The list of wounded pitchers already this season on the Colorado roster would make a pretty good starting rotation for most major league baseball teams–and the team is adding another. Jorge De La Rosa, who had won his last four starts and given up only seven runs in his last 24 innings, is having back spasms and Franklin Morales will get the start for the Rockies on Tuesday in Kansas City. De La Rosa’s start has been moved to Friday at Coors Field against the San Diego Padres.
Morales is 4-3 on the year, but has won four of his last 5 games. His last outing was a 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers, giving up four earned runs on three walks and five strikeouts. Morales’ opponent on the mound will be James Price (4-3, 2.70 ERA) for the Royals. The Rockies will have one thing going for them in the pitching matchup; Shields does not have a good record at Kauffman Stadium. In his two seasons for the Royals since being traded from Tampa Bay, he is 3-8 at home with an ERA of 4.48.
Colorado’s pitching injuries are the stuff of legends. The Rockies began the season without their expected opening-day starter, Jhoulys Chacin, who remained in Spring Training with a shoulder strain. Another starter, Tyler Chatwood began the season on the DL with hamstring issues. After coming back and going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA, Chatwood strained his elbow in a game against Arizona and is back on the 60-day DL. On top of those losses was Brett Anderson, whom the Rockies picked up in the off-season from Oakland. Anderson broke his left index finger while batting against the Giants’ Matt Cain in San Francisco in his third appearance of the season. Chacin is now back in the rotation but has yet to find his groove. In two appearances he is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA.
With the Rockies sitting in second place in the NL West, that means that someone has picked up the slack. The first name on that list would be Jordan Lyles. The 23-year-old right-hander, who was acquired in the off-season along with Brandon Barnes from the Astros in a trade for Dexter Fowler, is 5-0 this season, and leading the Colorado pitching staff with an ERA of 2.66. He is actually padding his ERA on games pitched at Coors Field, which has never been described as a pitcher-friendly park. At home, Lyles has three appearances and has given up just three earned runs in 21.2 innings. That translates to a 1.25 ERA.
The Rockies solid start this year mostly has to do with hitting. Colorado batters continue to lead the league in four big categories; Runs (231), Batting Average (.302), On-Base Percentage (.350) and Slugging Percentage (.505). The ever-dependable Troy Tulowitzki leads the team with 11 home runs and 33 RBI, but there are many players contributing and helping the Rockies put up big numbers through the first 40 games. Eight regular players are hitting over .300 for the season, including Tulowitzki at .395. Of those eight, the lowest is Nolan Arenado (.310) who just had a 28-game hitting streak snapped.
With an offense as potent as Colorado’s it is not hard to imagine that, when Franklin Morales was announced as the starter in place of Jorge De La Rosa for Tuesday’s game in Kansas City, the news was met with nothing more than a shrug in the team clubhouse. That is just the way it has been throughout much of the young 2014 Rockies season.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Colorado Rockies