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Rockies Spring Training: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin Lead Rotation

The Rotation
Ubaldo Jimenez: Many eyes will be on Jimenez this season to see if he can repeat his outstanding third-place finish in NL Cy Young voting. Don't disappoint.

Jhoulys Chacin: Expectations are high for the 23-year-old pitcher in 2011. Chacin entered the rotation in 2010 after Jason Hammel and Jorge De La Rosa both went down with injuries, but in July he moved to the bullpen. Losing much of his value there, he returned to Triple-A for August. As a starter, Chacin had a 3.50 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which takes into account only those things he is responsible for and not his fielders. It is often an indicator of future of success, more so than ERA. While one season is a small sample size, Chacin looks ready to build on his 2010 season.

Jorge De La Rosa: JDLR, as he has become known to Rockies fans, appeared ready to reap the rewards of free agency and sign a lucrative contract this offseason with a team not based in Denver--until he re-signed with the Rockies for two years, $21.5 million with an $11 million player option in 2013. He missed all of May and June in 2010 due to a middle finger injury. In his three seasons with the Rockies, DLR has averaged over two strikeouts for every walk he has issued, peaking at 2.33 strikeouts per walk in 2009. His 1.315 WHIP in 2010 was a career best, but, again, injury shortened his season.

Jason Hammel: Hammel doesn't have the tightest hold on a rotation spot, but he's solidly in there right now. He's posted similar numbers in each of the last two seasons. Hammel's family history of high cholesterol led him to take a prescription drug to control it, but it also gave him soreness. Eventually Hammel pitched with a dead arm, but over the offseason he went to more natural remedies, as Thomas Harding writes.

Aaron Cook: Cook has the most tenuous of hold on a spot in the rotation, and shoulder soreness early in spring training is not helping his case. Still, the spot is his to lose.

Could Have A Chance

Felipe Paulino: Paulino will be one of the first candidates to take over for Cook should he falter through either injury or performance. Paulino was acquired for Clint Barmes during the offseason. While the results haven't been great (career 5.83 ERA, 4.33 FIP), a power fastball is always a good thing.

Esmil Rogers: Rogers pitched in 28 games for the Rockies in 2010, mostly as a reliever. Andrew Fisher did a good job of breaking down Rogers' season and views him as a "sixth starter" for the team this season.

John Maine: Signed as a free agent shortly after pitchers and catchers reported two weeks ago, Maine is attempting to come back from a series of injuries that have limited him over the years. Not a serious contender for the rotation right now, Maine can opt out of his contract at the end of spring training if he is going to be in the minors.

Down On The Farm
Christian Friedrich: The team's 2008 first-round draft pick, the lefty Friedrich would likely have challenged for a rotation spot this spring had elbow inflammation and a strained lat muscle not cut short his season. He projects as a No. 3 starter with a low- to mid-90s fastball, a curveball, an emerging changeup and a slider. He'll start the season with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox and see at least a September call-up if injury doesn't strike again.

Tyler Matzek: The Rockies went outside the norm in 2009 and drafted prep left Matzek, eventually singing him for $3.9 million. He pitched all right for the Asheville Tourists in 2010. Working with a fastball that can get to the mid-90s as well as a curveball, a slider and a changeup, Matzek has the makings of a frontline starter. However, he walked 62 batters in 89 innings, so we'll need to keep an eye on how his control progresses.

Juan Nicasio: Nicasio also has a four-pitch repertoire, highlighted by a fastball that has been recorded as high as 97 mph. He averaged just under a strikeout per innings in 2010 (171 K in 177 IP) and walked only 13 batters. He'll be in Double-A Tulsa for 2011.

Peter Tago/Chad Bettis: Tago and Bettis are both several years away from the majors, having been 2010 draft selections. Tago didn't pitch last season and he may not pitch until short-season and rookie leagues begin in June. Another hard-thrower, Tago had his fastball recorded around 98 mph before the draft. Bettis is a starter for now, but he'll need to develop his secondary pitchers; otherwise, he is a candidate to move to the bullpen. His fastball has been clocked at 98 mph out of the bullpen. He could follow Bruce Billings' transition from starter to reliever in the minors after two or three seasons.