The holiday weekend provided little celebration for the Colorado Rockies. Entering a series with the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks was the perfect opportunity for Colorado to solidify themselves atop the NL West. By the time Sunday rolled around, Colorado found itself swept, 4.5 games out of first place, nursing another injury to a key player, and scrambling to get out of Arizona. Outscored 22-2 in three games, the Rockies provided little opposition for the Diamondbacks. When the dust settled on the weekend woodshed beat down, one question loomed over Denver; who will save their starting rotation?
Banged up, the Rockies are without Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler. Carlos Gonzalez suffered a setback injury in Sunday’s game, as did Roy Oswalt. Oswalt, who has gone 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA since returning to the big leagues, is proving to be a gamble that isn’t paying off for Colorado. Opponents are hitting a whopping .372 against Oswalt and have managed 29 hits off of him in only 17 2/3 innings pitched. The hope that Oswalt would be the consistent starter the Rockies needed has proven to be merely hope. With his injury, age, and rough starts thus far, it is time Colorado looks elsewhere for some pitching stability.
Tyler Chatwood provided a solid start last night, but those are few and far between. The Rockies find themselves leaning more and more on Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin; Chacin having won five straight starts. Colorado is 2-3 in De La Rosa’s last five starts as he continues to battle thumb issues. As much as De La Rosa and Chacin have provided reliable pitching this season, they are hardly guys you build a rotation around. With the trade deadline on the horizon, Colorado needs to look for an answer.
The Cubs have expressed interest in shopping Matt Garza, but Colorado would have to give up a lot to get him. A sacrifice made only if they were conceding any chance of playoff hopes this year. Cliff Lee, another seasoned veteran comes to mind, but the Phillies would expect anyone interested to help shoulder the remaining $62.4 million on his contract. Lee has been a solid starter for Philly this year, posting a stretch of 11 quality starts.
Bud Norris, a member of the forgotten Astros, is the best pitcher on that staff and has a 3.22 ERA through 18 outings this year. His best fit would be mid-rotation, a hole Colorado desperately needs to fill this season. Lastly, the once-dominant Jake Peavy, now on the DL as a member of the White Sox, is looking to return after the All-Star break, and would be a gamble the Rockies should consider flirting with.
Options are there for Colorado. If the trade market doesn’t provide the answer, Chad Bettis, a starter for their AA affiliate Tulsa is worth a look. He throws a very good fastball and slider and has brought his change-up to a level where it would be effective against big league hitters. Rockies scouts have projected his fit as a middle of the rotation starter, again, an area where Colorado desperately needs help right now. Unfortunately for the Rockies, their system does not provide many answers for them at the moment. Their AAA affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, have a number one guy by the name of Drew Pomeranz. He has an 8-1 record with a 4.20 ERA, but has been wildly inconsistent in his last 10 starts. Outside of Pomeranz or Bettis, there isn’t much left to consider in their system.
The Diamondbacks displayed Colorado’s number one weakness. With injuries to Tulo, Cargo, and Fowler, the Rockies’ offense loses a lot of fire power. When it is unable to produce five and six runs a game, the Rockies need an arm that can keep games close. If the playoffs are a serious thought for Walt Weiss and company, efforts need to be made to shore up this glaring weakness. No playoff contender can spend an entire season dependent upon its offense. The pitching woes must come to an end. Otherwise, this slip in the standings is likely to continue.
Two weeks ago the NL West looked a lot different than it does today. Without the discovery of reliable Rockies pitching, not much will change. After all, even when the Rockies offense returns to full strength, when all is said and done, teams need pitching to win into October.