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Rockies Ready For Rotation Without Aaron Cook Or Jeff Francis?

With Aaron Cook done for the season with a broken right leg and Jeff Francis replaced by Esmil Rogers for the last game of the season, the Rockies may be starting early on their 2011 rotation. There is a good possibility that neither Francis nor Cook will be with the team next season.

Francis will have his option declined and Cook is a possible trade candidate. But let's assume that Cook is retained for 2011 and that both Francis and Jorge De La Rosa become a free agents and sign elsewhere (even though manager Jim Tracy wants Francis back with the club). What does the 2011 Rockies rotation look like?

The Rockies' no. 1 starter is, of course, Ubaldo Jimenez. He'll be coming off of a season in which he will have received top-three consideration for the NL Cy Young. Some regression should be expected, but don't expect any cliff-dive for him. While 20 wins will be a bit much to ask for, Jimenez will still be the staff ace.

Jhoulys Chacin has likely pitched himself into the no. 2 starting position. As a starter this season, Chacin has a 2.98 ERA. If Jim Tracy has learned anything this season, it's that Chacin is another pitcher he can rely on at the front of the rotation.

Jason Hammel checks in at the no. 3 spot in the rotation. Hammel's 2010 season failed to launch in April, but May and June saw the high point of his season. In June he went 4-0, 1.83 ERA in six starts. September was not a kind month to Hammel as his last three starts saw him pitch a total of only 13 innings.

With Cook returning in the scenario, he takes the fourth spot in the rotation. His two September starts showed a different Aaron Cook, one who appeared ready to be a stabilizing force in the rotation. Then he broke a leg.

The fifth spot will be a rotation battle between Esmil Rogers (who starts Sunday) and a bunch of other pitchers. We'll hear the names of Greg Reynolds and Christian Friedrich, both of who pitched in Tulsa in 2010. There will also be the requisite pitching bodies the Rockies' bring in to compete with the youngsters.

Of course, the Rockies could always look for a starting pitcher on the free agent market and that would move the rotation around. More on that after the postseason ends.