SPORTS WATCH
Role Reversal: De La Rosa Is Hot, Jimenez Is Not
by Gus Jarvis
May 10, 2011 | 911 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the Colorado Avalanche coming off one of their worst seasons ever, the Denver Nuggets getting tossed from the playoffs in the first round by the Thunder and the Denver Broncos fading into work-stoppage oblivion, thank God we have the Colorado Rockies…they couldn’t have picked a better time to be the best team in baseball.

Even though the Rockies have one of the best records in baseball and got off to a fiery start in April with 17 wins, you might say they are in a bit of a slump after the Rox dropped two of three to the Pirates last weekend. Probably the biggest concern facing Manager Jim Tracy is the fact that his ace Ubaldo Jimenez is still winless and hasn’t made it past the sixth inning any of his three starts. Jimenez, who had 19 wins last year and has yet to post a win this year, has been hampered by a nagging finger injury and can’t seem to find his release point.

With the pitching greatness Rockies fans experienced last year, now is not the time to call this season a bust. It is way too early for that kind of talk, and I believe all the guy needs is one winand he’ll be back on track and back to being a major force in baseball. Sitting at 17-9 as of Tuesday, can you imagine if the Jimenez had jumped to the start he had last year?

“Are we concerned? I mean yeah, certainly we’re concerned,” Tracy told MLB.com. “What your concerned about is the fact that you’re 17-9 and the ace of your staff hasn’t thrown a pitch [past] the sixth inning yet. We don’t have a win from him, obviously. I’m just wondering where we’d be, in relation to the position we’re already in, if the consistency of this man that we’ve grown very accustomed to was showing up.”

The Rockies, despite some petty losses, are the talk of all baseball right now, and if Jimenez was at the top of his game, the sky really would be the limit for the team.

In past years in Colorado, when you talk about a slump, you are talking about a five- or six-game losing streak. Maybe even a 13-game losing streak as we witnessed at the end of last season. What we will find with the Rockies this year is that the team may have a tough stretch of games, where they’ll drop two of three or even three of four, but they will rarely drop more than four games in a row. As we all know, getting into a four-plus game losing streak can be a hard rut to pull out of for any team and that being able to get one win here in there during a slump can sometimes save an entire season.

With Jimenez struggling, this could have easily happened to the Rockies already, but this year it’s Jorge De La Rosa bringing consistency to the mound. Going into a three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, he held a 4-0 record, just a 2.61 ERA and a team-high 26 strikeouts. Something to watch when De La Rosa takes the mound next is his pace. Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca has been working on De La Rosa’s pace of the game, trying to make the young pitcher faster and more determined when he takes the mound.

“The longer he takes between pitches, I think his effectiveness isn't quite as acute,” Apodaca told MLB.com. “So I think those are areas where we’re really trying to impress upon him as being ready quicker and already know what pitch to throw. Go ahead look for the sign, get it, and let’s perform it.”

Apodaca also said the lefty now has an effective slider in his toolbox and has become a go-to pitch that he can control and control well.

And while pitching is the most important factor in a team’s ability to shut an opponent’s offense down, don’t discount the Rockies stellar field defense. During Saturday’s 4-1 wind over the Pirates, the Rockies turned three double plays and became the first in the National League to go over 30 in the season.

Shortstop and RBI machine Troy Tulowitzki can get to any ball at any time, it seems, and his work with second baseman Jonathan Herrera is flawless. There are a lot of base hits that with most teams will get through the gap that Tulowitzki not only stops but turns into a double play. Talk about helping the pitching out.

For now, we needn’t spent much time breaking down the Rockies batting lineup. Carlos Gonzales has been colder than the Rockies would like. Dexter Fowler needs to cut down on his strikeouts and Tulowitzki needs to keep doing what he’s doing by knocking in RBI after RBI. The Rockies offense is simple. Get on base, then let Tulo hit you home.

The Rox will have started a three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and then travel to take on those pesky World Series Champion Giants for a three-game series starting on Friday. Let’s see if the Rockies can find a way to take at least two of three from those guys.
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