The Coors Effect

March 29, 2010 1:47 PM

Questions remain a week from Opening Day

For the most part, the Rockies entered Spring Training with few questions about their Opening Day roster.  The front-line talent -- all eight starters in the field and all five rotation spots -- seemed pretty well set, and that hasn't changed.  Off the bench, we basically knew that Miguel Olivo would be the backup to Chris Iannetta, and Jason Giambi, Melvin Mora, and Seth Smith would all claim roster spots.

The bullpen had a wrench thrown into the equation when Huston Street went down with an injury that likely will keep him out until May.  But that appeared to be largely set as well; Street's injury has opened up a spot for another reliever to make the Opening Day roster, and for Franklin Morales to take over closing duties on a temporary basis.  The Rockies are still left with two decisions to make, regarding the final bench spot and the last spot in the bullpen.

The final spot for a position player, barring an unexpected development, should go to Ryan Spilborghs.  Coming off a shaky 2009, my initial thought was that Spilborghs' job was on the line.  But he's solidified his hold on the job, as his ..325/.400/.525 line this spring has outshined those of Matt Miller (.310/.400/.483) and Cole Garner (.275/.326/.475), either of whom could have served as a right-handed bat and outfielder off the bench.  And Eric Young (.226/.300/.453) doesn't have enough experience in the outfield or at third base to serve as a utilityman.  Most likely, Young will open the season in Triple-A (along with Garner and Miller), and the Rockies will try to give him more and more reps at different positions, because his future at this point seems to be as more of a utilityman than as a starter, with Clint Barmes having a solid hold on the starting gig at second and Hector Gomez possibly arriving in 2011.

We can likely assume at this point that Franklin Morales, Rafael Betancourt, Manny Corpas, Matt Daley, Randy Flores, and Matt Belisle will open the year in the bullpen.  And really, nobody has distinguished themselves for the final spot in the bullpen.  Juan Rincon has struggled with command (five walks in nine innings.)  Tim Redding can't keep runs off the scoreboard (8.74 ERA.)  Justin Speier has been the most effective in spring action, and I'd call him the favorite to land the final bullpen spot, but Joe Beimel (recently signed to a minor league deal) could still make a case for himself.  Beimel would give Jim Tracy an extra lefty to play matchups with, a big deal with Morales set to work the ninth (Flores is the only other lefty in the 'pen.)  Ultimately, though, I think Tracy will decide on talent, and Speier is the more talented of the two.

In stark contrast to previous years, though, the Rockies don't have any big questions still unanswered at the end of spring training.  "Who's going to be the last guy off the bench?" and "Who's going to be the last guy in the bullpen?" aren't the kind of question marks that can turn a season, unlike, say, "Who's the second baseman?" and "Who's the fifth starter?"  Or "Are these guys any good?"  There's plenty of reason for optimism about the Rockies this season.

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