The Colorado Rockies are off to a surprising start, but the front office and first-year manager Walt Weiss made a mistake over the weekend. Their ace, Jhoulys Chacin came off the disabled list on Sunday, forcing the Rockies to make a move with one of their other starting pitchers.
The move they made was puzzling at best, and there are not enough words in the English language to explain their reasoning. The Rockies sent pitcher Tyler Chatwood back to Triple-A in order to make room in the rotation for Chacin.
Obviously bringing back Chacin is a no-brainer — he’s their best pitcher despite a rough return on Sunday.
However, the decision to send down Chatwood instead of Juan Nicaso is indefensible. Yes, it was only two starts, but Chatwood was terrific in both. He kept the Rockies in games, kept the ball down in the strike zone, threw strikes and worked quickly. That description is precisely what the Rockies are looking for in any starting pitcher; they finally got it, and they sent him packing.
Nicaso, on the other hand, can’t find the strike zone with a compass, and his pitch counts are usually in triple digits by the fifth inning. Of the two, Nicaso has more talent, but Chatwood is more productive.
No one is giving up on Nicaso: on the contrary, a trip to the minors would allow him to regain his control, which has always been a strength of his until this season. Keeping Nicaso in the bigs has the potential to do long-term damage if he keeps getting shelled.
Confidence is a fleeting thing even for the best pitchers, and it is extremely fragile for a young one like Nicasio. The Rockies are running the risk of destroying that confidence forever by keeping him with the big club. Most likely, Nicaso would only have to make two or three starts in the minors to work on some things before he would be ready to return.
It can also be argued that Jeff Francis should have been given his outright release when Chacin was ready to return, but two things may have prevented that. The first being that Francis has pitched better in his last two starts, and the Rockies are encouraged by that. Secondly, the Rockies cannot just send Francis to the minors — they would have to release him, and they are not ready to take that step.
I’ll be the first to argue that Francis is a liability and does not belong in a major league rotation, but he’s better than Nicaso at this very moment. They way to go was to send Nicaso down, keep Chatwood and then release Francis when Nicaso was ready to return.
The Rockies chose a different direction and now instead of having Chatwood in the rotation with only one weak link in Francis, the Rockies have two weak links.
It’s management’s job to put the team in the best position to win, and to manage the players’ futures. The Rockies have failed miserably on both fronts with this latest move. Chatwood gives the Rockies the best chance to win games right now, and Nicaso is walking that fine line of confidence.
If he falls off on the wrong side, the Rockies may never get him back and they would have only themselves to blame.
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