The Colorado Rockies went 74-88 last year and finished last in the National League West. There are many reasons for this, but the main one isn’t too hard to figure out.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t stay healthy.
That duo played in the same game just 81 times last season – exactly half of the season – and started together just 66 times.
Thus, the Rockies played 96 games last year in which their two best players did not start.
“They’ve got to keep them on the field,” Denver Post columnist Troy Renck said on The Morning Show. “I’m thinking 130 would give them a chance to be relevant in September. If they’re on the field and playing regularly, that gives the team a real chance to be competitive (and) playing meaningful games in September.”
Tulowitzki, 29, has missed 282 games over the last six seasons, but it’s Gonzalez who enters 2014 with the most uncertainty. He dealt with a nagging finger issue last year and in January underwent an appendectomy.
“He healed from that more quickly than they expected,” Renck said of the appendectomy. “Originally, they thought he was going to miss probably the first week of spring training games, (but) he showed up early in spring training. He’s shown no ill effects from it. He had hernia issues involved as well with that, but (there have been) no problems.
“The issue,” Renck continued, “will be the finger because it gets aggravated sometimes on awkward swings, particularly against left-handers. He’s changed the grip on the bat where he’s moved up the handle a little bit.”
Gonzalez hit .302 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs in 110 games last year, while Tulowitzki hit .312 with 25 home runs and 82 RBIs in 126 games.
Good production, not enough games. Rockies manager Walt Weiss wants to get at least 145 games out of both of them.
Joining that dynamic duo in the lineup is Justin Morneau, who will replace the retired Todd Helton at first base. Morneau, 32, hit .259 and hit 17 home runs last year as a member of Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Morneau’s average has plummeted over the last few seasons – from .345 in 2010 to .227 to .267 to .259 – but he did hit 36 doubles last year, his most since 2008.
“People forget he’s a former MVP,” Renck said.
Pitching-wise, the Rockies hope to lean on of-injured lefty Brett Anderson, The 26-year-old started 49 games for Oakland in 2009 and 2010 but has started just 24 in the last three seasons, including a career-low five in 2013.
“He’s been their most impressive pitcher so far in camp,” Renck said. “I had seen Anderson pitch before, not a lot. He works quickly, he throws hard for a left-hander – up to 95 miles per hour – he’s got an unbelievable slider (and) he’s got a chip on his shoulder after (missing) much of the last couple of seasons with injuries.
“They feel confident he’s going to be healthy, and with Jhoulys Chacin already dealing with a shoulder problem, they need him to be healthy.”
If all goes according to plan, the Rockies will be playing meaningful baseball after the All-Star break. If not, they may look to trade Tulowitzki or Gonzalez at the deadline or after the season.
Either way, this figures to be a fork-in-the-road season for the Colorado Rockies.