Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch: 4/4/07

Lawrence will begin the year with Colorado Springs

The Colorado Rockies have begun their youth movement, and the kids in Coors are giving the fans something to feel good about. In other news, Brian Lawrence will begin the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, though he should be a welcome addition to the Rockies rotation once he is healthy. Here is the lastest news from Colorado.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and catcher Chris Iannetta are rookies, but they are going to have to carry their own weight.

"We're not going to pinch-hit for these guys," said bench coach Jamie Quirk, who managed Tuesday's 4-3, 11-inning victory against Arizona while manager Clint Hurdle served a one-game suspension. "They are in the major leagues and ready to be participating members. They are at a point in their careers where we are going to let them go and show us what they can do."

Tulowitzki and Iannetta gave the Rockies a glimpse of what could be in the final six weeks last year when their seasons that began at Class AA Tulsa and included a stop at Class AAA Colorado Springs ended in the big leagues. They reinforced the confidence of the organization with solid springs.

And two games into their first full big-league season, they continue to provide reason for optimism.

They both had solid Opening Days, even if Tulowitzki's had a sour finish, as he ended the 8-6 loss to Arizona by striking out.

They both played roles in the Rockies being able to even their season-record at 1-1. Tulowitzki doubled, singled and scored a run in the opener, and he had the double that led to the win in Tuesday's encore. He drove in the game-tying run with two outs in the 11th inning, and he scored the winning run on Iannetta's hard-hit groundball that was ruled an error on Arizona third baseman Alberto Callapso.

Iannetta singled home two runs and scored another Monday, and he doubled and scored in the second inning to put the Rockies up 2-0 Tuesday.

Tulowitzki struck out on three pitches from Arizona's Jose Valverde, swinging at all three, to conclude Monday's loss. Tuesday he swung and missed at Valverde's first pitch, but he drove the next one to right field over the head of a stumbling Eric Byrnes.

The shortstop knew he had to regroup in his approach, and he focused on driving the ball into the right-center-field gap.

"As talented as he is, he made a quick adjustment," hitting coach Alan Cockrell said. "He was facing the same guy and got the same sequence. He stayed on it. ... His strength is gap to gap, and he's going to drive the ball the other way."

"He is very aware of what he needs to do. You don't have to say much."

Last Game:ROCKIES 4, DIAMONDBACKS 3 (11 innings):
Troy Tulowitzki helped cover up the latest misadventure of Byung-Hyun Kim. Tulowtizki doubled in the game-tying run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, and he scored the game-winning run on Chris Iannetta's ground ball that resulted in an error by Diamondbacks third baseman Alberto Callaspo. That came after Kim had a two-out meltdown in the top of the 11th. Kim, upset at being used in relief, retired the first two batters he faced but then walked Chirs Snyder, hit Callaspo with an 0-2 pitch and served up a go-ahead single to Stephen Drew.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • Rockies manager Clint Hurdle served his one-game suspension for being ejected from a spring training game when LHP Jeff Francis threw behind San Diego 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff. Hurdle said he did not go to dinner or a movie. "I feel like I'm in adult timeout, so I want it to feel the way it is supposed to feel," Hurdle said.

  • RHP Brian Lawrence said no determination was made on how long he would be on a medical rehab assignment at Class AAA Colorado Springs. "I'm not worrying about that right now," he said. "The only thing that matters is (Thursday when he starts the Sky Sox opener). If I go down and pitch well, other things take care of themselves." Lawrence, who missed last season after shoulder surgery, could force a move with the Rockies rotation if he has several solid starts for the Sky Sox. The maximum rehab assignment for a pitcher is 30 days.

  • RHP Rodrigo Lopez is the ninth native of Mexico to appear for the Rockies. Previous Mexican-born Rockies were 3B Vinny Castilla (1993-00, 2004, 2006), RHPs Armando Reynoso (1993-96), Juan Acevedo (1995, 2001) and David Cortes (2005-06), LHPs Roberto Ramirez (1999) and Rigo Beltran (1999-2000), SS Alfredo Amezaga (2005) and 3B Pedro Castellano (1993, 1995-96).

  • The Rockies have four rookies on their 25-man roster -- RHP Jason Hirsh, C Chris Iannetta, SS Troy Tulowitzki and OF Jeff Baker.

  • OF Steve Finley, 42, is the oldest player to appear in a game for the Rockies. LHP Jeff Fassero previously held that distinction, making his final mound appearance for the Rockies at the age of 41 years, 252 days on Sept. 29, 2004.

    BY THE NUMBERS: .398 -- Average for John Mabry in 123 at-bats at Coors Field.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Individually we've had some growth, and collectively we need to have more team growth ... We really think we're on the verge of something very important and very meaningful here in Colorado Rockies baseball." -- Manager Clint Hurdle on his Rockies team, which features homegrown young players, some promising and some proven, and the addition of veterans who have been in winning situations.

    ROSTER REPORT:
    The Rockies got through spring training with no surprises. The young players they expected to claim spots did -- SS Troy Tulowitzki, C Chris Iannetta and RHPs Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz.

    ROTATION:
    1. RHP Aaron Cook
    2. LHP Jeff Francis
    3. RHP Rodrigo Lopez
    4. RHP Jason Hirsh
    5. RHP Josh Fogg
    Cook is moving into the No. 1 role after his first full season in the big leagues, having added a four-seam fastball to his sinker. Francis is the only lefty. Fogg is a fifth starter, but Rockies were 16-15 when he started last season.

    BULLPEN:
    LHP Brian Fuentes (closer)
    RHP LaTroy Hawkins
    LHP Jeremy Affeldt
    RHP Taylor Buchholz
    RHP Byung-Hyun Kim
    RHP Ramon Ramirez
    RHP Manny Corpas
    Fuentes is coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons. Hawkins was the major free agent signing and will handle the eighth-inning chores. Kim was dumped in the bullpen when he lost out on a rotation spot and nobody would take his $2.5 million contract. LHP Tom Martin was placed on the disabled list, and the Rockies decided to add a right-hander in his place.

    LINEUP:
    1. CF Willy Taveras
    2. 2B Kaz Matsui
    3. 3B Garrett Atkins
    4. 1B Todd Helton
    5. LF Matt Holliday
    6. RF Brad Hawpe
    7. SS Troy Tulowitzki
    8. C Chris Iannetta
    Manager Clint Hurdle made his big move early in the spring, deciding to alternate right-left-right-left in the middle of the order, putting Todd Helton into the cleanup spot and dropping Matt Holliday to fifth. Taveras and Matsui give the Rockies two speed guys at the top of the lineup for the first time since their first year, 1993, when they had Eric Young and Alex Cole.

    RESERVES:
    C Yorvit Torrealba
    INF Jamey Carroll
    INF/OF Jeff Baker
    OF Steve Finley
    OF John Mabry
    Baker and Carroll provide versatility that allowed Hurdle to keep Mabry as a left-handed bat off the bench. Baker will play first, third, left and right, and he's a power hitter, which means the lineup doesn't have to be juggled when he plays. Carroll will play second, third and short and can play the outfield. The challenge is to get 400 at-bats for both, which is why SS Clint Barmes was sent to the minors.

    ROOKIE WATCH: SS Troy Tulowitzki, the No. 1 draft in 2005, made it to the big leagues in less than two years. He will hit seventh. C Chris Iannetta made the jump from Class AA Tulsa to Class AAA Colorado Springs to the big leagues last year. He will hit eighth. RHP Jason Hirsh was the Class AA Texas League pitcher of the year in 2005, and the Class AAA Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year in 2006.

    MEDICAL WATCH:

  • RHP Brian Lawrence (shoulder surgery in March 2006) is set to start an injury-rehab assignment with Class AAA Colorado Springs.

  • LHP Tom Martin (strained left groin) is on the disabled list, but he will be re-evaluated a week into the season.
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