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The Coors Effect


July 23, 2009 5:45 PM

Corpas heads back to DL; Chacin era begins

Manny Corpas's return to the Rockies didn't last too long.  Corpas returned from a month-long stint on the DL due to bone chips, but after giving up three runs in one inning on Monday, he decided to have surgery to repair the bone chips.  He's out until September at the earliest, and his season could be done.

Strange as it is, Corpas going to the DL might not be the worst thing.  For one thing, Corpas hasn't been terribly effective this season, though he was beginning to turn things around in June when injury struck.  Yet Rockies managers have seemed to feel some sort of obligation to use him in pressure situations even when he's not pitching well.  Perhaps, this is because there frankly haven't been any better options for much of the season, but it also might be because of nostalgia for 2007, or the extension Corpas signed prior to 2008.  Actually, Corpas isn't costing the Rockies that much this season (only $750,000); it's 2010 and 2011, the first two years that Corpas will likely be arbitration-eligible, when his contract starts to cost some money.  It's probably for this reason that the Rockies feel obligated to use Corpas in the late innings even when he's not pitching well, because they believe that he's a top-notch reliever -- because of 2007, and because of the contract he got largely because of it.  But now that we have 2008 and half of 2009 to compare with it, we should be concluding that he's a competent reliever at times, a top relief pitcher at his best, but also subject to periods where he doesn't have anything.

I say all that not to pile on, or to blame the Rockies for the contract, but as something of a warning for if and when Jhoulys Chacin terrorizes the National League, either during the stretch run in 2009 or in 2010.  Sometimes, these contracts work for the best; but other times, locking up a young player through his arbitration years can backfire, as you wind up paying a guy far too much money compared to his level of performance because he had one really good year a while back.  While it's true that Corpas still has time to justify the contract, let's just say that there's no real need for the Rockies to do that again if Chacin turns out to be the real deal.  (On the other hand, sometimes these contracts really work and you get Ubaldo Jimenez at bargain-basement prices.)

Chacin makes the jump from AA Tulsa, in something of a surprise.  I would have thought that the Rockies would call up Esmil Rogers before him, as Rogers is in AAA and he's already on the 40-man roster; if the Rockies had been planning to call up Chacin, I would have figured they'd move him up to AAA first.  Instead, word leaked out last night when Chacin was pulled from his scheduled start after the first inning and, apparently, sent to the Tulsa International Airport to take the next flight to Denver, where he'll join the Rockies in time for the three-game series against the Giants -- which could, by the way, be the most important series of the season.

Chacin will work out of the bullpen to start, but the Rockies surely still see him as a future starter.  In this case, I'm giving the Rockies the thumbs-up for giving the shot to the youngster instead of reaching for the phone to dial one of the several pitchers who have been riding the shuttle from Colorado Springs to Denver for most of the season.

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