MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Rockies off to strong start despite adversity

Rockies off to strong start despite adversity

DENVER -- Considered a sleeper in the National League West when Spring Training opened, the Rockies began the season with four key members of their projected Opening Day roster on the disabled list, and they have seen the top of their lineup, other than Nolan Arenado, shut down in the first two weeks of the season.

And they still woke up Monday morning in first place in the NL West.

Now the season is only two weeks old. The Rockies do have 148 games left to play. But the short sample has shown that Colorado could be long on resiliency.

In the course of a week in Spring Training, the Rockies suffered the following injuries:

• Left fielder David Dahl sidelined with a stress reaction in his upper back.

• Catcher Tom Murphy suffered a hairline fracture in his right forearm when on a throw to second base he hit Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo's bat.

• First baseman Ian Desmond suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Reds right-hander Rookie Davis.

• And starting pitcher Chad Bettis, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer in November, was told the cancer had spread into the lymph nodes and he would undergo eight weeks of chemotherapy.

So what happened? The season opened with the top three hitters in the lineup -- Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez, along with shortstop Trevor Story -- in offensive funks. And Opening Day starter Jon Gray tried to pitch through a left big toe problem that developed during the spring only to find himself on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot after working only 12 1/3 innings in four starts.

Oh, and the Rockies won nine of their first 14 games, taking two out of three from the Dodgers and then take three out of four from the Giants, winning a four-game series in AT&T Park for the first time in franchise history.

Say what?

This is, after all, a franchise that has suffered six consecutive losing seasons, during which time it has the worst combined record (420-552) in the NL. Well, Mark Reynolds -- the starting first baseman a year ago who wound up back in camp on a Minor League contract -- has stepped in for Desmond, leads the team with 11 RBIs despite hitting down in the lineup, is tied with Arenado for the team lead in home runs with four and, at .306, has the third-best batting average on the team behind Arenado (.333) and Parra (.343).

Yes, behind Parra, who lost his starting job in the middle of last season to Dahl but has found himself back in the lineup in Dahl's absence.

Antonio Senzatela won the final spot in the rotation in light of Bettis' absence, and he is 2-0. Colorado has won all three of his starts, including a 4-3 decision against San Francisco on Sunday, when he gave up three runs in the first inning and nothing else over the next six before turning things over to the bullpen.

Ah, the bullpen, which had the highest ERAs in baseball in each of the past three seasons and the highest in the NL in the past four.

General manager Jeff Bridich and Co. -- unfazed by the way their offseason plans a year ago backfired with the struggles of free-agent relievers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls -- went back to the free-agent market the past offseason and hit an early-season jackpot with the addition of closer Greg Holland and left-handed late-inning reliever Mike Dunn.

The Rockies will go into a two-game series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday with a bullpen that is leading the Majors with eight saves and ranks third in the NL with a 2.68 ERA.

Holland is 7-for-7 in save opportunities, having allowed only five baserunners (two singles and three walks) in seven scoreless innings, and Dunn has allowed only three baserunners (a single and two walks) in six scoreless innings.

Yes, it is early. For the Rockies, however, it is encouraging.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.