Klee: Rockies have just about everything, except one thing

By: Paul Klee
May 20, 2014 Updated: May 20, 2014 at 11:15 pm
Caption +
Colorado Rockies' Nolan Areando follows the flight of his walkoff double to drive in two runs against the San Francisco Giants in the ninth inning of the Rockies' 5-4 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — As the setting sun dipped below the mountain backdrop, Rockies CEO Dick Monfort dug into his pocket for a wad of cash.

He ordered a pop. Patting the pop guy on the back, the team owner handed over a tip, sizable enough that the pop guy returned before the bottom of the inning.

Then Monfort stood from his front-row seat and cheered a Troy Tulowitzki double.

It will take another wad of cash to secure the next addition to Coors Field, but we promise it will be worth it. The Rockies need a bat signal. Not a Bat signal; a bat signal. Each time Tulo strolls to the plate to build on a .390-plus average, shine the bat signal high into the night sky.

Let the baseball world know it's about to get real, and ya'll should tune in.

These Rockies have a lot, almost everything.

But do they have the one thing that would ensure their place as a real-life contender in the NL West? Do they have the back end of a pitching rotation that can keep pace with that of the Giants, who entered this series as the division leaders? Not yet.

It's teasing, really, because the Rockies have just about everything else. They certainly have gumption, a smidgeon of pizzazz, underscored again with a gripping 5-4 win against the Giants. Nolan Arenado's walk-off double scored Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez and made Tuesday just about a perfect night at the ballpark.

The Rockies have more than they don't have. What they have is Tulo, whose bat is so hot it's illegal in some states (well, only Utah). When Tulo's up, the bat signal should flash. They have an infield defense custom-built for run prevention at Coors Field, a lineup that removed Charlie Blackmon's .339 average and still got to Giants ace Madison Bumgarner for three earned runs and eight hits. It's a lineup that also includes the NL batting champ after Michael Cuddyer returned from the DL on Tuesday.

"Put my pompoms away and pick up a glove," Cuddy said in the clubhouse before the game.

What they don't have — along with Tulo's bat signal — is a bottom end of the pitching rotation that can turn their fun start into a lasting impression. What they don't have could be enough to prevent them from really, truly contending for the playoffs.

They don't have to fear the Giants batting order. Not in the final two games of this series, nor for the rest of the season, unless the Giants make like 2012 all over again.

One glance at the bright lights of the Coors Field scoreboard provided all you need to know about the Giants lineup: one player hitting above .300. One. The Rockies had five, and Blackmon was on the bench, presumably stroking his epic beard.

But the Rockies have every reason to fear the Giants pitching staff. It's what the Rockies don't have, not in the No. 4 and 5 spots, anyway.

There's a happy ending to this story. There could be, at least. What the Rockies have — so we're told — is a corral of promising arms on the Tulsa plains and the foothills of Colorado Springs. One, if not more, must make the leap.

Will it be the Drillers' Eddie Butler, Jonathan Gray or Danny Winkler? Will it be the Sky Sox's Christian Bergman, Tyler Matzek, even Yohan Flande? Only the Rockies know.

But isn't Coors Field a dark, scary place that can scar young pitchers for life?

"I don't think that's the case," said Giants right-hander Matt Cain, who's on the mound Wednesday. "The biggest thing is getting guys out and not letting the elements affect you. It's the same as pitching when it's cold or windy or whatever."

To show it is serious about winning now, the Rockies front office won't need to dig into its pocket - for another pop, or another pitcher.

At some point, preferably while just about everything else is in place, the Rockies must take a chance on one of these young pitchers and find out what they have.

That would send a signal — as flashy and cool as a Tulo bat signal — the Rockies aren't wasting everything they have right now.

Let the baseball world know it's about to get real, and you should all tune in.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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