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News » Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01

Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01

Colorado Rockies Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01
--RF Brad Hawpe suffered a cut on his left little finger when spiked in a Feb. 27 game, and he will be unable to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

--1B Todd Helton, 35, likely won't reach his past heights -- five All-Star Game appearances, three Gold Gloves and two seasons when he topped 40 homers and 140 RBIs -- but the Rockies hope he can play 130 or more games, hit third on a regular basis and be instrumental in helping the team rebound from its disappointing 74-88 finish last year.

Back troubles limited Helton to two pinch-hitting appearances last season after July 4. He played in just 83 games and hit .264 with seven homers and 29 RBIs.

"An ordinary Todd Helton is better than most players," RHP Aaron Cook said. "Having him back is a big lift for us. He's the guy we all look to."

Helton underwent back surgery Sept. 30 to remove the pressure a bulging disk in his lower back was putting on a nerve, creating pain and numbness in his left leg.

Helton sat out the Rockies' first two exhibition games and said he's about a week behind in his conditioning, but he was doing all the drills and participating fully in batting practice.

--LHP Jeff Francis underwent arthroscopic surgery Feb. 25 on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum and to clean up the rotator cuff, the latter process known as a debridement. The operation was performed by Dr. Thomas Noonan, the Rockies' medical director, at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Recovery time is expected to be at least six months, making it likely Francis will miss the entire 2009 season. However, he could be ready to pitch by September, which would give him a chance to test the shoulder in game conditions before the offseason and possibly boost his confidence as he eyes 2010.

Francis will make $3.75 million this season, the third of a four-year, $13.25 million contract. He'll make $5.75 million in 2010, with the Rockies holding a $7 million option for 2011.

--Contrary to reports that he tested positive for steroids, INF Luis Gonzalez, who is attempting to return to the Rockies, was suspended May 25 from playing professionally in Japan for a year for testing positive for three types of stimulants.

Gonzalez was playing for the Yomiuri Giants and, according to Japanese news reports, tested positive after a game April 30, 2008. Gonzalez played three seasons with the Rockies before being sold to the Japanese club prior to the 2007 season. He hit .307 in 32 games for the Giants before testing positive for the use of amphetamines. Gonzalez has been cleared by Major League Baseball.

Medical officials supported Gonzalez in his explanation that the stimulants were contained in prescription medicine for a gout-like condition that causes extreme swelling, a condition that periodically affected Gonzalez while he played with the Rockies.

--Ryan Spilborghs, projected to be the Rockies' starting center fielder, is now being represented by Scott Boras, the same agent who represented former Rockies LF Matt Holliday. The Rockies were unable to sign Holliday, who can be a free agent after this season, to a long-term contract and traded him to the A's in November for RHP Huston Street, LHP Greg Smith and OF Carlos Gonzalez.

Spilborghs, who will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season, had been represented by Dan Evans, a former general manager of the Dodgers who also represents Rockies LHP Glendon Rusch.

--Spilborghs is expected to bat first, replacing Willy Taveras, who was not re-signed. Spilborghs has nowhere near Taveras' speed. Taveras led the majors with 68 stolen bases last year, while Spilborghs has 16 steals in 254 major league games. But Taveras' on-base percentage last year was .308, and Spilborghs' was .407, including .389 in 18 games batting leadoff, when he hit .306. Taveras had 18 extra-base hits and 102 singles last year while batting .251 and hit one homer in 479 at-bats. Twenty-two of Spilborghs' 73 hits last year went for extra bases, including six homers in 233 at-bats. Lifetime, Spilborghs has 21 homers in 668 at-bats.

"You look how many times we had our leadoff hitter come up with runners in scoring position last season, and we didn't really fare well," manager Clint Hurdle said. "So now we have a guy that is able to hit the ball in the gap and actually able to click a ball now and then."

--Three Rockies prospects were selected to Baseball America's list of the top 100 prospects. CF Dexter Fowler was 15th, RHP Jhoulys Chacin was 46th, and LHP Christian Friedrich, the Rockies' first-round draft pick last year, was 95th.

--Rockies participants in the World Baseball Classic include C Chris Iannetta and RF Brad Hawpe with Team USA, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), RHP Manuel Corpas (Panama), RHP Jason Grilli (Italy) and LHP Adam Bright (Australia).

--3B Ian Stewart was scratched from the lineup Feb. 26 due to a strained left biceps. Trainer Keith Dugger said Stewart suffered the injury during batting practice and that he likely would be able to play on March 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: .311 -- On-base percentage last year by Rockies leadoff hitters, who ranked 28th in the majors in that category and tied for 23rd with 58 RBIs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If he's in major league spring training camp, he knows he belongs there. He knows he's going to do the job. He's a very mature kid. He knows what he wants, and he trusts his ability." -- Rolando Fernandez, Rockies director of international operations, on pitching prospect Jhoulys Chacin, 21, who is in big league camp after going 10-1 with a 1.86 ERA at low Class A Asheville and 8-2 with a 2.31 ERA at high Class A Modesto last year.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 1, 2009

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