin continues to struggle with mechanical changes. He has dropped down from his normal, three-quarter delivery this spring, but now expects to make another change.
"I don't know where to go as far as mechanics," Martin said. "I dropped down due to some tension in the back of my shoulder, but that's gone now. I'm struggling with finding my release point. Maybe I'll go back to three-quarters -- what I had been doing all my life.
"I'll sit down with [pitching coach Bob Apodaca] and look at some tapes, and try to come up with a game plan. I absolutely have to do something different from what I'm doing now. It's terrible."
But with a guaranteed contract, Martin's place on the Opening Day roster appears to be secure.
"He's not getting the results he'd like, or that we'd like him to get," Hurdle said. "But at the same time, you don't want an overreaction. We made a commitment to him in the offseason, and nothing has changed as far as I know."
Fowler excites: Dexter Fowler has made a very favorable impression in limited exposure this spring, but he saved two of his better moments for Wednesday.
Fowler, the club's top center-field prospect who possesses a combination of speed and power in a lithe 6-5 body, stole a base in the eighth inning, then belted a long triple in the 10th.
"He's fun to watch," Hurdle said of Fowler, the club's 14th-round pick in 2005. "[The triple] was one of those feel-good kind of moments for everybody -- from the scout who signed him to the development people who have worked with him."
Salazar, 26, had been optioned by the Rockies to Triple-A Colorado Springs on March 12, as any chance he had to make the Major League team evaporated when veteran Steve Finley was signed.
Salazar, an eighth-round draft choice out of Oklahoma State in 2002, surfaced briefly with the Rockies last September, when he hit .283 with one home run, eight RBIs and two stolen bases in 19 games.
The move leaves 38 players on the 40-man roster. The two open spots figure to go to Finley and John Mabry, both in camp as non-roster players.
Sprained ankles update: Neither of the Rockies' two sprained ankle victims -- catcher Yorvit Torrealba and right fielder Brad Hawpe -- made the club's fourth trip in seven days to the Phoenix area on Wednesday. Both are day-to-day, and signs point to both being ready for Opening Day.
Torrealba suffered a first-degree sprain of his right ankle in Monday's game at Phoenix, but was able to play long toss on Tuesday. Hawpe sprained his left ankle during morning drills on Tuesday and didn't play in a loss to the Diamondbacks that afternoon.
Weekend plans: The Rockies will leave Arizona immediately after Thursday's game and fly to Denver, but won't be home for long, as they will face their Triple-A team in Colorado Springs at 2:05 p.m. MT on Friday. Rodrigo Lopez and the entire bullpen -- Brian Fuentes, Martin, LaTroy Hawkins, Manny Corpas, Jeremy Affeldt, Byung-Hyun Kim and Ramon Ramirez -- are scheduled to appear against the Sky Sox.
After a full off-day on Saturday, the Rockies will hold a workout at 2 p.m. Sunday at Coors Field -- their final preparation for Monday's season opener against the Diamondbacks.
Josh Fogg and Jason Hirsh, the last two starters in the season-opening rotation, will stay behind in Tucson and pitch against each other in a camp game on Sunday. And if weather forecasts continue to look dismal for the weekend in Colorado, Lopez also could be left behind in Tucson to assure getting his work in.
First-week pitching matchups: Monday: RHP Cook vs. RHP Brandon Webb; Tuesday: LHP Jeff Francis vs. RHP Livan Hernandez; Wednesday: RHP Lopez vs. LHP Doug Davis; Thursday: Off-day. Friday: RHP Hirsh vs. Padres RHP Greg Maddux; Saturday: RHP Fogg vs. LHP David Wells; Sunday: RHP Cook vs. RHP Jake Peavy.
On tap: The Rockies will close out their Cactus League season on Thursday by making the short trip across town to face the Chicago White Sox at Tucson Electric Park in a 1:05 MT start. Francis is scheduled to face Jon Garland, and Kim and Taylor Buchholz are scheduled to make relief appearances for the Rockies.
Tony DeMarco is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.