MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Rockies' success the result of good planning

Youngest rotation in MLB leads Colorado to NL-best start

Rockies' success the result of good planning

The Colorado Rockies have the youngest starting rotation in baseball. They have an offense that right now would rank as the third least productive in franchise history. And they had a National League-best 28-17 record going into Monday night's game at Philadelphia.

No longer is general manager Jeff Bridich being asked about the lack of effort the Rockies put into signing veteran starting pitchers to fill out their rotation or the decision to sign Ian Desmond off the free-agent market to be their first baseman instead of the likes of Mike Napoli or Mark Trumbo.

Bridich isn't feeling vindicated. Forty-five games do not a champion make.

But Bridich does feel good about the way things are developing for a team that was handed early-season challenges and has responded impressively.

"Last offseason, we didn't operate in a vacuum," Bridich said. "Some of the pitching we're seeing now, our young starters, is the product of the Draft, scouting, development for several years. It is part of a plan we put in place the last few offseasons, looking at how we felt we could get better. To cordon it off to one offseason is limiting because it is a part of a bigger picture."

Spring Training opened and four rookies were in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation. Two of them -- Kyle Freeland, a first-round Draft choice, and Antonio Senzatela, a product of Colorado's Latin American program -- opened the season in the rotation after Chad Bettis, who underwent offseason surgery for testicular cancer, was diagnosed with cancer spread to his lymph nodes.

A third -- German Marquez, acquired along with lefty reliever Jake McGee in the trade of Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay prior to last season -- moved into the rotation after Opening Day starter Jon Gray was put on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Marquez K's three over five

The fourth candidate, Jeff Hoffman, part of the package received from Toronto in the July 2015 trade of Troy Tulowitzki, has spent the bulk of this season at Triple-A Albuquerque. Hoffman, however, will get his second start this month on Monday night because of a rainout that forced the Rockies to play a doubleheader at Minnesota on Thursday.

"We felt where the game is going and with what our needs were, to get young impactful pitching we could develop was a good use of our resources, a good use of our time and a good use of our energy," Bridich said. "Right now, it's working. We have to maintain it, but right now, these kids are doing a great job."

Hoffman vs. Eickhoff

Oh, and Desmond -- who opened the season on the disabled list with a broken left hand -- is back, and he already is in the Ben Zobrist-type role Colorado envisioned long term, after Mark Reynolds took advantage of the opportunity at first base and put together one of the most productive season-opening surges in baseball.

And the Rockies are still waiting for the 2017 debuts of projected left fielder David Dahl (stress reaction in sixth rib) and projected catcher Tom Murphy (hairline fracture in right forearm), and they anticipate Opening Day shortstop Trevor Story coming off the disabled list as early as Tuesday.

Not that Colorado is complaining. A franchise that over the years has been known to try and outslug the opposition is taking a more traditional approach. The fact that the Rockies have enjoyed such a good start despite the offensive struggles provides credence to the commitment.

"We all feel our offense has better days ahead of it," Bridich said. "It's not like we've been terrible, but I think everybody, man for man, feels we can do better. And that's a good thing, trying to meet expectations [offensively]. High expectations are good for us in terms of what our goals are."

The pitching, though, is what is different this year for the franchise, which has earned a Wild Card spot in the postseason three times but has never won a division title and is looking for its eighth winning season in its 25th year of existence.

Senzatela K's four over six

And this season, it has made a difference, which Bridich said is a credit to the organizational commitment.

"We rely on our scouts and the guys in the front office to help us evaluate," Bridich said. "We have a lot of confidence in those guys. Once they are our players, though, it is on us to understand who they are as people and do right by them, and to make sure they get the most out of their abilities."

So far, so good.

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