The recent play of Colorado Rockies veterans Matt Kemp and Chris Owings have youngsters Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard wondering when they might see the field again.
The Colorado Rockies have been a surprise team early on in this pandemic-shortened season and it has been fueled lately by a couple of unexpected players who were more or less thrust into playing time after early struggles by starters Sam Hilliard and Raimel Tapia. Veterans Matt Kemp and Chris Owings have capitalized on this increased playing time.
Kemp, the perennial “Rockies’ killer” who signed late with the Rockies after Ian Desmond opted out of the season, was expected to be a right-handed weapon off the bench and occasional designated hitter for manager Bud Black.
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Owings, a career .240 hitter, was a minor league signing this offseason as the Rockies took a chance on a veteran utility player who can play both the infield and outfield. He also provided a right-handed bat to the bench.
In the last three games, these two have come up big. With regular at-bats as the designated hitter, Kemp has gone 4-for-11 with a pair of homers, 4 RBI, and 4 runs scored. Owings has been just as good, going 6-for-11 with a home run, 2 RBI, and 4 runs scored. Their success, however, has come at the expense of Hilliard and Tapia.
Hilliard has started off the season 3-for-16 with 10 strikeouts to go along with his one home run and pair of runs batted in. Heading into Tuesday, he hasn’t played in the last three games after Owings pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the ninth in the Rockies’ 8-7 loss to the Padres on July 31.
Tapia has also not seen the field since also getting lifted that night against the Padres, in large part because his numbers have been just as bad, if not worse. In 13 at-bats, he has managed only two hits (both singles), driven only one run, and has struck out seven times.
Kemp has solidified himself as the Rockies’ DH and will continue to get everyday starts even against right-handed pitching. Owings will likely continue to split time between playing second base and left field, depending on pitching matchups.
Sooner or later, the Rockies will need Hilliard and Tapia to contribute. However, until Kemp and Owings cool off, their opportunities will likely be few and far between.