Decimated, sliding Rockies lose Michael Cuddyer and Eddie Butler
Just when the Rockies thought things couldn't get much worse, they have. Last Wednesday, Carlos Gonzalez hit the disabled list, where he joined Nolan Arenado. Monday's triage report added Michael Cuddyer and Eddie Butler — the latter of whom had just made his major league debut — to the rolls of those sidelined, and lest you think that they got off scot-free in the interim, they also placed Jordan Lyles and Boone Logan on the DL somewhere in between. Meanwhile, they've now lost 10 out of 11 games and 20 out of their last 27.
Cuddyer's loss may have the biggest impact on the offense, and it owed something to the previous loss of Arenado, because the 35-year-old rightfielder had been dabbling at third base for the first time since 2010. Last Thursday, while the position for just the third time this season, he injured his left shoulder diving for a groundball. He hadn't played since, but was believed to be available until Monday, when the team revealed that he had suffered a non-displaced fracture of his shoulder socket, which will sideline him for six to eight weeks. It's the second trip to the DL this year for Cuddyer, who missed four weeks in April and May due to a left hamstring strain. In between, he was hitting .317/.366/.500 for a 124 OPS+, third on the team behind Troy Tulowitzki (186) and part-timer Corey Dickerson (156).
The absences of Cuddyer and Gonzalez — who, by the way, is set to have exploratory surgery on his injured left index finger on Tuesday and has no timetable to return — leave manager Walt Weiss with an outfield consisting of lefties Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon (.298/.343/.491 for a 115 OPS+) and righties Drew Stubbs (.315/.351/.476, 114 OPS+) and Brandon Barnes (.313/.353/.455, 110 OPS+). Of that group, only Blackmon has been a full-time fixture in the lineup, and while Weiss has mixed and matched to great effect, prolonged exposure to same-handed pitching could take a bite out of their production, particularly that of Stubbs, who has a massive career platoon split (.816 OPS vs. lefties, .652 vs. righties).
As for Butler, the 23-year-old righty — a 2012 supplemental first-round pick who came into the year ranked as high as 17th on major top-100 prospects lists (that ranking via ESPN's Keith Law) — was cuffed for 10 hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings by the Dodgers on Friday, and on Monday was revealed to be suffering from inflammation of his rotator cuff. As with the Pirates and Gerrit Cole, the Rockies don't believe the injury is a serious one that will sideline him for long. His loss paves the way for another major league debut, that of 2009 first-round pick Tyler Matzek, a 23-year-old righty who made prospect lists in 2010 and 2011 but has since seen his stock fall due to mechanical issues that have compromised his control and velocity. In his first taste of Triple-A Colorado Springs, Matzek put up a 4.05 ERA while striking out 8.2 per nine, but his high walk and homer rates (4.2 and 1.1 per nine, respectively) offer cause for concern.
Matzek, who's scheduled to start against the Braves on Wednesday, would actually be the third Rockies starter to debut inside of a week. Monday night brought that of 26-year-old righty Christian Bergman, who was replacing Lyles, who suffered a broken metacarpal bone in his left (glove) hand while making a play at the plate last Thursday. A 24th-round choice from 2010 with elite control (1.7 walks per nine at Colorado Springs) if not the stuff to miss many bats (5.8 strikeouts per nine), Bergman held the Braves to two runs and seven baserunners over six innings in a losing cause in his debut. That's almost certainly enough to earn him another start in the team's short-handed rotation, which is also without Brett Anderson (fractured left index finger, out until early July) and Tyler Chatwood (flexor tendon strain, out until late July).
There's no timetable yet on Lyles, whose 3.52 ERA and 121 ERA+ are both the best on the team. Of the remaining starters, only Jorge De La Rosa has an ERA+ better than 100 (105, on a 4.04 ERA); Juan Nicasio (4.68 ERA, 91 ERA), Jhoulys Chacin (5.35 ERA, 80 ERA+) and Franklin Morales (5.64 ERA, 75 ERA+) have all underperformed, the latter to the point of being sent to the bullpen after his May 31 shellacking, his sixth non-quality start in a seven-start stretch. As a reliever, Morales blends into a landscape where fellow lefties Logan (5.87 ERA via 2.3 HR/9) and Rex Brothers (5.14 ERA via 5.5 BB/9) have failed to distinguish themselves.
At some point, 2013 overall number three pick Jonathan Gray, who came into the year ranked as high as 12th on prospect lists (both ESPN and Baseball America had him there) is likely to join the fray. The 22-year-old righty has pitched to a 3.97 ERA with an impressive 3.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Double-A Tulsa, but he has just 96 1/3 minor league innings under his belt in his professional career, and has been roughed up in his last two turns. Butler and Gray were supposed to give a midseason shot in the arm to a team that appeared to be one of the National League's top surprises as recently as a month ago; they were 22-14 through May 7, tied for first in the NL West with the Giants. Since then, they've gone 7-20 with one rain-shortened tie, falling to third in the division, 12 1/2 games out. Their last six losses (against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Braves) have come at Coors Field, where they had previously been 16-7; meanwhile, they have the majors' third-lowest winning percentage on the road (.364) via a an abysmal 12-21 record. At 29-34 overall, a shot at their first season above .500 since 2010 isn't yet out of the question, but as the injuries mount, their odds get increasingly longer.