SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd insists that the Rockies have enough good starting pitchers to fill in for the absence of Aaron Cook, who missed much of the spring with right shoulder tightness and essentially was eliminated from the Opening Day roster when he suffered a broken right ring finger.
Right-hander Esmil Rogers is considered the leader to replace Cook in the rotation, with righties Clayton Mortensen, Greg Reynolds and John Maine, who may or may not be ready when camp ends, also slated as candidates. One figures to break camp with the team, but the others could be in line for early-season work. O'Dowd said that he is not actively searching for another pitcher.
Cook said that he won't be throwing a ball until the finger heals, which could be anywhere from two to four weeks. He said his shoulder is strong, so after that he'll have to throw a schedule of bullpen sessions, face hitters ad appear in game action. That could take awhile.
"We're real excited about the opportunity that's going to be presented to someone," O'Dowd said. "We figure it's anywhere from eight to 11 starts. It could be less than that. With what we have in camp, I don't think we could do better outside of our camp.
"You never have enough pitching. We hope somebody takes this job and runs with it, and we're that much better an organization for the next four months after that."
Stewart still may be ready by Opening Day
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Don't count out Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart in the race against time to be ready for Opening Day.
Stewart, who has not played a Cactus League game since suffering a right knee sprain in the spring opener, ran the bases on Saturday for the second time and hasn't ruled out being ready for game action soon. Stewart has been taking batting practice. He said he's talked with the club about speeding up his acclimation to game-speed pitching by playing in Minor League games, when he can bat every inning if he wants.
"It's getting better, a lot better," Stewart said. "I'm getting optimistic about it every day. I've just got to get through the running part of it, then I'll be ready to go. Everything feels good, taking grounders, hitting and all that. I feel I need a couple good days of running and I'll be ready to go.
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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Spring Training Info
The belief is that Stewart will have to have game action soon in order to accumulate enough at-bats to be ready to open the season on April 1. Stewart said he hasn't been given a deadline.
For now, Stewart is working on his swing from a new position in the batter's box, about 10 inches further from the plate than last year, when he often jumped back from strikes or was jammed by inside pitches. He said he feels good about his timing.
Nelson making impression with his glove
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Former Rockies top Draft pick Chris Nelson (2004) entered Saturday's play hitting just .167, but has made several strong defensive plays at various infield positions.
Nelson had two good glove plays -- a diving catch and throw to the plate, and a pickup to start a double play -- late in Thursday's extra-innings game against the Brewers, and started Friday at shortstop against the Royals.
There is a crowd of versatile infielders but Nelson, who made his Major league debut last season (.280 in 17 games), is on the radar.
"He first put himself on the radar with the way he performed last year, and then he worked out extremely hard this winter," O'Dowd said.
Pacheco has chance to crack Opening Day roster
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Prospect Jordan Pacheco, who impressed the Rockies with his hitting in early Spring Training after strong work last year at Double-A Tulsa and in the Arizona Fall League, has a shot to make the roster as a backup catcher.
Pacheco, 25, could increase his value by playing other positions, but the Rockies aren't pushing that. He was a middle infielder at the University of New Mexico.
"Jordan has put himself in the consideration category, but we have another 20-some games to make a decision about how we're shaping our club," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's a little premature yet to dig into it much more. He'll take groundballs at other positions, but we're not even close to having him see time at other positions. We want to see how he handles the catching part."
Jose Morales, who also has hit well, has Major League experience as a backup catcher, while Chris Iannetta is the No. 1 catcher.
Paulino's first taste of bullpen goes smoothly
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first day of the move of right-hander Felipe Paulino to the Rockies' bullpen went as smoothly as manager Jim Tracy could have hoped.
Paulino pitched one inning, gave up a hit and struck out one in Saturday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Padres at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Paulino was a candidate for the fifth rotation spot, opened by Aaron Cook's series of injuries this spring. But Tracy and Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca quickly determined that his blazing fastball but lack of command of secondary pitches made him a better fit for relief work.
"Let it all hang out -- let the doggie eat, which is exactly what he did," Tracy said. "That's awfully firm and it gets there awfully quick. He threw a couple of absolutely lights-out sliders, one was the strikeout pitch [to Cameron Maybin]. He's got an incredibly powerful arm. [The move was] just to shorten the load a little bit and not have the thought process be so broad."
In his previous outing, Paulino showed an electric fastball in his first inning, but went out of kilter subsequently. Part of the problem was that he lost his delivery with men on base. On Saturday, he gave up a Brad Hawpe leadoff single in the fifth, then pitched spotless ball.
"What I saw the other day over in Glendale was that the first inning was absolutely lights out, and when baserunners started to show up, the delivery started to speed up, we weren't staying on the rubber; we were running down off the rubber, the arm's late, spiking pitches about 55 feet," Tracy said. "There's no question about that, he's indoctrinated himself as to the importance we put on keeping a runner at first base as long as we possibly can."
Tracy said that Paulino could be extended beyond one inning, but how far beyond that he doesn't know. Paulino doesn't necessarily have to be the long man, as right-hander Matt Daley has had some strong appearances beyond one inning in his career.
Cook aims to minimize time missed with injury
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Health doesn't seem to last long for Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook.
On Thursday, Cook's formerly sore shoulder felt better than ever. He was throwing balls 85 feet on a line. He was not long from bullpen sessions, facing hitters and possibly being ready for the starting rotation when the season starts.
Then Friday morning he accidentally slammed the tip of his right ring finger in his house door.
"When it happened, I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Cook said on Saturday. "My shoulder felt great. I was throwing pain-free, then I stuck my hand in the door as I was trying to go outside real quick, and smashed my finger."
The resulting fracture will prevent him from throwing for 2-4 weeks. It all but guarantees that he won't start the season in the rotation. Given that he'll need to throw bullpens, face hitters and find game action in extended Spring Training or on a Minor League rehab assignment, general manager Dan O'Dowd said Cook could miss 8-11 starts, although he held out hope that it would be fewer.
Cook insists that other than the finger he is healthy. Cook suffered a broken tibia when hit with a line drive last August and had not been cleared to do distance running when he arrived in Scottsdale. He has been working on the Stairmaster and exercise bike for endurance work.
As for the shoulder, he'll resume strengthening exercises in a couple of days.
The break is at the tip of the ring finger. Interestingly, that does not come in contact with the ball when he pitches. Cook believes that he could pitch through it. However, Cook said that Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger told him that the whipping motion of his hand and arm could have an adverse effect on the fracture, and could slow healing and lead to other problems.
In other injury news, second baseman Eric Young saw his first Cactus league action on Saturday, striking out in his only at-bat. Young was completing a comeback from a broken right tibia that he suffered last season. Third baseman Ian Stewart continued his running program as he returns from a sprained right knee that he suffered in the first Cactus League game, and non-roster utility man Alfredo Amezaga said that he hopes to soon start running. Amezaga is returning from microfracture surgery in his left knee.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.