In the Rockpile: Betancourt blows it … almost

Rafael Betancourt is struggling for the Colorado Rockies so far this spring. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Now that Peyton Manning is a Denver Bronco – which required no promotion by Todd Helton — I can move back to Rockies spring training, where the Rockies are 9-8. I got to watch my first televised Rockies game this week as Jeremy Guthrie pitched 4.1 innings before getting pulled after loading the bases and walking Andre Ethier for a run on four straight balls.

My concern in this game was Rafael Betancourt’s performance. It wasn’t much of one as he gave up four runs in the top of the ninth to turn a 6-2 Rockies lead into a 6-6 tie. Betancourt is a big question mark as a closer. He pitches some solid strikes, but he can be shell-shocked easily, as was the case on Saturday.

Coming to save the day was Josh Roenicke, who got the win thanks to a good pinch-hitting appearance by minor-leaguer Tim Wheeler, who walked off Logan Bawcom to win the game.

The starting pitching has been good so far in Rockies Cactus League play. Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz and Guthrie have done well, from Pomeranz’ 0.00 ERA on the low end to Nicasio’s 2.25 on the high end. What is troublesome is the bullpen’s 10 guys over 4.00, with Betancourt rocking a 12.27 ERA in four appearances.

Betancourt is going to be key as the Rockies play a lot of close games during a regular season. The closer has to keep them in the game; blowing it is counterproductive to having a good season. I’m just saying.

Luckily, the Rockies have options for closing out a game: Rex Brothers and Roenicke. Part of the reason Brothers is in the majors is because of the belief that he can close games. He can, but I wouldn’t want to call him my go-to guy quite yet. Roenicke has been good in late innings and ended the bottom of the inning for Betancourt on Saturday, so he could come along.

Speaking of go-to guys, Chacin has been doing the Ubaldo by having finger issues like U did at the beginning of the 2011 season. Chacin got a blister on his right index finger, but is not expected to miss any starts.

Troubling, in the way of the lineup, is the exceptionally low OBP and batting average of Dexter Fowler. As the leadoff hitter, he has to be better at getting himself on base. If it wasn’t for his speed and good glove work in center field, he would be a minor-leaguer. Fowler has to be better, and manager Jim Tracy has said he doesn’t want to tinker with the lineup as much this season. Fortunately for Tracy, I am a suburban swami, and I can tell his future: If Fowler is to remain the leadoff hitter, he better hit that ball or the manager will be forced into shuffling the lineup.

It is still spring training. There is still 162 to be played and a month of October baseball. Don’t hit the panic button because the bullpen isn’t gelling, or that Fowler is being preseason Fowler. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Helton are batting in a respectable way, but the lineup had a major turnover, so time must be taken to allow them to figure each other out.

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