During the 2011 Season there were two major things that held the Rockies back; injuries, and starting pitching. In some cases these two things were together, as the Rockies endured some bad injuries to some pitchers, who could have been part of the backbone of the bullpen. The Rockies had many injuries in the 2011 Season, sometimes resulting in call-ups from the minors. ALthough players from all parts of the field, such as Carlos Gonzalez, who had major wrist problems, to second base that was a constantly changing part, as players were injured or just needed a break. At the end of the year, even as those games were not all that important, the Rockies were faced with some troubling injuries to Cargo, Tulo and Todd Helton, in my opinion the biggest parts of the lineup. All the injuries took a toll on the Rockies, but some of the worst, and most important were to the Rockies’ starting rotation.
The first starting rotation injury was a ligament tear in Jorge De La Rosa’s arm. Jorge was a solid man on the mound for the Rockies in some previous seasons, but the plan for his starting pitching appearances changed, when he had a bad injury in the very, and too, early season. De La Rosa tor his ulnar collateral ligament in the very early season, and had to undergo Tommy John surgery to help repair the ligament. De La Rosa was a solid pitcher for the Rockies in the past seasons, and was a big loss to the bullpen. The Rockies at the beginning of the season felt that they could have a solid rotation, with previously amazing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, De La Rosa, and Aaron Cook. Both Cook and Jimenez were both great at one point in their careers, but had been slowly weakening in the recent seasons. As the season progressed, the rotation became one of the biggest headaches for the Rockies, as all their pitchers were not very consistent, making the loss of De La Rosa an even bigger one.
Jorge’s surgery went as good as the Rockies could have hoped for, but even as they hired one of the best surgeons for this, there is no guarantee that De La Rosa will be able to pitch as he was before the surgery. The surgery was clean, and went very well, but it is surgery nonetheless, and the human body takes its time when recovering from things like this, as it will with De La Rosa. With this complicated operation, which MLB pitchers have undergone for many years, there is a good probability that De La Rosa will never be the same that he was, in fact this statement is almost always true. Although there have been some comebacks for pitchers after the surgery, the chances of returning to your previous level of pitching is low. At the moment, according the Rockies, Jorge will not be ready to start out on the Roster in 2012. De La Rosa has been training to get back to the majors since only a few weeks after his surgery, and has been making progress, towards hopefully the Majors again. The Rockies will need De La Rosa in the coming seasons, so hopefully he recovery is on-track, and he will be able to pitch in the near future. De La Rosa may not be able to start the 2012 Season, but there is another light for the Rockies in their 2012 season, as Juan Nicasio should be ready to start this coming Spring Training.
The other big starting rotation injury for the Rockies was the extremely unfortunate injury of Juan Nicasio, a young pitcher, new to the U.S. Nicasio, as Jimenez edged closer and closer to trade, seemed like the future bright spot of the Rockies rotation, and with the inconsistency of the present rotation, maybe the only one. Nicasio was not perfect, but he was in some ways more consistent than anyone else the Rockies could have on the mound. He went 4-4, not an ideal game record, but some of those losses were due to the lack of offense in his starts. Nicasio was a big arrival for the Rockies, a young player with promise and hard work, who seemed like a major future in the 2011 Season, if he improved his skills in the Majors with the Rockies. Then, on August 5, 2011, an event that would forever change his life, and his baseball career occurred. With Ian Esmond up-to bat Nicasio was struck with the ball on a line drive off Desmond’s bat. Nicasio had little time to react, and took the blow directly to his head and neck. Not only that, but on the way down, Nicasio fell on his head, on the dirt of the mound. Trainers, medical personnel, manager Jim Tracy, and players all rushed to the mound to help him. The fact of the matter was, there was little the players could do but watch, and offer the young, talented pitcher support. Juan was wheeled off the field on a medical cart, on a stretcher, where he was transferred to an ambulance, and then sent directly to the hospital.
Nicasio had broken his C-1 vertebrae, the top vertebrae of your spinal cord, and also had very bad damage to his skull. Although the mood was of worry in the Rockies clubhouse, and obviously in the hospital, the wonders of modern medicine were then put to work, as Nicasio underwent tests, and eventually had surgery on his head and neck. The doctors placed a metal plate in the back of part if Nicasio’s skull, and several metal screws on the back of his neck. Nicasio was aware of the decisions he had to make involving his health, and was always in the interest of being able to play in the big leagues again. This surgery, was the best shot Nicasio had at getting back to being able to pitch again, so he was very interested in the operation. After being able to leave the hospital, Nicasio went to the Rockies Clubhouse, where he was greeted with smiles, support, and his teammates, as they saw him again after a terrible incident, on the field. One of Nicasio’s concerns was his neck brace, showing that he really did want to be able to get back to normal, as the talented and strong young major league pitcher he was.
The Rockies will need Nicasio to help out in the Starting Rotation, if some other pitchers don’t come around to the Rockies, but even if some do, the talent and attitude of Nicasio would greatly help the Rockies, as they look to erase a 2011 Season, that had disappointment and pain some of the characteristics, looking back. Although this season lacked the flourish the Rockies were hoping for, there were good parts, as well, and some great players from the minors called up, but not all of them made it out of the season with full health.
One of these talented, but now injured players was Charlie Blackmon, a young outfielder with a lot of promise, and great play. Blackmon was brought up to the majors, as the Rockies looked to find help with their unsteady outfield, as Dexter Fowler faced injury, along with Carlos Gonzalez, and the Rockies needed a player to count on in the outfield. Blackmon only played with the Rockies for a short amount of time, before breaking his left foot, while rounding the second base bag during a game, when there was noticeably nothing very wrong with the way he ran the bases. Blackmon was not a huge loss for the Rockies, but his injury still maintained the gloomy state of mind, that came to me when thinking of the state of the Rockies’ 2011 health. Blackmon played mostly left field while with the Rockies, and may help out in the outfield in the 2012 Season, if needed. Blackmon batted a respectable .255 batting average in his Major League games, and had an impressive .296 Slugging %.
The bottom line is, in the 2012 Season, the Rockies, if they will be able to play to the extent that fans want, will need good health, luck, and fans!