06/12/11 3:35 PM EST
Rox catcher Morales clicking with Ubaldo
By Nick Kosmider and Thomas Harding / MLB.com
It makes for an easy day, believe it or not. That's the way Rockies catcher Jose Morales feels about it.
Morales started at catcher Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers for the third straight Ubaldo Jimenez start. In the last two, Jimenez pitched 16 innings with two earned runs, 15 strikeouts and no walks. Jimenez beat the Dodgers in a shutout June 1 and lost to the Padres, 2-0, on Tuesday.
"He's an absolutely easy guy to catch when he's on," Morales said. "Even though his fastball is so nasty, and has so much movement, and his other pitches move so much, when he's on, he's hitting every spot. So it's like you put a target there and the ball is going to hit it."
Morales, acquired from the Twins during the offseason, is moving into personal catcher territory for Jimenez, although manager Jim Tracy insists it's not necessarily that way.
Sunday was a day game after a night game, which would be a natural opportunity to rest Chris Iannetta. Also, Iannetta, who caught Jimenez for much of his Minor League career, was behind the plate for three of Jimenez's best games of the season -- two no-decisions against the Giants and a complete-game 3-1 loss to the Brewers on May 22.
But Jimenez went into Sunday with a 3.65 ERA and .165 batting average against with Morales catching, as opposed to 5.36 and .262 numbers while throwing to Iannetta. Whether that has more to do with Jimenez finding his form lately after a thumb injury slowed him early or with the choice of catcher is anyone's guess. But Tracy said he wants to see how Jimenez continues to pitch to Morales.
"When you start to see something that you sense is a real connection, and we've been working hard to get this man [Jimenez] untracked ... we'll see where it goes," Tracy said. "That's not to say that Chris Iannetta doesn't catch Ubaldo Jimenez. I'm not even close to suggesting that."
Morales is happy for the playing time and feels on a good wavelength with Jimenez when it comes to pitch strategy.
"I think he feels comfortable with me back there," Morales said. "I feel comfortable with him. I know his strengths more now than I did before and that makes it easier back there."
Chacin a steadying force in Rockies' rotation
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin learned from a young age that staying poised on the mound would be key to making it to the Major Leagues.
"When I was pitching in the Dominican [Summer League], they always told us, 'The faster you mature, the more successful you'll be,'" said Chacin, who was signed out of Venezuela when he was 16 as a non-drafted free agent. "They told me to put all my concentration on what I needed to do and be a man, even though I was just a young guy."
That kind of maturity has been evident in Chacin's second full season with the Rockies, as he has avoided any talk of a sophomore slump by becoming the team's most reliable starter.
With left-hander Jorge De La Rosa out for the year after Tommy John surgery, and ace Ubaldo Jimenez unable to find his form through the first six weeks of the season, Chacin has been a steadying force, posting a 7-4 record with a 2.90 ERA through 13 starts. His .199 batting average against was second in the National League entering Sunday's action. He threw eight dominant shutout innings against the Dodgers on Friday.
Chacin, 23, knows the expectations have risen following his fast start, but the key to his success, he said, is not shouldering too much responsibility.
"Every time you pitch, you try to do the best you can," he said. "If you think about [carrying the load], you put too much pressure on yourself. You just do what you can do. Sometimes you pitch good, and some of the time I don't, but I don't try to think about. I just try to do my job and help the team to win."
Chacin, who will make his next start on Wednesday against the Padres, has given his team a chance to win more times than not, and he's done enough in manager Jim Tracy's eyes to warrant consideration for an All-Star bid.
"How could you say no with what he's done?" Tracy said. "And he's getting better. You're seeing something very special evolving here. This guy has top-of-the-rotation stuff, he's a competitive son of a gun."
Reynolds sees inherited-runners streak end
DENVER -- When pinch-hitter Casey Blake doubled in three runs off Rockies reliever Matt Reynolds in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' 11-7 win on Saturday, it broke an impressive streak for the Colorado southpaw.
Before Saturday, Reynolds had inherited 17 runners this season without allowing any of them to score. Reynolds said the key to keeping opposing runners stranded is focusing the bulk of his attention on the guy in the box.
"It's attacking hitters and getting ahead of hitters the best I can," Reynolds said. "Your biggest threat is always the guy standing at the plate with the bat. You always want to attack him and get ahead, so he's forced to swing at the pitches you want him to swing at."
Reynolds entered the series against the Dodgers on Thursday owning an 8 1/3-inning scoreless streak, with opponents hitting just .138 against him in that span (4-for-29), but the Dodgers have hit Reynolds well in his two outings against them during the set. Reynolds gave up three runs on four hits on Thursday, a game the Rockies rallied to win, 9-7, and they tagged him for three runs (one earned) on three hits on Saturday.
But the left-hander said the performances, particularly Saturday's, were more a result of a hot Dodgers lineup putting good at-bats together than missing with his control. He cited the bases-clearing double hit by Blake on an 0-1 slider that was down near the dirt as an example.
"I threw a good pitch, and he got to it," Reynolds said. "Sometimes that happens."
Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel left his start against the Dodgers on Saturday in the sixth inning with a stiff lower back. Hammel said the back was "a little stiff" on Sunday morning, and the right-hander received some treatment.
But Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he doesn't expect Hammel to miss his next start.
Right-hander Esmil Rogers will make a second rehab start at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Tracy said on Sunday.
Rogers, on the 15-day disabled list with a right lat muscle strain, will be allowed to throw as many as 105 pitches, Tracy said.
Rogers gave up one run on six hits while striking out eight and walking one over five innings in his rehab start on Thursday.
Tracy laid out his starting rotation for the team's series against the Padres. Aaron Cook will take the ball in the opener on Monday, Juan Nicasio will pitch on Tuesday and Jhoulys Chacin will throw in the series finale on Wednesday.
Nick Kosmider is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.