Notes: Carvajal is one cool customer
Rockies will practice patience with 20-year-old
COLORADO SPRINGS -- Here's what's cool about right-handed pitcher Marcos Carvajal's sudden rise from, essentially, a Class A pitcher in the Dodgers' system last season to the Rockies' Opening Day roster:
There hasn't been time to get nervous -- yet.
Carvajal did get a three-inning cameo with Double-A Jacksonville last year, but the other 36 appearances were at Columbus, Ga., in the South Atlantic League. But the Rockies took Carvajal, a 20-year-old from Venezuela, in the Rule 5 Draft, and he showed enough to convince Colorado to keep him. He'll have to remain on the active roster all season or else be offered back to the Dodgers.
"Last year, throwing in A-ball, this year throwing in the big leagues?" Carvajal wondered. "It's different. But I won't be nervous. I don't know why. I've never been nervous."
Of course, Carvajal is still a couple of days away from Monday afternoon's opener against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. So the Rockies are going to be careful with him.
Carvajal's workload will be lighter from that of the Rockies' last Rule 5 pitcher, left-hander Javier Lopez in 2003. Lopez was 25 at the time, had played three seasons at the University of Virginia, and had pitched a full season in Double-A. As one of just two lefties in the bullpen, Lopez would appear in 75 games, often to face key left-handed hitters.
This year, Carvajal is one of five right-handed relievers, with the next youngest being closer Chin-hui Tsao, 23, currently on the disabled list with shoulder pain.
"We'll not [baby] him, but choose situations wisely, and see how he competes," Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "We'll get to know the young man a little bit more. I want to avoid those situations, as best we can, where a game is riding on every single pitch he throws. Sometimes those situations are easy, sometimes they're difficult to find."
Carvajal's fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph when he was with the Dodgers. He topped out at 94-95 mph in Arizona while going 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. He faced a lot of traffic, giving up 19 hits, six walks and a hit batter, but escaped many of the self-inflicted jams. It fits the profile of a pitcher who has strong numbers for strikeouts (185 whiffs in 184 2/3 career innings) and batting average against (.205 since entering rookie ball in 2002) but also has a high number of walks (85).
During Saturday's 5-1 exhibition loss to Triple-A Colorado Springs, he hit a batter, walked another and gave up a two-run double to Sean Barker.
Carvajal may have a lot to learn, but Colorado has few pitchers with the velocity that he brings and could afford him to spend a year developing under Major League coaching. Standing 6-foot-4 and listed at 175 pounds, Carvajal could pitch with more power once he matures.
Apodaca has chosen to coach Carvajal lightly, limiting his input to reminders about timing, balance and his release point.
"Just the ABCs," Apodaca said. "I think you can over-coach any athlete. If you stick to the basic fundamentals, that'll alleviate some of the problems that can arise."
Tsao improves: Tsao, who is beginning the year on the disabled list with rotator cuff inflammation, threw off the slope of the mound on Friday in Albuquerque with no pain and threw in the outfield before Saturday's game with Triple-A Colorado Springs. Next is a bullpen session scheduled for Sunday at Coors Field, during the Rockies' workout.
If all goes well, he'll take Monday off, throw on the Rockies' off-day on Tuesday, then possibly have a minor league injury rehab assignment. Tsao is eligible to come off the DL next Saturday when the Rockies are in San Francisco.
Also steadily improving is infielder Desi Relaford, who is on the DL with floating cartilage in his left knee. Relaford is in Tucson, Ariz., playing nine innings in minor league games. He has played left field, right field, third base, second base and shortstop. He'll also be eligible to return next Saturday.
Officially on Saturday, the Rockies placed Relaford and Rule 5 Draft selection left-hander Matt Merricks (shoulder tightness) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 25.
Easy Eddie: The Rockies felt that right-hander Eddie Gaillard was rushing to get into top form. Before camp, he hadn't pitched since last May because of elbow problems that led to a surgery to remove bone chips. To give him more time, the Rockies reassigned him to Colorado Springs on March 25.
But he continued to pitch with the Rockies through Spring Training and found his form. Pitching for Colorado Springs on Saturday, Gaillard continued his strong work. In the fourth inning, he gave up a walk and a hit but forced Dustan Mohr into an inning-ending double-play grounder.
Gaillard, 34, who had played in the Majors with Detroit and Tampa Bay but was a star closer for most of the past five seasons in Japan, could be one of the first pitchers called up if the Colorado staff runs into problems.
"I think they still think I'm good enough to help this team -- not just be on the team to help eat up innings-- but help win games," Gaillard said.
End of exhibitions: The Rockies could leave Colorado Springs with smiles. Right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim, lit up for eight runs, six earned, on Friday against Texas in Albuquerque, N.M., pitched a scoreless seventh inning on Saturday.
Kim, acquired in a trade with Boston on Wednesday, walked two, but finished the inning by striking out Jeff Baker, one of the Rockies' top power-hitting prospects. Baker is ticketed for Double-A Tulsa, but could earn a Major League look by season's end.
Kim's slider on Saturday was better than the one that was crushed repeatedly the previous game, but nothing like Rockies manager Clint Hurdle remembers from Kim's days as a dominant closer with Arizona.
"He's got some work to do," Hurdle said. "Everybody's going to be in a hurry, and I'm just going to tell you to slow down. He needs to get work in. He needs to get innings in.
"I think he was just wound up [on Friday]. He had flown all night. He's still jumpy today. He wanted to get back in the game so bad after last night's performance."
After leaving Saturday's game, Kim returned to the bullpen to work on mechanics.
"It was definitely a positive outing for me," Kim said through Daniel Kim, who had worked previously as an interpreter for another Korean pitcher, the New York Mets' Jae Seo. "Even after I was taken out of the game, I went to the bullpen and worked on a couple of things with the coaches."
The No. 4 and No. 5 starters got work on Saturday. Jeff Francis started and gave up one hit and struck out three in three innings. Jamey Wright gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two in three innings, but Hurdle noted that Wright pitched well in his previous outing.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.