Tagged: Dexter Fowler

Struggles put spotlight on Weiss

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(JACK DEMPSEY/AP)

(JACK DEMPSEY/AP)

No one said managing the Rockies would be easy.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss knew what he signed up for when he took the managerial job in November.

Weiss has done a good job of managing the Rockies overall, but with the team struggling by losing five of six games and 14  of 21 games after a 9-1 loss to the Cubs last night at Wrigley Field, the first-year Rockies manager is being tested in getting his team out of their funk.

It hasn’t been pretty at all.

The hitting has been atrocious during this period. They have batted .209 in the last 10 games, and they have batted .223 in May.

The Rockies were almost no-hit twice this weekend by Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright when they were playing the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. As good as Miller and Wainwright are, the team shouldn’t be in a position to be no-hit by anyone.

The Rockies only had three hits last night against the Cubs, and they only mustered two hits off Cubs starter Travis Wood.

Basically, it was another night of bad at-bats by the team. Everyone is struggling.

At least, the pitching has been good, but that’s what makes this frustrating. The Rockies are not known for their pitching, so when they are getting quality starts, the onus is on the hitters to produce and give the starters run support to work with.

The hitters are on a funk mentally. They expect to fail when they are at the plate based on their recent struggles.

The losing and the hitters struggling at the point have put the focus on Weiss.

It’s on him to get his hitters out of their funk.

He either has to change the lineup or give some guys a breather.

Weiss made one move by benching Dexter Fowler last night after being mired in a 2-for-26 slump. It’s something Weiss has to do after his centerfielder has been hacking at every pitch rather than being disciplined at the plate.

The day off could get Fowler to think and get his mind off his struggles. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if he did not play tonight, but it’s hard to believe the manager is going to bench his player for the second straight game.

This is a start, but Weiss has to do more. One thing he has to do is change the batting order in the starting lineup.

That can be the only solution to jumpstart an offense that can’t find its own way.

Carlos Gonzalez has to bat sixth. He is killing any momentum by striking out to end the inning when he bats third. He has been horrible as of late by batting .143 and striking out seven times. By batting sixth, this would ease pressure off him.

Give Rosario a shot in the cleanup spot, and let’s see what he can do. What’s there to lose? With Weiss showing he has trust with his catcher hitting fourth, this would give him confidence.

Have Josh Rutledge bat third. He is one guy that can drive in the tablesetters in Fowler and Eric Young Jr. He can’t be worse than the struggling Gonzalez. He is the only one that is hitting.

If Troy Tulowitzki continues to be affected with his legs, it’s time for him to be on the disabled list. He’s not doing the Rockies favors by playing hurt. Yes, he hit a three-run home run against the Cardinals on Sunday, but something doesn’t seem right. His batting stance is affected with his leg being hurt.

Something has to give with the lineup.

Weiss will have to tell his young players to keep their spirits up. Right now, they need assurance from their manager that they have the talent to win games. It’s easy for players to doubt themselves when things go bad. They think too much and it affects them on the field as they go on a rut.

Being a former player, Weiss can relate to his players’ struggles. He has to share his wisdom to them in finding a way to get out of their funk. In other words, he has to be a confidence builder.

The manager also can’t let this funk get out of hand. He has to be firm and hold these guys accountable when it’s time. That might be the case with the way things are going for the Rockies. The last thing his players need is getting used to losing as they did under former Rockies manager Jim Tracy. This would not reflect well on the first-year Rockies manager if that’s the case.

There’s so much to like about Weiss. He had his team being fundamentally sound on defense since spring training. He has learned how to manage by using the right pitchers in the right spot and taking starters out when it’s time. He has had his team playing for him, and it showed by them getting off to a good start in April.

It’s easy when things go well, but it gets hard when the going gets tough.

This is where we learn about Weiss. Does he have the credibility to handle his team’s funk?

He has to find a way to get his players back on track, and he has to find a way to lead in tough times.

How he handles his first crisis as a manager will go a long way towards what he does as a Rockies manager for a long time.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

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Stop nitpicking about Rockies’ wins

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

We have become cynical about anything in life.

It certainly is true when it comes to watching sports and following sports teams.

Heading to the weekend series against the Diamondbacks, the Rockies are 11-4, and they are in first place in the NL West. Yet, Rockies fans are cynical about their team’s start.

There are fans that are waiting for the Rockies to fall apart.

There are fans saying the Rockies have 11 wins by beating awful teams in the Brewers, Padres and Mets.

Both are fair points. That said, there is no reason to be cynical about the Rockies.

Enjoy the start for what it is. The Rockies are playing good baseball. They are getting quality pitching, and their hitting has been superb. Plus, they are making plays on defense.

It’s not the wins that should be the story. It’s about how the Rockies are playing baseball, and how they are executing well. The wins are a byproduct of the team executing all facets of the game.

There has been bad baseball for the last two years to the point the Rockies were unwatchable under the horrible leadership of Jim Tracy.

Walt Weiss has come in and demanded accountability from the players in his first year as the Rockies manager. He and his staff have put in the work in getting his guys ready to play, and this goes back to when the guys worked on defensive drills during spring training. This team has been hustling to make plays, too.

That’s a step in the right direction for a franchise that is finding its way.

That’s the big picture that fans have to look at when it comes to the Rockies.

Even if the Rockies fell short of victories, they have been fun to watch.

After two years of bad baseball, no one should be questioning where the wins are coming from. This is the same team that lost to horrible teams the last two years.

To beat the teams that they are supposed to beat is something the Rockies have to do this year for them to have a successful year. That’s how a team creates a winning culture. The Rockies need to continue to do that this year for the franchise to progress.

The more the team wins, the more it becomes a habit. It means they know how to win games. That’s why beating bad teams is something no one should sneer at.

This season is all about development, and right now, the Rockies are developing quite fine. This season is about hope. So far so good with players like Dexter Fowler, Wilin Rosario and Edgmer Escalona performing well.

There’s no question the Rockies won’t keep this up as far as being in first place goes. They are not good enough to win the NL West.

They may not even have a winning record.

That’s okay. It’s about development for this season.

Who knows? Maybe if the players continue to play well, the team may be good enough to go on a great run this summer.

That’s why baseball is fun. The unknown becomes known during the course of a long season. We are going to find out if the Rockies are good enough to be a winning team this year.

The Rockies have good core of young players on offense. It’s about the pitching with them. That’s why the team is intriguing in itself, and that’s why it’s fun to watch them.

Instead of wondering when the Rockies are going to fall apart, enjoy seeing a young team grow into being a winning team. That’s the fun part of watching baseball.

It would be nice to root for a team like the Giants or Yankees that win every night.

It would be nice to watch a team that is expected to make the playoffs. With that said, there’s no joy when a great team is supposed to be there.

Sports is about appreciating the journey that the team goes through during the year.

That’s why the Rockies are fun to watch. It’s nice to see them grow as a team when they churn out prospects after prospects every year.

This start has provided intrigue early on, and that bears watching.

That itself is why fans should be excited instead of dreading for the worst.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

Everything goes right for Rockies in home opener

Scripps Media

Scripps Media

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

30 baseball teams want an ideal home opener.

They want the festivities to go well, and they want to win the game.

It’s a great way to make an impression to the fans, so they can come back next time.

The Rockies received the ideal home opener they were seeking. Not only did the home opener festivities went well, but the Rockies played well in earning a 5-2 victory over the Padres at Coors Field Friday afternoon.

The festivities began with the military march. Then, the Rockies honored their very first team from 1993. The current players were introduced after that. It ended with the purple balloons flying up in the sky.

Everyone dressed in purple was fired up from their seats.

Once the festivities were over, the home team put on a show of their own.

Troy Tulowitzki broke a tie game at 1 by hitting a two-out double that gave the Rockies a 3-1 lead as Josh Rutledge and Carlos Gonzalez scored.

Wilin Rosario hit a home run in the fourth inning to extend the Rockies’ lead to 4-1.

Dexter Fowler hit his third home run of the week in the fifth inning to make it a 5-1 game.

With the way Jeff Francis pitched for the Rockies, this was game over.

Francis put on a show by keeping the Padres off balance. He had a good grasp of the strike zone, and he was ahead of the count. His stat line ended with him giving up a run on 5 hits, and he struck out 5. He retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.

He was so good that he could have pitched a complete game. He should have. It would have been the perfect opener. Instead, he threw only for six innings.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss did not want to have his starter throw 100 or more pitches in his first game of the year.

It’s a shame that was the case. There’s nothing worse than having a starter on a pitch count. If a starter is cruising along, he should continue until he does not have it anymore.

Unfortunately, baseball teams are worried their starters will get hurt if they throw many innings.

That rationale does not make sense. Any pitcher can get hurt anytime. What difference does it make?

This is a different era now. Starters can only go as long as the front office wants their starters to go.

Look at the bright side. Francis had the opportunity to throw more than 75 pitches in his first start of the season.  That wouldn’t have been the case if the Rockies continued their stupid 75-pitch limit from last year. Thankfully, the organization decided to scrap that idea after that experiment turned out to be a disaster late in the season.

Despite one man’s outrage about Francis not attempting to throw a complete game, there was a lot to like about this game.

This win is a reflection of the 3-1 start the Rockies have on Opening Week, which the team has had good pitching, efficient offense and excellent defense.

If nothing else, this home opener should convince the fans at the game that the Rockies may not be bad as people made them out to be.

They couldn’t be worse than last year when they lost 98 games.

It does not mean the Rockies will be great, either. They are going to win 74 games at best.

They can be a .500 team if their starting pitching does better than people think.

Francis will win 15 games this season based on his ability to pitch well. Jon Garland will win 12.

Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa were effective against the Brewers, but it remains to be seen if they are going to be consistent when it comes to pitching well.

The Rockies are going to hit. They can have six players hitting 20 or more home runs this year with guys like Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Rutledge, Jordan Pacheco, Rosario, Fowler, Tulowitzki. This week should be a good barometer of what this lineup can do all year.

The Rockies are going to execute the fundamentals by moving runners up, stealing bases and playing good defense. Weiss and his coaching staff have done a great job working with the players on how to execute this spring training, and it has showed by the way the team has played.

The Rockies gave the fans of what to look for this year. They like what they saw, but they want to see more.

That’s what the long season is all about.

And for one day at least, the Rockies provided hope on Opening Day. That’s what they wanted to accomplish as their objective yesterday, and they did a good job of that.

What was not to like about the Rockies yesterday?

Follow me or contact me @TalkingRockies on Twitter.

Hope does not spring eternal for Rockies

Darron Cummings/AP

Darron Cummings/AP

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Being realistic is a good thing.

It means no one can be disappointed at the outcome. It makes life easy that way.

While most folks around the country are optimistic about their baseball teams, the Rockies fans are not.

In fact, the Rockies are not, either.

The Rockies and their fans know this season will be another long season.

The Rockies are the favorites to be in last place in 2013. Talk about a buzzkill. This happens every year, too.

Give the organization credit for being honest about themselves rather than selling false hope. They know they are not better than the Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres. They are not fooling anyone when they don’t have starting pitching.

Yes, the Rockies have a great lineup. That’s good enough to win their fair share of games, but they are going to need quality starting pitching on a consistent basis for them to have a winning season. That’s not happening.

With the Rockies, it’s Jeff Francis, Jon Garland and pray for rain. It’s hard to have a winning season that way.

Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio are question marks to round out the rotation.

The Rockies like to think Chacin is an ace after winning 11 games two years ago. They cite his ability to throw strikeouts after throwing 150 strikeouts two years ago.

With that said, he struggled in spring training after he was hit hard with an 8.44 ERA to show for it.  His changeup was ineffective. In his final spring training start, he was rocked for 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings. That was against the Athletics’ B team.

It makes one wonder why Chacin is making an Opening Day start against the Brewers. He hasn’t earned it. This was about the organization demonstrating faith that he has what it takes to be an ace, and they hope Chacin can gain confidence from that.

Maybe this works tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see.

Francis should have started Opening Day for the Rockies. He is their best pitcher. He gives them a chance to win by giving out a quality start. He knows how to win games based on his experience for many years.

It’s not only Chacin that is a question mark. The Rockies like to think De La Rosa is their second best starter. Maybe he is, but he is always hurt. Who knows if he can be healthy? He also can let his struggles get the best of him during the course of the game.

Nicasio is not a starting material. Outside of his fastball, he does not have secondary pitches to get hitters out when they face him for the second time in the game. That’s why he does not go deep in games.

He is a reliever at best. It’s remarkable why he is in the rotation. As bad as Drew Pomeranz is, he is better than Nicasio.

It shows how the Rockies feel about Pomeranz’s lack of development for him to not be in the starting rotation over Nicasio.

When looking at the question marks in the starting rotation, it’s easy to ask why the Rockies did not do enough to get a starting pitcher. It shouldn’t take until last week to find a starter, and they found one in Garland after he was released by the Mariners.

The bullpen should be good. Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle, Wilton Lopez and Rafael Betancourt can be relied upon to protect leads late in the game.

The Rockies have a great lineup with Dexter Fowler, Josh Rutledge, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco leading the way. That’s something they don’t have to worry about.

That lineup is so good that Walt Weiss is hoping his team can outscore the other team to win games. That’s a depressing outlook for the first-year Rockies manager. He knows his starting pitching is not good enough for him to say his team will rely on his hitting to win games. He is smart enough to know a baseball team wins games through good starting pitching.

As for Weiss, he will do a fine job as a manager. He will get his team to play for him. His teams will execute well on defense.

That wasn’t the case when Jim Tracy was the Rockies manager in the last few years. Talk about how he got them to the playoffs in 2009, but the players were so fed up with Clint Hurdle that they wanted to prove he was why the team underachieved.

Once Tracy was the full-time manager in 2010, the team quit on him for the last three years. They never executed the fundamentals, and they often approached the game with no sense of urgency.

They hope Weiss can make the team fundamentally sound. They hope he can develop players.

He will do that, but he can’t make miracles out of that awful starting rotation. No manager can. If a pitcher can’t pitch, there’s nothing a manager can do.

It’s remarkable why Weiss wants to manage the Rockies. That said, they are giving him a shot to learn on the job. He’s not going to turn that down. He would love to see what he can do with this team.

The Rockies are good enough to win 74 games at best. If Weiss can get them to do that, he did a good job considering that’s the best he could with a flawed starting rotation.

That’s not good enough for the fans. That’s not good enough for the organization.

It’s about having winning seasons. It’s about playing in the playoffs. It’s about hope.

The Rockies don’t have any of that going for them.

No wonder why the organization and the fans are not excited about what should be another long season.

Maybe one day there will be a reason to be.

Slugests can only go so far for Rockies

Walt Weiss talked about the Rockies using their strength to win ballgames.

The first-year Rockies manager wants his team to find a way to outscore the other team and he wants his players to be aggressive on the basepaths.

It is interesting Weiss mentions that. It’s clear he does not believe in his starters to win games for the Rockies or else he wouldn’t be talking about outscoring the other team. He has been around winning teams as a player to know great starting pitching results to victories.

Weiss has to make do with what he has to work with. He has to rely on his hitters to win games. He feels if the Rockies can outscore the other team late, his bullpen is good enough to protect the lead.

It may be enough to win games at home, but it’s also a flawed strategy.

There’s no question the Rockies have a great lineup. They have a mixture of tablesetters and sluggers. The Rockies have Dexter Fowler and Josh Rutledge to leadoff, and they rely on Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki or Michael Cuddyer to drive them home.

It’s a formula that is going to work. The Rockies have speed, and they will extend a single into a double or they will steal bases to be in a position to score. This is a lineup that is going to be tough for pitchers to go up against.

Weiss also wants the Rockies to use Coors Field as home-field advantage. He knows his hitters can flourish well at their ballpark because it’s a hard place to pitch. It can wear on a pitcher’s mind as the game goes on.

The Rockies have benefitted over the years of playing in altitude. They always dominated at home.

The problem is winning on the road.

Pitchers will always have advantage over the Rockies’ hitters, especially the great ones.

The Rockies struggled to hit on the road in their history. They don’t hit many home runs as they do when they are at home.

Troy Tulowizki is a great hitter whether he hits at home or not. One has to think Nolan Arenado is good enough to be a good hitter at home and on road.

It’s the other guys that have to play well on the road.

It would be easy if the Rockies starters can do their job on the road. They need to set the tone to win games on the road. They don’t have to deal with the altitude, and they don’t have to worry about trying too hard out there. They have to just pitch by throwing strikes and working fast out there.

The starters need to make the hitters’ job easy when it comes to winning on the road. The hitters can’t do it all every game with great pitchers shutting them down. That’s where the starters must show up.

It remains to be seen if the starters are up to the task.

No one is giving the Rockies a chance to have a winning season as a result of so many question marks of the starting rotation.

The Rockies will be competitive thanks to their hitting, but that can only go so far. They have to develop starters this year for them to be successful. This is not a secret.

In yesterday’s Rockies’ 8-6 victory over the Angels, they benefitted from a slugfest. The hitters bailed Juan Nicasio out after he struggled on the mound.

The Rockies can get by, but they can’t rely on this all year. It’s not conducive to success.

Weiss knows this despite what he is saying publicly about winning games by outhitting and outscoring the other team.

The Rockies are hoping to find someone on the mound to step up. If they can get that, they can get by when they go through hitting slumps.

Outslugging guys can be entertaining, but that’s not baseball. The sport is meant to play tight games. This is where the Rockies must know how to execute smallball, play great defense and receive efficient pitching.

Odds are there will be more tight games than slugfests for the Rockies, especially on the road. This is where the Rockies must know how to do things that win those games.

No team ever won a championship by outslugging others, and that will never change.

As much as Weiss publicly says that his team will win by outscoring the other team, he privately hopes his team can get pitching and defense to win games.

Good for Weiss to put emphasis on spring training

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Most managers don’t care about wins and losses in spring training.

They want their players to be healthy and ready by April.

First-year Rockies manager Walt Weiss is not one of them. He vowed to have his team take spring training seriously by having his team go all out in exhibition games. He will demand his players to do whatever it takes to win games. He will have them execute spring training fundamental drills that will help them be in a position to succeed in the regular season.

That’s a good thing. The Rockies are not a great team to ignore results in spring training.

They have to do the things that will help them win ballgames whether it’s fielding, smallball or baserunning. They could use the work after being so bad in the fundamental aspects of the game under Jim Tracy the last two years.

The players have to do everything they can to impress their boss. That’s the way it should be when a new manager comes in to implement his style of play.

Too many players were lazy under Tracy. There was no accountability. It was show up at the ballpark for three hours only. The guys were not thinking about winning.

There was no discipline on that team. Too many guys were loafing at the field or at the basepaths. The players did not get worked up when their team was behind as they quit at first sign of trouble.

It was tough to watch.

Tracy couldn’t do anything about it. He felt it was a lost cause. That’s why it was time for a managerial change.

Weiss made an impression to the players about how things are going to be different in spring training. It’s clear he is doing his part to change the culture of the ballclub. He will be hands-on when it comes to managing a game. He will do what he can to put his players in a position to succeed.

One thing about him is that he is a gamer. That type of attitude will rub off on the players.

Weiss is also a baseball junkie. He will be watching film often, and he will find out strengths and weaknesses that his team can oppose. He will have this team prepared.

This does not guarantee anything. It still comes down to how the pitchers pitch and how the hitters execute at the plate.

Still, having the team prepared is an improvement after watching the last few years.

The Rockies need to develop habits that will put them in a position to win games, and that’s where executing drills is imperative now rather than in late March.

The Rockies feature a lot of talent when looking at their roster. They have players that can help them win games in Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco.

It’s up to Weiss to get the most out of that roster, and that’s why he wants to start by having his team go for it in spring training. He wants his guys sharp, and he feels that approach can help them be sharp all season. He feels repetition will pay off for them.

Weiss wants his team to be molded in his image. He was not a great player, but he made the most of his talent by being a good grinder and a good defensive player. That’s what he wants the Rockies to be. He wants them to be a team that will be tough to face.

If he can pull that off, he would be off to a good start. Little things can turn out to be big things for a team that needs direction. By being fundamentally sound,  Weiss is banking that it’s enough to win their fair share of games.

Spring training games are going to be fun to watch this year. It will be interesting how the Rockies fare under Weiss this month. One has to think it won’t be more of the same. Not when guys are on a clean slate under their new boss.

Weiss will make an impression to others if his team wins many games.

He is hoping his spring training approach will help him achieve that objective.