The Rockies didn't plan on entering the 2006 regular season with a lot of question marks on their roster, and what decisions that were left to be made seem to have been settled by a late-spring run of injuries. Ryan Speier's surgery somewhat relieved the logjam at the back of the bullpen. Ryan Shealy's arm injury ended the outfield experiment before it had even really began; now Troy Renck writes that Shealy will likely be traded as soon as he can prove his health in AAA. Now health questions about Yorvit Torrealba could lead to a temporary roster spot for Miguel Ojeda. Josh Wilson broke his toe, so there are openings for Jamey Carroll and maybe even Jeff Baker.
OK, here's what we know for sure: Todd Helton, Luis Gonzalez, Clint Barmes, Garrett Atkins, Danny Ardoin, Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan, and Matt Holliday will be on the team. That's your opening day lineup, along with Jason Jennings. Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, and Byung-Hyun Kim will join Jennings in the rotation. Ray King, Brian Fuentes, Jose Mesa, and Mike DeJean will be in the bullpen.
That leaves nine spots. First, somebody is going to have to take the fifth starter's job. I still think it's going to be Sun-Woo Kim, but Josh Fogg and Miguel Asencio are making late pushes. Asencio can be sent to Colorado Springs without clearing waivers first, so that right there might disqualify him. Whomever loses out between Fogg and Kim will probably stick with the big club in a long relief/swingman role. Zach Day looks like a longshot at this point. He's pitching right now, as a matter of fact, and has allowed four runs in four innings to San Francisco. I don't know what Day's status with regards to remaining options might be, and honestly, I don't care. Colorado might as well release him, because he's not going to do anything for us and his value isn't really high enough to produce anything worthwhile in trade. Have I mentioned recently that the Preston Wilson trade last year was a complete washout for Dan O'Dowd? Well, in one combination or the other, take Fogg and Kim.
That leaves two more spots in the pen after Mesa, Fuentes, DeJean, King, and Fogg/Kim. Jaime Cerda's lefthandedness works in his favor, but his tendency to walk everybody in sight more than counteracts that. Seeing as how no one has particularly distinguished themselves this spring, the Rockies might as well stick to the continuity theme and take Scott Dohmann and David Cortes with them to Denver when they break camp. Both of those righties were fairly reassuring presences in the Colorado bullpen in the second half of 2005. Besides, if either implodes, the Rockies don't have much invested there and they shouldn't be terribly difficult to replace.
All right, if my math serves, we have five spots for bench players. Backup catcher is the easiest. If Torrealba doesn't have to go on the disabled list with his bicep complaints, he's the guy. Otherwise, it'll be Ojeda. J.D. Closser has had a fine spring but the Rockies have already made up their minds to have him spend the season in AAA collecting the tattered shards of his defensive reputation. Eli Marrero and Choo Freeman are sure things. Jamey Carroll probably is too. That leaves one spot for a pinch hitter/outfielder, and the likely suspect would be Jorge Piedra. Don't count out Jeff Baker, however. He's been playing a bit of outfield. Neither Piedra nor Baker has had a particularly hot spring, and journeyman Jason Smith has. The former Tiger and non-roster player's .387 average in 31 at-bats could be enough to leapfrog him on to the big club for Opening Day, though it would mean the release of someone like Zach Day. That would be no great loss, although it would be silly for the Rockies or their fans to overthink these minor roster moves. Like last year, if Rockies bench players end up playing a significant number of innings, that means the season is in the toilet. The 2006 team is not utterly without hope, but they are utterly without depth.
I'm probably going to write much more at length about this topic at a later date, but a survey of "manager stats" in several baseball publications has led me to an important conclusion: Clint Hurdle bunts way, way, WAY too much. If I remember my run expectancy grid properly, it's hardly ever beneficial to use the sacrifice bunt unless you're in a tie game at home in the late innings. The distorting, vortex-like nature of Coors Field, where only the Rockies are ever the home team, may make Colorado (again) unique in that for them the sacrifice is never the right play. I don't even want to begin calculating the ramifications of combining mile-high park factors with the presence of Jose Mesa in the Colorado bullpen. It's too much all at once.