Roster set: Cook out, Taveras in
Francis, Jimenez, Fogg and Morales make up rotation
PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg's strong regular-season finish and his history of success against the Diamondbacks has earned him a return to the starting rotation for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Diamondbacks.
In what manager Clint Hurdle called "the hardest decision that I've had to talk [about] with a player since I've been in uniform," the Rockies will not activate right-hander Aaron Cook, their staff leader and Opening Day starter.
Cook has not pitched since Aug. 10, because of a strained oblique muscle. He threw well in a fall instructional game in Tucson on Wednesday afternoon -- his second time facing hitters -- and was in line for Game 4, but rookie lefty Franklin Morales will start that one.
The only official announcement the Rockies made before Wednesday was that lefty Jeff Francis would start Game 1 at Chase Field on Thursday. Hurdle said the Rockies will go with righty Ubaldo Jimenez in Game 2, Fogg when the NLCS moves to Coors Field on Saturday and Morales on Sunday.
In addition, Hurdle said the Rockies will activate center fielder and leadoff man Willy Taveras, who was not on the roster for the Rockies' three-game sweep of the Phillies in the NL Division Series. Left-hander Mark Redman, who would have started Game 4 against the Phillies if it were necessary, was removed from the NLCS roster.
Fogg (10-9, 4.94 ERA regular season) earned the 10-5, Game 2 win over the Phillies in relief of Morales, throwing two one-hit, shutout innings. Fogg, who went 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in September, also won his only start against the D-backs this season and is 6-1 with a 3.71 ERA career against them.
Hours before the roster announcement took place, Cook (8-7, 4.12) surrendered five hits -- four of them were infield singles -- one run, struck out four and walked none. Sixty of his 85 pitches were strikes, and Rockies outfielders made only three putouts as Cook's sinker worked well throughout his stint.But more important than anything was the fact he felt no pain. "It felt completely fine, and that's the one thing we wanted to push," Cook said. "Sitting down between innings, getting back up and getting loose again usually is what aggravates it the most. But I had no pain. I felt great and was real happy to be out there throwing." Cook was not available for comment after the roster decisions were made.
Hurdle said if this were the regular season, the Rockies would ask Cook to make another rehab start before activating him.
"For him to just have thrown two rehab outings after being out two months? Game 4 of the NLCS? That would be challenging," Hurdle said. "Could he do it? There's a chance he could do it."
Hurdle said the decision was difficult because of "who he [Cook] is, what he's become, and he's been here since Day 1 and was the guy I gave the ball to Opening Day."
The decision might have been different if the Rockies had an iffy rotation, but their starters -- who included Redman -- have a 3.52 ERA with 89 strikeouts against 37 walks starting Sept. 16, the beginning of a run that's now 17-of-18.
It also shows faith in Morales, 21, who went 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in eight regular-season starts after being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs, but yielded three runs on three hits while lasting just three innings against the Phils in his first playoff start.
Before that, however, the Rockies -- under extreme pressure just to qualify for the postseason -- won Morales' final five regular-season starts. He went 3-0 with a 2.88 ERA during that time, which included him matching Denny Neagle's club record with 20 straight scoreless innings for a starter.
"The guys that are getting the ball have done pretty well, and have been tested along the way," Hurdle said.
Cook and Redman will stay with the club and will be asked to stay sharp in case they're needed. If a pitcher is injured during the NLCS, either could be activated. There's also the possibility they could be placed on the roster should the Rockies qualify for the World Series.
Rockies' NLCS roster
Right-handed pitchers: Taylor Buchholz, Manuel Corpas, Josh Fogg, LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Herges, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ryan Speier
Left-handed pitchers: Jeremy Affeldt, Jeff Francis, Brian Fuentes and Franklin Morales
Catchers: Chris Iannetta and Yorvit Torrealba
Infielders: Garrett Atkins, Jamey Carroll, Todd Helton, Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki
Outfielders: Jeff Baker, Brad Hawpe, Matt Holliday, Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, Cory Sullivan and Willy Taveras
Rockies' NLCS starting rotation
Game 1 -- LHP Jeff Francis
Game 2 -- RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
Game 3 -- RHP Josh Fogg
Game 4 -- LHP Franklin Morales
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Jim Street contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.