02/20/12 8:52 PM EST
Healthy CarGo expects big season
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
They'd take the former, but they'd sure like to see the latter this season.
"I feel great," Gonzalez said. "That's what matters. I feel really fast, and I feel great."
Gonzalez was hampered in 2011 by a nagging right wrist injury but still hit .295 with 26 homers and 92 RBIs in 127 games. That would appease the outfielder if not for the gaudy numbers -- .336 average, 117 RBIs and 34 homers -- he posted in a breakout 2010 campaign.
"Of course last year I had a great year, too, hitting over .290 with 90 RBIs and 20 homers, but when you feel healthy, I think I can do a lot of things, and that's what I'm planning to do this year," Gonzalez said. "Stay on the field and play 160 games -- just stay out there every single day, and I know I'm going to have a chance to do a lot of special things on the field."
Gonzalez figures to factor prominently into the Rockies' potent lineup, along with two-time National League All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, veteran Todd Helton and the newly acquired Michael Cuddyer. Gonzalez will likely play left field and form one of the best 3-4 combinations in all of baseball, ahead of Tulowitzki in the lineup.
"In Minnesota, you had [Joe] Mauer and [Justin] Morneau, and in the years we were good, that was who people nationally centered on," said Cuddyer, whom the Rockies acquired this offseason after he spent 11 seasons with the Twins. "Here, you have Tulo and CarGo that the nation centers on."
Cuddyer knows Rockies can overachieve
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- All around the Rockies' clubhouse at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick this week, players have harped on the excitement of having veteran guys with the experience of contributing to winning ballclubs.
Michael Cuddyer is one of those guys, and a potentially favorable omen for the Rockies is that he sees some similarities between his current club and the one he had great success with for the past 11 seasons.
Cuddyer was signed to a three-year deal during the offseason after spending his entire 11-year career in Minnesota. He helped lead the club to six American League Central titles and, as an All-Star, carried much of the offensive load during the team's frustrating 2011 season.
The Rockies, too, are rebounding from a discouraging season.
"I can speak from the past -- the years that we were the best were the years we weren't maybe expected [to be] or the professionals didn't know much about our teams," Cuddyer said. "That's the years we went out and played the best and did the best and maybe surprised people. I can see similarities here, but this team has proven guys on the team, especially on the offensive side of things. Every position has a guy who has been to the playoffs, won, had success, and that is going to be able to feed off to the young guys."
The Rockies were a favorite to win the National League West last season, but injuries and setbacks dropped them to a disappointing fourth in the division. The team has a new look this year, with young talent likely to round out the pitching staff and veteran bats in the lineup around centerpieces Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Those supporting players -- guys like Dexter Fowler, Marco Scutaro and Casey Blake -- could make the difference.
"What makes a good team is the guys around [Gonzalez and Tulowitzki]," Cuddyer said. "In Minnesota, we had myself, [Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Denard Span]. The last few years, when [Justin Morneau] went down, we never skipped a beat. And when [Joe Mauer] went down, we had guys to plug in. You're going to see that with this team this year. It's going to take a lot of pressure off Tulo and CarGo."
Asked to step up, Chacin intends to deliver
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For the last few years, Jhoulys Chacin's place in the Rockies' rotation has basically gone without saying. Ace Ubaldo Jimenez was at the forefront, with crafty southpaw Jorge De La Rosa not far behind.
The young Chacin, armed with a powerful arsenal but still with a hill to climb in terms of psychological growth and understanding of the game, was a formidable back-end starter who could be downright dominant at times.
Now, with holes to be filled atop the Rockies' rotation, he has an opportunity. Chacin says he's ready for it.
"I'm ready for any challenge," Chacin said. "This year, there's a lot of change, and we brought in a lot of new people. Everybody wants to put everything together to reach the playoffs."
For that to happen for Colorado, Chacin will need a banner year -- whether it be at the top of the rotation, or somewhere slotted behind newcomer Jeremy Guthrie. Chacin won nine games in 2010, and 11 last year. Guthrie, 32, lost 17 last year with Baltimore, but has thrown at least 200 innings in each of his last three seasons.
"I don't really care what it's going to be -- No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 -- I just want to have a healthy season, lower my walks and try to get deeper into games," Chacin said. "That's the best way I can help my team. We want to make the playoffs, so whether I'm No. 1 or No. 5, you can help to get to the playoffs."
There were loud doubts heading into Spring Training about Chacin's condition -- general manager Dan O'Dowd told the Denver Post he was "not happy" with the right-hander's offseason -- but manager Jim Tracy said he had a lengthy conversation with Chacin this weekend. Tracy said the talk focused on the young hurler's pitching -- specifically, commanding his fastball and working to get outs, instead of only strikeouts.
"I gave him a task to work on and hopefully master," Tracy said. "We're looking for incremental improvement, but incremental improvement for a pitcher of this caliber and talent, if that were to happen, it's hard to say where that could go. But I don't want him to focus on result. I want him to focus on the process of what it was I talked to him about."