Series Preview: Rockies @ Mets (4/11 – 4/14)

The Rox are in the Big Apple tonight for a big four game series with the Mets.  Currently, the Rockies are in the middle of an eight game road trip, having taken three of four in Pittsburgh.  Last year’s road woes are well documented, but it’s worth noting that the team didn’t win a road trip until August.  If they can split with the Mets, they will win the first one of 2011.  In other words, coming out of New York with at least two wins would be a very, very big deal.  Below is a complete preview of this important early season series.  Also, Ben Berkon, the lead writer at RisingApple.com has teamed up with Rox Pile to answer six questions about both the Mets and the Rockies.

Colorado Rockies

2011 Record: 6-2, 1st in N.L. West

New York Mets

2011 Record: 4-5, 4th in N.L. East (3 GB)

Pitching Matchups

April 11: Jason Hammel vs. Mike Pelfrey. 5:10 PM MT

Last time out Hammel struggled to get through five innings.  He had trouble locating his fastball and gave up two homeruns.  Still, he grinded his way through the outing and kept the Rockies in the ball game.  His line for the outing: 5 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 2 HR, 1 ND.  Hopefully, he will have much better stuff tonight.

So far this season, Pelfrey has two starts and has thrown a total of 6.1 innings while giving up 11 earned runs.  His ERA is too obscene to put in print, but, just so you know, it’s really high.  Pelfrey’s control has been awful.  He possesses a very solid sinker, but he’s been unable to effectively throw it this season.  It’s important the Rockies make him work tonight — especially early as he has a tendency to melt-down.

April 12: Esmil Rogers vs. Jonathon Niese. 5:10 PM MT

Rogers’ first start of the season went better than anyone could have expected.  The Rockies’ fifth starter dominated the Pirates, going seven innings and only giving up a run.  He gave up two hits in the first and then didn’t surrender another knock until the eighth inning.  He had pinpoint control of an electric fastball and was working with a very effective change-up.  Now he needs to build off that game.

Niese has made two starts this year.  In his first game, against the Marlins, Niese went seven innings and only gave up two runs.  In his second start, against the Phillies, he got rocked, giving up six runs in just four innings of work.  Niese has decent control — two walks this year — but against the Phils, he was catching too much of the plate.  Like with Pelfrey, the Rox need to remain patient and force him to make pitches.

April 13: Jorge De La Rosa vs. R.A. Dickey. 5:10 PM MT

Jorge De La Rosa has pitched quite well this year.  However, he hasn’t pitched enough.  He’s only given up two runs in two starts, but he had to leave both games after the fifth inning with blister issues.  DLR and the Rockies seem unconcerned about the blister, but five innings an outing is not enough.

R.A. Dickey is Tommy John proof.  That’s because he has no ulnar collateral ligament.  No one knows when Dickey lost it.  It’s possible that he was born without it.  But, his issue was not discovered until after the Rangers drafted him in the first round of the 1996 draft.  About half way through his career, he reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, but it took until last season to finally master the pitch.  The Rockies will have to stay patient.  Notice a theme here?

April 14: Greg Reynolds vs. Chris Capuano. 11:10 AM MT

When Ubaldo went on the DL, Reynolds got the call. He exceeding expectations by going six innings and only giving up two earned runs.  He was effective because he threw strikes and forced fed the Pirates a steady diet of sinkers.  With Ubaldo getting healthy, this will likely be his last start.

Capuano had Tommy John in 2008 and has struggled to return to form.  He was acquired in the off-season and made his first start for the Mets a couple of days ago.  He picked up the win by throwing six innings and giving up four runs while striking out eight.  Before getting hurt, Capuano was a work-horse for the Brewers, throwing 220 innings in both 2005 and 2006.

Who’s Hot

New York: Ike Davis

Davis is hitting .364 on the season and is four for his last seven.  He has reached base in every game except for one.  However, he does have eight strikeouts in just 33 at-bats.  The Rockies pitching staff will test out his patience.

Colorado: Jonathan Herrera

Herrera didn’t receive his first start until April 7th.  Since then he’s drawn seven walks and had five hits in eighteen plate appearances.  Oh, and a stolen base.  Herrera had a terrific spring and is the type of player that can drive pitchers crazy.  He hasn’t given away an at-bat this year, becoming a perfect fit at the top of the Rockies’ lineup.

Who’s Cold

New York: Angel Pagan

Pagan has two hits his last 16 at-bats and is 6-35 on the season.  His slugging percentage is .257, but he does have six walks already.

Colorado: Chris Iannetta

Iannetta started out red-hot this year, but he failed to get a hit in Pittsburgh.  He is one for his last fourteen.

Series Twelve-Pack: Six Mets/Rockies Questions

We’ll each be asking the opposing team’s writer 6 questions regarding what to expect from the team in an effort to get more information to you, the readers, look for our answers to be posted on here and on their site as well. As always, anything that was covered by either site is an invitation for any kind of feedback from you in the comments section below!

Mets Questions

1. How much will the Mets’ on field play suffer because of their problems in the front office?

Ben: I think that if the Mets were rumored to go into “fire sale” mode due to financial/management reasons, then players like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and others might feel the effect. However, the substandard play of Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, etc… was the only reason for their release–not anything management-related.

2. How long will it take the organization to move past the problems that have been created by the Madoff mess?

Ben: That depends on the resolution. It would be a lot quicker if the Wilpons sold the majority stake in the team to someone, but until then, it will hang over their and the Mets organization’s heads. I don’t see how taking on a minority ownership would settle any of the present Madoff-related problems.

3. Carlos Beltran has only played in 145 games over the last two seasons.  Will moving him to right help him to stay healthy and how much does he have left in the tank?

Ben: Center fielders obviously have to cover more ground, so the move to right field will obviously lighten Beltran’s load–but to think that will just solve his health issues is a pipe dream. Being 34 years-old, Beltran’s ability (or in this case, inability) to come back 100% healthy from a significant string of knee-injuries is unrealistic. However, I think that if Beltran is given proper rest–maybe treating him like a catcher–will give the Mets the best production out of the aged veteran.

4. Is Ike Davis on verge of becoming an elite player?

Ben: I think that if Davis can continue to build on his great line against lefties (.295/.363/.443 against in 2010), he’ll eventually become a terrific hitter all-around. The young lefty also tends to strikeout a lot (138 K’s in 601 PA’s), so that will be another hurdle for his rise to elite-hood.

5. Is this Francisco Rodriguez’s last year with the Mets?

Ben: That depends. His contract states that if he finishes 55 games in 2011, his 2012 option for [gulp] $17.5 million becomes guaranteed. My guess is that the Mets will try their best to prevent that from happening without a grievance from the player’s union, and happily pay him the $3.5 million buyout if he fails to reach the above clause.

6. I’ll ask you the same prospect question.  Which Mets’ prospect are you most excited to see and when will he debut?

Ben: I’m excited about both shortstop Wilmer Flores or pitcher Jennry Mejia. Flores has been playing shortstop in the minors, but apparently he doesn’t quite have the build for it. Regardless of which position he’ll eventually play, it’s his bat that’s most exciting. Flores is at least two years away (he’s only 19).

Mejia saw some action out of the Mets bullpen last season (4.62 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, and 1.10 K/BB ratio in 39 IP), but his future is as a starting pitcher. I’d like to see him pitch a full season in Triple-A this year, but he’s just about a lock to crack the Mets rotation in 2012.

Rockies Questions

1. Who do you see being the Rockies starting second baseman by season’s end?

Logan: One of the Rockies best strengths is their depth and that is on full display at second.  They won’t have one regular second baseman this year.  It will be a fluid situation directed by the match-ups.  Tracy will use a combination of Jose Lopez and Jonathan Herrera with Ty Wigginton getting the occasional start.  Lopez and Herrera bring different games to the table, but both have been very valuable so far this season.  Also, Lopez will be needed some at third.

2. Troy Tulowitski received a 10 year, $157.75 million contract–is he worth it?

Logan: Is any player worth that kind of commitment?  When Tulo signed this deal, I wrote of the risk that the Rockies were taking.  After all, this is a guy that has made his fair share of DL trips.  Now, eight games into a ten year deal, I still think the contract is risky.  However, I do admire the Rockies attempts to lock up players during their prime seasons.  They are paying Tulo and CarGo early in hopes that they don’t have to overpay them later.  I’m just hoping that this approach won’t blow up in their faces.

3. Do you think Carlos Gonzalez can build on his monstrous 2010, or will his lack of walks (40 BB) and high strikeout totals (135 K’s) stand in his way?

Logan: So far this season, CarGo appears to be a much more mature hitter.  He is laying off many of the bad pitches that he would’ve swung at last year.  In Friday’s 14 inning marathon, he went 0-7 with 3 K’s.  He was a little too aggressive and swinging too hard.  On Saturday, he made sure to take pitches and he shortened his swing.  He had three hits.  It was a very mature set of adjustments.  I think he is going to have a monster season.

4. Will 2011 finally be the year where Chris Iannetta breaks out and proves 2008 wasn’t just a tease?

Logan: Even in 2008 he only had half of a good season.  I don’t know about Bull Hurley Iannetta.  He started out on fire this season, but I don’t think he had a hit in three games at Pittsburgh.  He’s a good defensive catcher that adeptly handles the pitching staff and calls a good game.  He doesn’t have to be Piazza at the plate, but he can’t revert back into 2010 form.  So far this year, he’s been better, but I wonder if he is capable of ever becoming a serious offensive threat.

5. When will Todd Helton hang up the spikes?

Logan: I thought it might happen last weekend when his delicate back went out again.  However, it sounds like he feels much better.  If he can’t stay healthy, there is a very good chance this will be his last year.  Todd is humble, but also prideful.  He loves to play, but won’t continue if he becomes too much of a liability.  Prior to the back spasms he was looking great this season.  It sounds like he’ll be back against the Mets.  If his back holds up, he has another year or two in him.

6. Which prospect in the Rockies system are you most excited to see in the majors, and will we see this player soon?

Logan: Left-handed reliever, Rex Brothers, almost made the team out of spring training.  In fact, if they hadn’t been out of options with Franklin Morales, he probably would have.  Brothers has a big time fastball and a wipe-out slider.  Many believe he is the Rockies’ closer of the future.  He will probably debut sometime this year.

The other player is catcher, Wilin Rosario.  Rosario tore his ACL last July.  He’s back on the diamond, but not quite 100%.  Rosario can hit and is going to be a very good defensive catcher.  If Iannetta continues to struggle, this may be Rosario’s last season in the minors.

Thanks to Ben for teaming up with me on this and enjoy the series.  Go Rockies!!!

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Topics: Angel Pagan, Bernie Madoff, CarGo, Chris Capuano, Chris Ianetta, Colorado Rockies, Esmil Rogers, Francisco Rodriguez, Greg Reynolds, Ike Davis, Jason Hammel, Jonathon Niese, Jorge De La Rosa, Mets-Rockies Series Preview, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, R.A. Dickey, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Tulo

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