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Paul Klee: On Coors Field's Opening Day, Rockies return to postseason depends on starting pitching — weather or not

By: Paul Klee
April 5, 2018 Updated: April 6, 2018 at 6:38 am
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Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland throws a pitch to Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Altherr during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, in Denver. Freeland was removed from the mound after the pitch because of an injury and replaced by relief pitch Chris Rusin. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — At long last, we’ll have the answer: At the center of the sports universe, does it snow?

Going back-to-back-to-back, the Nuggets (Thursday) and Avs (Saturday) are hosting games at Pepsi Center with — dun, dun — playoff implications. Sandwiched in between is the Rockies' Opening Day, Friday at Coors Field.

And the Broncos signed... a punter.

It’s a couch potato’s dream tripleheader — or a ticketholder’s call to body armor.

“First pitch: 35 degrees and windy with possible snow,” said Chris Bianchi, a meteorology guru at WeatherNation. “The snow shouldn’t accumulate much if we see it. But you never know...”

Well said, Weatherman. You never know about the Rockies.

Colorado’s pro sports teams, minus Vance Joseph's Broncos, are heating up. The Rox return to baseball’s postseason must start with the starters.

“We’ve got to guard a little against the sophomore season (slump),” manager Buddy Black said in the offseason, a telling statement that the skipper, like the rest of us, would like to see the young fellas prove it.

Sophomores Kyle Freeland, German Marquez (who starts Friday in the home opener against the Atlanta Braves), Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman performed varying roles as big-league freshmen. They were the surprise that helped the Rox into the Wild Card game last October. Freeland and Marquez are in the rotation, again, while Senzatela (bullpen) and Hoffman (10-day disabled list) began the season in other spots.

Can the sophomores double down their second time around? The Rockies wrapped up their first road trip on Thursday at 4-3. A winning swing away from Coors Field will always and forever be a win for the Rockies.

The high-priced bullpen has been as advertised. And if a lineup of Charlie Blackmon (the first fly fisherman to make $108 million at his night job), D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Ian Desmond, Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez can’t generate enough runs, there should be an investigation.

(Just don’t ask the Denver City Council.)

What the purple people greeters want to see is if the Rockies' starting pitching can duplicate what it did a year ago — give the lineup a chance to swing away and give the ’pen the stage in the seventh, eighth and ninth.

The Rockies beefed up elsewhere. The bullpen is pulling in over $100 million. Desmond's been a bust at $70 million, and CarGo is back for one more time at $8 million. They locked in Blackmon with the fourth-richest deal in club history. The Monforts have shown Rox fans the money.

All that hasn’t been adjusted, improved or tweaked is the starting pitching rotation. The Rockies are counting on organic development. The men selected for the job (and this will change) are all familiar: Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis, Marquez, Freeland. If the results are familiar, the Rockies will go back-to-back to the postseason for the first time.

Marquez was A-OK in his season debut at Arizona: four hits, no earned runs, five innings. Now he’s a 23-year-old native of Venezuela pitching in 30-degree temperatures on opening day. The coldest openers here, according to Denver’s CBS4, were 49 (1998, loss), 50 (2003, win) and 52 degrees (2014, win). The 26th opening day forecasts as a Rox record.

Will it snow at the center of the sports universe?

Bring it.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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