NL West: Despite Stellar Hitting, Rockies Could Be in for Long Season

The 2013 Colorado Rockies season marks the return of slugging shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from a serious groin injury, superstar outfield Carlos Gonzales and what likely will be the final season for team icon Todd Helton. This year’s Mile High model also features emerging stars like outfielder Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario, the slugging catcher looking to improve his shoddy defense in his second full season.

Can we avoid talking about the starting rotation a little longer? Please?

It won’t matter how much Tulo and CarGo mash the ball if the 2013 Rockies starters resemble their 2012 counterparts. Last year’s rotation was one for the (awful) ages, a disaster marked by injuries, the end of once-ageless Jamie Moyer’s career and a failed experiment with a four-man rotation.

The team didn’t add any arms of consequence prior to spring training. The fact that Carl Pavano’s name was near the top of the Rockies’ winter wish list until American Idle got injured (again) speaks volumes. The organization long ago swore off big-ticket arms after being burned by the free agent signings of Matt Hampton and Denny Neagle. That leaves the team dependent on its farm system, and Denver fans are still waiting for a homegrown pitcher to turn the team’s fortunes around.

Jhoulys Chacin, who recently endured back spasms, is the ace of the staff by default, followed by left hander Jorge De La Rosa and Rockies stalwart Jeff Francis, who is coming off an impressive spring. Righty Juan Nicasio brings the heat assuming he can stay healthy for a full season. The biggest recent move was signing Jon Garland to take the fifth rotation spot away from underachieving lefty Drew Pomeranz, another sign that trading away former ace Ubaldo Jiminez to Cleveland for prospects has yet to enhance the rotation.

The Rockies bullpen remains far more palatable for suffering fans. Steady albeit unspectacular closer Rafael Betancourt, hard-throwing southpaw Rex Brothers and new addition Wilton Lopez will help hold down the later innings while long-men like Adam Ottavino will get plenty of work when the starters falter.

The hot corner remains up for grabs, although for now it appears that Chris Nelson will man third base while star prospect Nolan Arenado gets a final fine tuning at AAA. Jeff Rutledge parlayed his 2012 hot streak subbing for Tulo into a starting gig at second base, and a fully healed Michael Cuddyer should add power and grit in both the outfield and occasional first base duty.

Rookie manager Walt Weiss has his hands full here, although his youth and inexperience may actually help him endure what could be a very long season.


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