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04/20/11 3:31 PM ET

Harding chats all things Rockies with fans

MLB.com beat reporter discusses pitching, Tulowitzki and more

Beat reporter Thomas Harding chatted with fans Wednesday about the Rockies and their hot start. Topics for discussion included the Rockies' starting pitching, catching, Troy Tulowitzki and more.

Thomas Harding: Good morning, everyone. It's a cool day here at Coors Field and I'm getting ready for Rockies-Giants. Thanks for the questions. Let's get to them.

calihatz: Who is the best team in the National League West and why do you think so?

Harding: I'm going with the Giants, for now, because of their pitching in a division full of pitchers' parks. The Rockies have started well, but I am not going to call them the best until they win a title for the first time.

punksroo: What's up with Ubaldo Jimenez? Are those blister issues going to be a problem all season?

Harding: I think Ubaldo is going to be OK. The last four innings Tuesday night assured me. Blisters can stay with a pitcher his entire career, but I've seen nothing to indicate this is anything other than an early-season issue, like Jorge De La Rosa's blisters.

k_angel_k: Who will win the NL West? How much of a difference will there be between the first-place and second-place team?

Harding: Since I've already said the Giants are the best, I'll go with them, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Rockies took it. The start, and the team's penchant for getting hot late, bodes well for them. The final difference -- no more than 2 1/2 games, and the second-place team will get the NL Wild Card. I don't much like to make predictions, since mine are often wrong, but there you go.

punksroo: Hey Thomas, who's going to win today? Matt Cain is great, but De La Rosa's been tough.

Harding: Cain has been good but not great at Coors -- 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA. But De La Rosa is capable. He teetered a bit in his last start against the Mets, but the blisters should be behind him and he'll be OK. The Rockies need a counterpunch after dropping the first two, and the late bullpen is fresh. I'll go with the Rox.

macboo: The Rockies' record so far -- seven games with the Pirates and the Mets seems like just a cut above a pitching machine.

Harding: I'm cracking up here. ... But any good performance on the road for the Rockies can't be sneezed at, regardless of the opponent. The Rox hadn't had a winning road record against the Mets in years, and hadn't won a series at Pittsburgh since 2007. The Pirates are going to end up a lot better than they have been.

punksroo: Tulowitzki -- a great shortstop or the GREATEST shortstop?

Harding: I try to avoid that word until a guy is well into his career, but Tulowitzki has the drive and athletic ability to be great. I like his determination to play the position. All his life there has been talk that he's too big, and that'll come up as his career progresses. But that just drives him to be great.

Weherz: Do you see Ubaldo being able to bounce back this year?

Harding: Certainly. It's a long, long season. I look at Tuesday night as an extension of Spring Training/rehab. When he gets to the point where he is dominant in the first inning -- watch out.

pib_33: What do you say to all the doubters who think the only reason they have the record they do is because of the teams they have played so far? Since they just dropped two against the Giants, who's to say the doubters aren't right?

Harding: The Rockies and Giants will spend the whole season fighting for the upper hand. That's been the pattern the past several years. Yes, the Giants won the World Series last year, but the season series between the two was 9-9. Two games in April are not enough to tell me the Giants are far superior.

mlbhubbs: Other than the Rockies, who is the best team you've seen this season?

Harding: The Giants.

fionamae: Less than 20 games in, why is losing two in a row a death sentence for the rest of the season?

Harding: Amazing, isn't it? Free speech is a wonderful thing. The Internet puts food on my table. But I think everyone experiencing the game as it happens can share thoughts with the world, and pretty soon doom and gloom reigns on the World Wide Web. But if the Rockies hit the Giants hard early next month, the tone will be the opposite.

kdv381 Should we be worried about Carlos Gonzalez not hitting like he did at the beginning of last year?

Harding: Interesting question. I don't think so, for these reasons: He's had some difficult matchups. Playing four at Citi Field doesn't work to his advantage. And he's never hit Jonathan Sanchez. But the thing to watch is strike-zone discipline. If he can avoid chasing -- the way pitchers want him to -- he'll eventually turn hot.

octavian11: What are the Rockies going to do about the mess at third base right now? Do we have an option in the Minors that might be a better solution?

Harding: They're going to have to get Ian Stewart right. In retrospect, it was a mistake to activate him to start the year. But I can't slam them for it. When they made the decision, I wasn't saying, "Wait a minute." I'd say let's give that a chance to work. But at some point, I would like to see if Chris Nelson can be an everyday player at this level.

maggoe: Has Tim Lincecum's unorthodox delivery thrown Tulo off track?

Harding: He throws off a lot of hitters. He's got the Cy Young Awards to prove it.

kcgolfer09: Can the Rockies avoid spotting the Giants four runs again before the Giants throw a pitch? If we can, we have a chance.

Harding: That's not a recipe for victory.

kdv381: How about Chris Iannetta's batting lately? Should we be worried and looking for a better-hitting catcher?

Harding: He's drawing walks, and when he puts it in play, he can do damage, so he can contribute offensively. Frankly, though, the way he is calling games for his pitchers, I can live with the low average. He's made really good in-game adjustments for Esmil Rogers, Jhoulys Chacin and, Tuesday night, Ubaldo. I'll take that any day.

punksroo: Is Chacin this year's Ubaldo?

Harding: That's an interesting thought. I believe Chacin, by next season, will be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. Before comparing him to Ubaldo, though, I'd like to see him throw his fastball with more consistency. The secondary pitches, however, are outstanding.

belly22: Should the Stewart fans give up on him or do you think his bad start is directly related to the Spring Training injuries?

Harding: A guy who hasn't hit for high average but has hit for power really needs his timing. Missing about 50 percent of Spring Training, then getting sick, can't help in that regard.

creffk: With Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton struggling at the plate, how confident can we be that we'll have an everyday starter at second base with Jonathan Herrera?

Harding: It's a tricky proposition. Herrera has done nothing but prove that he can give you a high-quality at-bat. You just hope he doesn't slump at some point. I'm interested to see if teams adjust how they pitch to him. At some point, you expect either Lopez or Wigginton, or both, to heat up at least a little, don't you?

punksroo: Is Aaron Cook ever going to come back?

Harding: One would hope so. When I last saw him, he was improving. Broken bones, especially in the pitching hand, just take time to heal. They need to take their time and make sure he's right. Don't forget, he's also coming off a broken bone in his leg. It'll take time, but I believe he will contribute.

maggoe: When are people going to realize that the most important thing a catcher does is run the pitcher? Any hitting we get is a bonus. If we had realized that early in our existence, we would have kept Joe Girardi -- a pretty good catcher for the Yankees!

Harding: Great point. I remember doing some reporting on Iannetta during Spring Training, and the pitchers raved about him. They see him as a walking scouting report. He also has a good sense of a pitcher's mechanics.

Harding: Thanks for all the questions. I can answer one or two more.

Weherz: Clay Mortensen looked great in Game 1. Is he strictly long relief?

Harding: Mortensen is a starter. You don't go through the season with just five guys. If there is an emergency, he is a clear option.

kdv381: What is the long-term outlook for first base? Though I would like to see old No. 17 there for many more, what is in the pipe for taking over that corner from Todd Helton?

Harding: Ben Paulsen is on his way, but he's only at Double-A. I like the fact he has a good offensive approach, and he's just learning to hit for power. If it were the other way around, he'd be easy to pitch to. Whenever the day comes, it'll be odd not seeing No. 17 at first base. I like the way he's hitting this year, though.

Harding: Thank you very much for sending me your Rockies questions. Maybe we can do this again at some other point. Please remember to read www.coloradorockies.com. At the bottom of my stories is information on contacting me or following me on Twitter. Thanks again.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.