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High expectations must be met

Bud Black believes.

More than once during spring training, often uninvited, the Rockies manager spoke about the starting rotation as the team’s strength in 2022. Black, however, usually added the caveat ” if we stay healthy.”

There’s no getting around that particular reality heading into Friday’s season opener against the Dodgers. The first pitch at Coors Field is scheduled for 2:10 p.m.

The Rockies lack quality depth at starting pitch, especially since left-hander Ryan Rolison, the club’s top pitching prospect, is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder injury. . Additionally, right-hander Peter Lambert, returning from Tommy John surgery in July 2020, will start the season on the 10-day IL and the Rockies plan to slowly bring him back.

On paper, Colorado’s five starters look promising, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered:

Still at home? The Rockies were remarkably good at Coors Field last season, posting a 4.28 ERA and holding their opponents to an average of .253. The starters’ combined record was 26-18.

Before a back injury cut short his season, southpaw Austin Gomber was excellent in LoDo, going 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in nine starts. Gomber, in his first season at Colorado, tackled hitters and that was key to his success.

Will right-hander Chad Kuhl, the former hacker who was signed as the fifth starter, be able to handle Coors, or will the ballpark chew him up and spit him out?

Bounce off the road? As confusing as it may seem, the Rockies’ starters weren’t very good pitchers at normal elevations last season, posting a 16-39 overall record. Part of that was due to a lack of support for the run from one of the worst traffic offenses in franchise history.

But the rotation’s road ERA was a lousy 5.30, opponents’ average was .280 and starters served 63 homers on the road to Coors’ 55. Right-handers Antonio Senzatela (1-7, 5.05) and Gomber (4-8, 6.22) got hammered on the road. This must change.

To show up? Rockies starters have produced 68 quality starts in 2021, tied with Cincinnati for third in the National League. Their 832 innings pitched ranked eighth in the NL. Given the Rockies’ dodgy bullpen, those quality starts need to continue and the innings pitched need to go up a bit.

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