Presumably it was going to come down to Jhoulys Chacin and Jeremy Guthrie for who would be opening day starter when the Rockies take the field against the Houston Astros on April 6th. Every other pitcher competing for a spot in the rotation carries with him a significant question mark, whether it be age (young and old), maturity, effectiveness in Colorado, etc. It appears that Guthrie and Chacin are two relative sure things at the top of a rotation situation that is otherwise filled with by-now-quite-familiar issues moving forward.
It is Guthrie who will be announced as the opening day starter in the coming days, as reported by the Denver Post this morning. This makes sense for a number of reasons as the second half of March approaches.
He has been there before, having started three of the last four opening days for the Baltimore Orioles. The fanfare of that atmosphere will not jolt Guthrie out of his normal routine, something that would have been at least a little bit of a risk for Chacin. The excitement of the first day of the season means that every team gets noticed, even those who might get overlooked otherwise. Given the bumpy start to Chacin’s offseason, his new blister, and the continued pressure on him to be the next big stud in the system, it makes a lot of sense for him to pitch the second game of that series against the Astros when all of the fireworks smoke and excitement of April 6th has passed.
It is also the continuation of the team’s emphasis on clubhouse culture, as it appears that Guthrie is being rewarded for his work ethic and leadership during training camp as much as he is his career resume. The team will continue to bludgeon everybody who follows the Rockies with the message that having a healthy team atmosphere is absolutely crucial to any success they hope to have.
In the long run of the grueling season, the very first game will only matter so much. Even so, Jeremy Guthrie will have an opportunity to set the tone for the Colorado starting rotation. Hopefully these will be the messages he sends with his preparation and his performance: pitch to contact, don’t try to do too much, and don’t try to be something you’re not. If those approaches sink in with the up-and-comers who will presumably fill the 2 through 5 spots moving forward, then a solid opening day start will be one among many important contributions from the veteran.