Examining The Colorado Rockies’ Options Besides Kyle Kendrick

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Apr 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss (22) relieves starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field. The Cubs won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kendrick had another tough start for the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night, allowing eight runs – including two home runs – in less than five innings of work.

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After the Arizona Diamondbacks roughed up the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night, starter Kyle Kendrick saw his ERA balloon to 8.36 (with a 6.96 FIP) in just 28 innings of work across his first five starts.

Needless to say, that’s not good. Kendrick, brought in on a one-year deal this winter to help shore up the Rockies’ pitching staff, has done just the opposite of what the Rockies were expecting.

So how long of a leash do the Rockies give? How much trust do the Rockies have in the veteran? Sure, he’s tossed more than 230 games in his big league career and the fact that he’s worked out of jams before will give him a longer look than if, say, Chad Bettis was recalled and struggled mightily, but even a veteran can be ineffective for only so long until a move is made.

Kendrick’s already bad stats look even worse when you remove his seven-inning shut out of the apparently terrible Brewers on Opening Day. Without that game, Kendrick’s line is ugly: 21 IP, 32 H, 26 R, 26 ER, 11 BB, 8 HR, 12 K, 11.14 ERA, and an 0-3 record.

He’s already bringing up comparisons to Jamie Moyer (who actually threw better than Kendrick at the start of his ill-fated season with the Rockies), and Jeremy Guthrie, who was shipped out of town midseason after proving ineffective.

I’m sorry, but – at present – Kyle Kendrick is not a Major League pitcher. Granted, because he’s a veteran, he might deserve another start or two to figure out what’s going on (and he’s said as much about getting right to the Denver Post recently).

But there is going to come a time where Kendrick needs to move on if he continues at this pace, because he’s not only getting hit hard, he’s now failing to keep the Rockies close in games, allowing eight runs twice and six runs once across his five starts. Allow four runs in a start and ask the Rockies offense to score five – hey, you can still win a lot of games like that. Ask the Rockies to score eight or nine runs every time you go out to the hill? Not a chance in you-know-where.

There’s one wrinkle in all this, though… who do you call up to replace Kendrick in the rotation? At present I can think of, well, eight options that are mostly in Albuquerque, but I’m down to hear your ideas if you have some more:

David Hale

Hale is returning from an oblique injury, and he was roughed up in his first start in Albuquerque, allowing seven runs on eight hits and two walks in just 1.2 innings. He will likely be up in the big leagues at some point this season, but he doesn’t seem to be ready yet, and it’d be a surprise to see him at Coors Field this quickly in light of his injury and his first bad start for the Isotopes.

John Lannan

Lannan recently went on the disabled list in Albuquerque, so depending on his recovery, he may be out of luck in the short term, though his injury (a back strain) wouldn’t appear to keep him out an extended period of time. The injury comes at a bad time, though; Lannan was throwing the ball very well for the Isotopes, allowing just one run on nine hits and four walks across 13 innings (two starts) with nine strikeouts. Look for the left-handed veteran to be in play as he gets healthy if Kendrick continues to struggle.

Jon Gray

Life would be simple if Gray were dominating the Pacific Coast League, right? Well… he’s not. It’s not yet a cause for concern; the PCL is a ridiculously hitter-favored league and Gray’s seeing AAA for the very first time as a 23-year old, so let’s not push the panic button on his prospect status. But he definitely isn’t an option to get called up now after allowing 32 hits and 22 runs in his first 17.2 PCL innings. Gray will be in the big leagues soon, but it won’t be in the next several weeks.

Chad Bettis

As I’d written about a few weeks ago, Bettis is throwing the ball decently and might be in line for the call-up ahead of anyone else on this list. He’s tossed 22 innings across four starts, allowed 11 runs on 24 hits and seven walks, and struck out 16. Not world-beater numbers, but a far cry from the struggles he had the last year or two, and possibly a sign he’s starting to figure out a role as a starting pitcher. Bettis might be worth a shot, if only to see if – once and for all – the Rockies should plan their future with him in it, or let him walk in favor of other arms.

Jair Jurrjens

Jurrjens came up briefly with the Rockies last year, and things didn’t go so well, but he was throwing well in Albuquerque early this year before, like Lannan, hitting the disabled list (with a groin strain). He had tossed six innings for the Isotopes, allowing just two runs on six hits while striking out five before the injury. I doubt he comes up for any significant period of time, but he is a long-time big league veteran, so I guess you never know.

Chris Rusin

Rusin is suffering from the Jon Gray problem – allowing a lot of hits in his starts (26 in just 16 innings), and considering he’s only struck out four batters across those 16 frames, he might not be ideal for a big league rotation right now.

Yohan Flande

Look, I’m kidding about this, but I’m not. Sure, Flande is down at AA New Britain, but who has – by far – the best statistics on this list? That’s Cy, er, Yohan Flande, friends; dude is dealing for the Rock Cats. His line in four starts: 24.2 IP, 20 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 21 K, 3-0 record with a 2.19 ERA.

I don’t believe Flande will be called up (and if he does, it should be as a reliever, where he was much better last season than as a starter), but his presence on this list just goes to highlight that, well, the organizational options to replace Kendrick aren’t great. But seriously, FLANDE FOREVER. (I’m down to add a Yohan Flande Fan Club to my Rafael Ynoa Fan Club, if anyone’s interested.)

Look outside the organization

Cole Hamels is available, so…. Just kidding. We’ve discussed arms like Mike Pelfrey before, and even though he now has a spot in the Twins’ rotation thanks to Ervin Santana’s suspension, it’s going to be guys like that the Rockies will have to seek. The club won’t come up with Hamels or any other “big name” pitcher, because (a) nobody big wants to pitch here, (b) it would cost an arm and a leg to bring a guy like that in, and (c) it doesn’t really make long-term sense for the Rockies assuming they still believe Gray, Eddie Butler, and further down the road Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson will develop into frontline rotation arms.

So, I’m curious: who would you want to get (that’s realistic) for the rotation from outside the Rockies’ organization?

Use Christian Bergman and call up a reliever

This is probably the most likely outcome. Bergman threw well (if only for four innings) in a spot start in San Francisco, and he’s sort of stuck as a long man in the bullpen right now. It’d make sense if, after another start or two where Kendrick struggles, Bergman assumes his rotation spot and either (a) Kendrick is banished to the bullpen in return, or (b) the Rockies call up another AAA reliever like Tommy Kahnle, Simon Castro, or Jairo Diaz.

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Above all, as frustrated as Rockies fans are with his performance, I think Kendrick will start another couple games for the club. I know, it sucks, and he’s throwing poorly enough that a lot of people want to move on now, but considering his contract, track record, the reasons the team brought him in, and the rest of the current rotation, get ready for at least a couple more Kendrick starts.

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