Rockies to juggle roster this weekend
Club unlikely to call on replacement when Young goes to DL
DENVER -- In addition to balancing trips to the disabled list, the bereavement list and the unpredictable spring weather in Colorado that has already postponed four games and forced three scheduled doubleheaders, the Rockies have been playing at least a man down over the course of the past week.
They waited out reliever Rafael Betancourt's flu from May 7-13, they endured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's strained quad from the middle of Sunday's game in Los Angeles until he returned on Thursday, and they have been without Eric Young Jr. since he suffered an acute stress fracture of his tibia in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game.
"I did it [running out a grounder to second] in the fifth inning, and I played the rest of the game," Young said Friday. "It just felt like a bad shin splint, so that's what I was thinking. I've had shin splints before. I just stretch it out. We took an X-ray just to make sure it was nothing, and when we did [the fracture] showed up."
Young will most likely go on the disabled list between the two games of Saturday's split doubleheader, but the Rockies played Thursday and expect to play the first game Saturday without making an official move to replace him.
"Because of some situations that we have option-wise, we need to be very, very careful with that," manager Jim Tracy said, explaining why he is not bringing up a player from the Minors to replace Young immediately. "Knowing roughly how many people involve themselves in a game where [Saturday's first game starting pitcher] Ubaldo Jimenez is doing what he's very capable of doing, I think it's our best bet for this one game to sit tight, and realize that we've got two moves we have to make over the course of the next two days."
The first move will be to activate Jason Hammel from the disabled list in time for Saturday's second game, presumably putting Young on the DL at that point. The second move will be to activate Jeff Francis to start Sunday's game. Were the Rockies to bring up a Triple-A infielder like Jonathan Herrera or Omar Quintanilla for Young and then send him back down when one of their pitchers is activated, Herrera or Quintanilla, who are both out of options, could be claimed off waivers by another club.
"We could bring Herrera for whatever you want, but then he'd have to stay until Tuesday, because his time clock has turned over," Tracy explained. "The problem you run into now is that he's the guy you need to bring into Francis's spot, and you try to send him back, you run the risk of losing him because he's got to clear waivers."
The Rockies currently have 14 position players and 11 pitchers on their roster. If Young and Hammel trade spots in the Rockies clubhouse, the Rockies will likely send a pitcher down when Francis is activated. Rookie Esmil Rodgers (0-1, 6.14) is a prime candidate, having made two starts in his six appearances, but Greg Smith (1-2, 6.35 in seven starts) is another candidate, since the Rockies may want to keep him starting every five days in Colorado Springs, rather than relegate him to irregular bullpen work.
Manuel clarifies 'crying' comment
MILWAUKEE -- Manager Charlie Manuel said on Wednesday that teams think the Phillies steal signs because the Phillies beat them.
"That's why," he said at Coors Field. "Keep crying."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose team filed a complaint with Major League Baseball after catching bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer using binoculars in the top of the second inning on Monday, took umbrage on Thursday with Manuel's comment.
"There was a suggestion made that we should stop crying, that we're complaining about it because we got beat," Tracy said. "We're complaining about it because it's wrong, OK? And when I read a statement that [the Phillies] are using binoculars to check their catcher and how he's setting up and things like that, then you should use the binoculars when your team is on defense and not offense, OK?"
Manuel tried to clear the air on Friday at Miller Park, saying that he wasn't referring to the Rockies.
"I shouldn't have said a word, but I didn't say anything about Colorado or anything about him crying or anything like that," he said. "If I did something, I'll definitely talk to [Tracy], but I didn't say anything about Colorado. I didn't say anything about that particular game. ... At the same time, I shouldn't have said nothing. Usually, I say we'll take care of that by beating them. I'll let Louisville talk to them."
-- Todd Zolecki
Smith moving over to help bolster bullpen
DENVER -- With starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Francis slated to return to the Rockies rotation Saturday and Sunday, respectively, Greg Smith is moving his gear to the bullpen.
The 26-year-old southpaw was a last-minute addition to the Rockies' Opening Day roster, after projected No. 2 starter Jeff Francis went on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder following his final Spring Training start in Albuquerque. Smith has made seven starts, posting a 1-2 record and a 6.35 ERA. The numbers haven't been pretty, but he has given gutsy performances, keeping the Rockies close and giving them a chance to win most of the games he's pitched.
"He said he wanted to see me out of the bullpen," Smith said of his discussion with manager Jim Tracy. "I guess in whatever capacity. I'm perfectly OK with that. I relieved for two years in college, so it's not totally foreign to me."
His only relief outings in 91 professional appearances were in the Rookie Pioneer League in his first year in the D-backs' system, making two entries from the bullpen. The Rockies will need to make a decision on Smith this weekend, potentially adding his left arm to the 'pen or sending him down to Triple-A Colorado Springs to keep him in shape as a starter. Though he could be used as a left-handed specialist, he also makes a logical long man for the Rockies.
"Long relief would better suited [to] what I've been doing, as far as starting," Smith said. "That would be a direct correlation. But as far as coming in for a lefty or getting an inning of clean up, or whatever it is, I gotta learn all aspects of it."I'm just trying not to mess it up out there. They've been a pretty good bullpen, to say the least, so I'm just going to follow suit. I'm all ears out there. When someone starts talking or the phone rings, or somebody starts saying something about when to throw, or someone goes out there with the right fielder. Anything that comes up, I'm all ears. I asked "Flo", [veteran reliever Randy Flores], 'You got any words of wisdom?' He said, 'No, but if you got some, let me know.'"
Stewart picking up rainy-weather survival tips
DENVER -- By the time of Friday night's scheduled game between the Rockies and Nationals, the rain was lighter than it had been at any time during the eight innings the two teams got in the night before. The fact that the game had been postponed two hours earlier brought no complaints from Colorado.
The Rockies were happy not to have to contend with the type of conditions the team had waded through the previous night, when much of the infield dirt was either under water or on third baseman Ian Stewart's uniform after he made a couple of dives into "Lake Coors," in an effort to slow down the Nats' bats.
"It felt bad the whole way," Stewart said of the relatively light but steady rain that fell for over three hours of play. "It was pretty much cold and rainy from the get-go. The whole infield was bad. I was talking to 'Tulo' [shortstop Troy Tulowitzki] out there, and we were saying our feet were soaked, our gloves were soaked. They were like 20 pounds. We're cold, stiff. It's hard to get any kind of blood flow or movement out there. It was just a bad situation."
Sloppy as the field was, Stewart's Olympic-caliber dive on an eighth-inning Josh Willingham grounder toward short was a highlight reel play. Stewart managed to extend himself enough to knock the ball down, then rolled through the puddle, and somehow rifled off a throw while still submerged. The one hopper to Todd Helton was not in time to catch Willingham, but it epitomized the kind of play it took to combat the conditions.
"After that point I was like, I may just dive for anything, like a little kid playing in the mud," Stewart said. "I was so soaked, and so dirty and nasty, it didn't even matter any more."
By the time the Rockies had called in their third reliever of the eighth inning, Stewart picked up a rainy weather survival tip from veteran Jason Giambi, offering advice for how to deal with a soaked leather glove that was getting hard to handle.
"It felt real heavy, so Giambi suggested that I put it in the sauna and sweat out the water that was drenched in it," Stewart said. "It seemed to work pretty good."
Betancourt gets back to work on mound
DENVER -- Despite the seven runs the Rockies yielded in the eighth inning Thursday night, the frame marked another step toward putting the pieces back in place the way the Rockies envisioned their pitching staff looking at the start of the season.
Setup man Rafael Betancourt made his first appearance in eight days, having missed the previous week with flu-like symptoms. He was the third reliever to enter the inning, and after yielding a two-run double to Josh Willingham, Betancourt struck out Ivan Rodriguez to end the marathon eighth. The game was ended after the Rockies took their swings in the bottom of the inning, due to the miserable conditions on the rain-soaked field.
"It always feels weird," Betancourt said of coming back after so much idle time. "People think because you didn't pitch in a while your arm is rested. But it's different when you have to face hitters. You can throw that many days in the bullpen, but when you come into the game and face hitters, it's a lot different. Especially with the conditions in the game like last night. But I feel very good. I was happy to be able to pitch in a game, even if it's only to face two hitters."
The veteran right-hander still isn't sure what the source of his illness was, and he thought it might be something he ate.
"It got me pretty good," Betancourt said. "I was very weak for four days. It took me six days to start eating like you're supposed to do."He said he felt 100 percent by Thursday, and his return to action helps the Rockies get the back of their bullpen back into something recognizable from their plans coming out of Spring Training.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.