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Notes: Tsao sent to Triple-A
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04/01/2004  8:08 PM ET
Notes: Tsao sent to Triple-A
Says he wants to learn, throw more fastballs
Pitcher Chin-hui Tsao looks forward to returning to Triple-A. (John Miller/AP Photo)
TUCSON, Ariz. - Triple-A-bound pitcher Chin-hui Tsao was nothing but bright side on Thursday morning.

His rough pitching performance -- six runs, five earned, and six hits that included two homers -- in a minor league game on Wednesday ended his chances of wrestling the Colorado Rockies' fifth starter's spot from Denny Stark. But he hit a home run off Arizona knuckleballer Steve Sparks.

"That was like, ooh," Tsao said.

Tsao, 22, the most touted pitching prospect in Rockies history and the first native of Taiwan to pitch in a Major League game, went 3-3 with a 6.02 ERA for the Rockies after being called up in July from Double-A Tulsa. And he's even excited about his assignment to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

"I want to learn something," Tsao said. "I threw too many pitches. I'd get two strikes first, and then it would be 2-2, 3-2 or something."

Tsao also said he plans to throw more fastballs. It all adds up to a young pitcher gaining an understanding of his weaknesses, which is a step toward becoming truly ready for the big leagues.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Tsao must work on his pitch selection. Special front office assistant Marcel Lachemann, an expert on pitching, said one of the homers came after Tsao threw two outside fastballs to get two strikes, then made a mistake over the plate.

Hurdle also said Tsao must command his fastball to both sides of the plate, and not become "slider-happy."

"Delay is not denial in Tsao's case," Hurdle said.

An odd payback: By giving Stark the No. 5 spot despite his 12.12 ERA in five official appearances, Hurdle made up for a move that worked against Stark in 2002.

Stark was promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs in May of that season and won his first three decisions. He was 3-1 through four starts when Shawn Chacon came off the disabled list. Stark then moved to the bullpen and Chacon performed poorly.

When informing Stark that he would get the No. 5 job, Hurdle reminded Stark of how unfair the 2002 move was.

"I told him I took the ball from him two years ago and gave it Chacon," Hurdle said. "He probably didn't deserve to have it taken from him then. He probably doesn't deserve to have it now.

"Do something with it."

Hurdle said Stark appeared consumed this spring with making the club, but that burden has been lifted.

Stark also knows he'll get his first start at Dodger Stadium, where he is 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in four games, three starts.

"If you talk to different pitchers, they all have places that they like to pitch," Stark said. "It probably doesn't have to do with anything other than the fact their better games have been there."

Well, not exactly: The White Sox took a 5-0 lead on Magglio Ordonez's two-run double and Carlos Lee's three-run homer before Rockies starter Shawn Estes accomplished an out in the first inning on Thursday.

It was something of a reminder of June 20 of last season, when Estes gave up six runs on two hits, with four walks. Estes lasted just one inning of a 12-3 loss.

Of course, Thursday was different. Estes is in a different uniform -- he is Colorado's Opening Day starter -- and this one was the last Arizona Spring Training game for the Rockies. It meant much less.

Upcoming: The Rockies will play the Texas Rangers in the first of two games at Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Jason Jennings will start for the Rockies on Friday night at 7:05.

On the mound, behind the mic: Left-handed pitcher Denny Neagle, coming back from "Tommy John" elbow ligament transfer surgery performed in July, took his next step in his comeback by throwing 15 pitches of "live" batting practice to minor leaguers on Wednesday. He also threw 45 pitches off the mound.

"Real good ... strange," Neagle said on Thursday morning. "[But] they didn't have to walk me out to the mound."

For the most part, Neagle, who had expected shoulder soreness but no elbow pain, will remain in the Rockies' extended spring program until it ends in June. He isn't expected to throw a simulated game until May 20, then will work through a normal Spring Training. So Neagle could conceivably begin a minor-league rehab assignment at the All-Star break.

Neagle would like to begin his rehab at Single-A Asheville because he hasn't played there and he has heard it's a beautiful part of the country. He said his wife is pushing for Single-A Visalia.

Neagle could miss the entire season, although there is a chance he could return if the Rockies need him for the bullpen in the late going. Insurance could pick up half of Neagle's salary for as long as he is sidelined; he is due $9 million this season.

But he will get a break from the low-key life next week, when he hosts "The Best Damn Sports Show Period". He'll be in Los Angeles to tape shows Monday through Thursday. He'll work out with the father of Arizona catcher Brent Mayne, a longtime coach in the Orange County, Calif., area, and also be around the Rockies during their series Friday through Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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