4 Colorado Rockies Last year's cellar-dwellers have a slew of new faces and a fresh style of play

March 27, 2000

The 10-page document bound with a plastic cover is never far from
its author. When he goes on the road, general manager Dan O'Dowd
keeps his blueprint for building a championship franchise in his
black shoulder bag. When he's in Denver, he stores it in the top
left drawer of his desk. He rarely allows anyone else to touch
the document, much less read it.

"From 1988 to '98 I was with Cleveland, and I saw how [Indians
general manager] John Hart built that organization into a
winner," says O'Dowd, who was hired by Colorado last September.
"I kept copious notes the entire time, and I put them all in this
manual. I refer to it constantly."

The first section of O'Dowd's blueprint is entitled "Identify
What Needs to Be Fixed." It's clear that when he joined the
Rockies seven months ago, O'Dowd identified plenty that needed
repairing. He spent the off-season gutting a team that finished
last year in the National League West cellar. Through a series of
trades and free-agent acquisitions, he added 18 players to
Colorado's 40-man roster. In the process he reshaped the Rockies
into a faster club, putting an end to the days of the Blake
Street Bombers. "I'm aggressive by nature," says O'Dowd, "and I'm
not done dealing yet. More changes will be made."

O'Dowd's first move was to hire Buddy Bell as his manager. Bell
has never seen a game in Coors Field, so he doesn't have any
firsthand knowledge of the nuances of playing in the rarefied
air. Still, he'll be as aggressive as he was when he managed from
1996 to '98 in Detroit, where he regularly employed the steal and
the hit-and-run. Bell values speed and defense--precisely the
areas on which O'Dowd focused in the off-season. "We're not going
to be as powerful as the club was last year," says Bell, "but
that doesn't mean we won't score as many runs."

Consider how new third baseman Jeff Cirillo and new leftfielder
Jeffrey Hammonds will affect the offense. They're replacing
popular veterans Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette, both of whom
were traded this winter. Castilla and Bichette, combined,
averaged 68 home runs and 247 RBIs in each of the past four
years. Cirillo and Hammonds averaged a combined 27 homers and 118
RBIs over the same span. Simple arithmetic obviously doesn't
justify the swap, but O'Dowd likes Cirillo's and Hammonds's
defense and ability to move runners. His thinking: In spacious
Coors Field bad defense and a lack of speed can be just as
debilitating as bad pitching. That's the big reason that O'Dowd
infused the Rockies with fresh and fast blood--even if it did
cause some awkward moments at training camp. "I had to wait for
guys to sit in front of their locker before I could go up and
introduce myself, because I had no idea who a lot of the new guys
were," says rightfielder Larry Walker. "It was a little
uncomfortable."

Early in the season Colorado will be uncomfortable on the field
as well, because their every-day lineup features four new
starters: Cirillo, Hammonds, centerfielder Tom Goodwin and
catcher Brent Mayne. The key player is Goodwin, who over the past
five years has the most stolen bases in the majors (243). Last
season, with the Rangers, he hit .259, and his on-base percentage
was just .324. He needs to draw more than the 40 walks he had in
1999 to give slugging first baseman Todd Helton and two-time
defending batting champion Walker sufficient RBI opportunities.

"We don't need to score 10 runs a night to win," says O'Dowd. "We
just need a few, because our pitching is vastly improved." Last
season the Rockies' ERA was an unsightly 6.01--the highest in the
majors. That number should drop significantly this year because
of the addition of Rolando Arrojo, acquired from the Devil Rays,
and Masato Yoshii, picked up from the Mets. Arrojo was an
All-Star in 1998 and has a good command of four pitches. Yoshii
struggled at the beginning of last season but rebounded to become
New York's top starter down the stretch. Colorado's ace is
30-year-old righthander Pedro Astacio, whom the Rockies feared
might be deported to his native Dominican Republic during spring
training because of a domestic violence charge. (A judge
temporarily suspended deportation proceedings in early March by
allowing Astacio to withdraw his guilty plea to third-degree
assault of his pregnant estranged wife last August, and ordered
Astacio to attend a trial scheduled for July 5; he still faces
deportation if convicted.)

The bullpen took a hit in spring training when Jerry Dipoto,
slated to be the closer, was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his
neck that will sideline him for at least the season's first two
weeks, and possibly longer. But the Rockies remain optimistic. "I
think our staff, like the rest of our team, will be improved,"
says O'Dowd. "Rebuilding this franchise won't happen overnight,
but we've got good enough players so we can win as we rebuild."

If that happens, O'Dowd ought to find a literary agent--he might
have a best-seller on his hands. --L.A.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA PACKAGE DEAL Cirillo isn't your typical Rockie--he has never hit more than 15 homers in a season--but O'Dowd likes his versatile bat and his defense. COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA

around the Horn

offense
[3 1/2 stars]
defense
[3 1/2 stars]
starting pitching
[3 stars]
bullpen
[2 1/2 stars]
manager
[3 stars]

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (NL rank)

Batting average .288 (1)
Runs scored 906 (2)
Home runs 223 (1)

1999 record: 72-90 (fifth in NL West)

Opponents' batting average .301 (16)
ERA 6.01 (16)
Fielding percentage .981 (8)

next up...

Thinking the day's workout was over, Ben Petrick turned his back
on the field and started to put his catcher's gear in his
equipment bag one afternoon this spring. That's when teammate
Darren Bragg smacked a one-hopper right at Petrick, hitting him
flush in the posterior. The incident was typical Petrick: The
ball didn't get past him. "Ben is a great athlete, that's why his
future is so bright," says manager Buddy Bell. "All he needs is
experience." Last year Petrick hit a combined .313 with 27 home
runs and 98 RBIs between Double A Carolina and Triple A Colorado
Springs, then hit .323 in 62 at bats with Colorado. Though Brent
Mayne will begin the year as the Rockies' starting catcher, it's
just a matter of time before Petrick, who turns 23 on April 7,
claims the job--for the next decade or so.

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Buddy Bell (first season with Colorado)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

CF Tom Goodwin[1] L-R 103 .259 3 33 39
2B Mike Lansing R 126 .310 4 15 2
RF Larry Walker L-R 11 .379 37 115 11
3B Jeff Cirillo[1] R 61 .326 15 88 7
1B Todd Helton L 34 .320 35 113 7
LF Jeffrey Hammonds[1] R 76 .279 17 41 3
SS Neifi Perez S-R 172 .280 12 70 13
C Brent Mayne[1] L-R 223 .301 2 39 2

BENCH

OF Edgard Clemente R 265 .253 8 25 0
IF Terry Shumpert R 270 .347 10 37 14
OF Darren Bragg[1] L-R 297 .260 6 26 3
C Scott Servais[1] R 303 .273 5 21 0
IF Aaron Ledesma[1] R 334 .265 0 30 1

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Pedro Astacio 61 17 11 6.8 1.44 5.04
RH Masato Yoshii[1] 119 12 8 5.9 1.30 4.40
RH Rolando Arrojo[1] 137 7 12 5.9 1.58 5.18
LH Brian Bohanon 174 12 12 6.0 1.66 6.20
LH Scott Karl[1] 164 11 11 6.0 1.59 4.78

BULLPEN PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Jerry Dipoto[2] 93 4 5 1 1.56 4.26
RH Billy Taylor*[1] 186 1 6 26 1.62 4.95
LH Mike Myers[1] 277 2 1 0 1.43 5.23
RH Manny Aybar[1] 292 4 5 3 1.44 5.47
RH Julian Tavarez[1] 309 2 0 0 1.65 5.93
RH Mike DeJean 323 2 4 0 1.89 8.41

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Combined AL and NL stats
[2]Will begin season on DL

the book an opposing team's scout sizes up the Rockies

"The Rockies made a ton of changes, but I'm not sure they were
especially good ones. What's needed most is for Buddy Bell to
change the attitude. Larry Walker is the biggest problem. He
plays for himself, and he picks his times when he wants to rest.
He's a cancer in the clubhouse. He's obviously an impact player,
but he's always loafing after balls in the outfield. Until he
becomes something of a leader, Colorado will follow his negative
example.... The one guy on this team I'd want is Neifi Perez. He
has range, a good arm; he can hit for a decent average, and he
plays the game hard. If the Rockies followed Perez instead of
Walker, they'd be better off.... Over the past three years Mike
Lansing has declined like few others. With Montreal he had pretty
good range. Now he looks real stiff, and his offensive production
is minimal. Bulking up has hurt him a lot.... The bullpen is bad.
Mike DeJean is probably the top guy out there--he has a good two-
and four-seamer, good tilt on the slider, and his ball sinks. If
the Rockies don't upgrade the pen, they're still no better than
.500."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)