Slow-starting Rockies poised to make their run

Last season, the Rockies were 20-29 heading into June; the Angels were 25-24. They each went 72-41 from June 1 on, resulting in a postseason berth for each. Only the Yankees (74-38) were better during that span.

Colorado and Los Angeles are off to similar starts this season, but which is more likely to get hot, make a 2009-like run and reach the postseason?

Chris Bahr explains why the Angels have a better opportunity to do so, while Ryan Fagan makes his case for the Rockies:

Troy Tulowitzki has found his power stroke.
Troy Tulowitzki has found his power stroke.

The goal was to avoid a spring slumber.

Jim Tracy, the manager with the magic touch last summer, told Sporting News this past offseason that he was priming his squad for a hot start. "Let’s get busy and have people be aware of the fact that this is how we expect to play from Day 1 of the season and not wait until the middle of June or whatever it was (last year)," he said.

It isn’t mid-June yet and the Rockies aren’t as bad as they were at this point last season, but this wasn’t the start Tracy imagined. His team has been hanging around the .500 mark and hasn’t been more than two games above or below .500 all season.

But make no mistake, the talent is there — and it is starting to rouse from its slumber.

Troy Tulowitzki, the one Colorado hitter capable of carrying his team offensively for a long stretch, has found his power stroke. He wasn’t horrible through his first 38 games (.295 average, .362 on-base percentage), but the power wasn’t there. Tulowitzki, who has twice hit at least 24 homers and twice driven in at least 92 runs, had just one homer and 16 RBIs in those first 38 games. In his past five games, though, he has pounded four homers.

Veteran first baseman Todd Helton has raised his average from .250 to .283 in the past nine games. He no longer is the anchor of Colorado’s lineup, but he isn’t quite done yet, either.

Ace Ubaldo Jimenez has done his best Zack Greinke impression this year — vaulting to superstar status — and shows no signs of reverting to the inconsistency of his younger days. Jhoulys Chacin, a 22-year-old rookie, has a 3.19 ERA in his five starts.

A turnaround often requires a catalyst. Last season, it was the managerial change to Tracy. This season, it could be the return of Jeff Francis. The lefthander won 17 games during the Rockies’ improbable run to the 2007 World Series but hadn’t pitched in the majors since September 2008. His long and arduous journey back from shoulder issues ended on May 16, when he tossed seven strong innings against the Nationals. He followed that up with 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Royals. His two-start totals include a 0.68 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

More help is on the horizon. Closer Huston Street is working his way back from a shoulder injury, and Jorge De La Rosa, the lefthander who won 16 of his last 19 decisions in 2009, is coming back from a finger injury. Both have started their individual rehab processes, which coincide with the rehab process the team is working on at the moment.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com.

Last season, the Rockies were 20-29 heading into June; the Angels were 25-24. They each went 72-41 from June 1 on, resulting in a postseason berth for each. Only the Yankees (74-38) were better during that span.

Colorado and Los Angeles are off to similar starts this season, but which is more likely to get hot, make a 2009-like run and reach the postseason?

Chris Bahr explains why the Angels have a better opportunity to do so, while Ryan Fagan makes his case for the Rockies:

Troy Tulowitzki has found his power stroke.
Troy Tulowitzki has found his power stroke.

The goal was to avoid a spring slumber.

Jim Tracy, the manager with the magic touch last summer, told Sporting News this past offseason that he was priming his squad for a hot start. "Let’s get busy and have people be aware of the fact that this is how we expect to play from Day 1 of the season and not wait until the middle of June or whatever it was (last year)," he said.

It isn’t mid-June yet and the Rockies aren’t as bad as they were at this point last season, but this wasn’t the start Tracy imagined. His team has been hanging around the .500 mark and hasn’t been more than two games above or below .500 all season.

But make no mistake, the talent is there — and it is starting to rouse from its slumber.

Troy Tulowitzki, the one Colorado hitter capable of carrying his team offensively for a long stretch, has found his power stroke. He wasn’t horrible through his first 38 games (.295 average, .362 on-base percentage), but the power wasn’t there. Tulowitzki, who has twice hit at least 24 homers and twice driven in at least 92 runs, had just one homer and 16 RBIs in those first 38 games. In his past five games, though, he has pounded four homers.

Veteran first baseman Todd Helton has raised his average from .250 to .283 in the past nine games. He no longer is the anchor of Colorado’s lineup, but he isn’t quite done yet, either.

Ace Ubaldo Jimenez has done his best Zack Greinke impression this year — vaulting to superstar status — and shows no signs of reverting to the inconsistency of his younger days. Jhoulys Chacin, a 22-year-old rookie, has a 3.19 ERA in his five starts.

A turnaround often requires a catalyst. Last season, it was the managerial change to Tracy. This season, it could be the return of Jeff Francis. The lefthander won 17 games during the Rockies’ improbable run to the 2007 World Series but hadn’t pitched in the majors since September 2008. His long and arduous journey back from shoulder issues ended on May 16, when he tossed seven strong innings against the Nationals. He followed that up with 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Royals. His two-start totals include a 0.68 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

More help is on the horizon. Closer Huston Street is working his way back from a shoulder injury, and Jorge De La Rosa, the lefthander who won 16 of his last 19 decisions in 2009, is coming back from a finger injury. Both have started their individual rehab processes, which coincide with the rehab process the team is working on at the moment.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com.

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