Frustrated Rockies not ready for sweeping changes

Frustrated Rockies not ready for sweeping changes

LOS ANGELES -- Bill Geivett stopped speaking briefly, frowned and winced. The Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, couldn't be heard, anyhow, because of a deafening cheer in Dodger Stadium on Friday night to celebrate a pickoff that would lessen the impact of a promising Rockies inning.

The game's early excitement dwindled into another of Colorado's 96 losses (second most in club history) and 60 road losses (a club record). Only the collapse of the D-backs kept the Rockies out of last place in the National League West for the third straight year.

After the Dodger Stadium noise subsided, Geivett's grimace stayed.

"It's too bad, with all the promise that everybody felt leaving Spring Training," Geivett said. "We really didn't plan on this."

Organization officials were set to meet Thursday to begin setting their strategy for 2015. Several club sources said that, at the most, there could be some internal shuffling. But unless club owner and CEO Dick Monfort has a change of heart, major personnel changes aren't expected. Sources also said that reports that chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd could end up joining the Braves if his former boss in Cleveland, John Hart, becomes the next Braves GM, are more of a connect-the-dots exercise than a likely move.

The effort to correct what happened this season doesn't seem to include moving their core players, such as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, both of whom underwent season-ending surgery in August.

So the same decision-makers will try to make the necessary improvements while holding onto the same core stars.

Meanwhile, a strong fan base -- better than 2.6 million in paid attendance for the seventh straight year -- has grown increasingly disgruntled. Despite no winning seasons since 2010, the only major change has been when Walt Weiss took over as manager from Jim Tracy after the '12 season.

"We like the team that we have," Geivett said. "When the majority of them are out there, we feel good about our chances. At the same time, we look at next year and we know our pitching staff, we need to improve, and we need to be able to score runs on the road.

"The only way that we're going to show [the fans] is [to] win. That's the bottom line. It's not a signing or some staff changes or anything like that. That's where we are. It's understandable for fans to want to see changes. We've had a few bad years."

Winning begins with starting pitching.

Injuries to right-handers Jhoulys Chacin (rotator cuff and labrum) and Tyler Chatwood (elbow surgery) and lefty Brett Anderson (broken left index finger, back surgery) were keys to the collapse of a team that looked like a possible contender in April and May. The trio made just 23 starts -- nine fewer than staff leader Jorge De La Rosa.

Those injuries, plus homer-prone Juan Nicasio (now a reliever) and Franklin Morales (now a free agent), created bullpen stress. The Rockies finished with the NL's highest bullpen ERA (4.84) and opponents' batting average (.276), and they threw the second-most innings in the NL and third-most in the Majors. Most of the wear occurred before the All-Star break, when the Rockies' 317 relief innings were six more than any other big league club.

In the second half, quality work from De La Rosa and rookie lefty Tyler Matzek lowered the bullpen's relief innings to eighth-most in the Majors, although the second-half ERA was a poor 4.92.

But even if the three injured starters return -- and that's not certain -- the Rockies will need help in the starting rotation.

Chacin plans to test his shoulder in winter league ball after months of rehab. Chatwood can't reasonably be expected back until the final months of next season. The club must make a decision on a $12 million option on Anderson, who is expected to be ready for next spring.

"We need impactful starting pitching," Geivett said. "We're not going to check his ID. We don't care how old he is. We don't care how much time he has. In order to compete against the teams we play with, we know starting pitching is essential."

Anderson's option is a vexing issue. He had an elbow injury and foot and ankle issues with the Athletics before his problems this year. Yet, a free agent would cost more money for more years than Anderson's option.

Trades might help fill the need.

Catcher Wilin Rosario, an offensive force when healthy, could have value with an American League team that can use him as a catcher-designated hitter. NL batting champ Justin Morneau or center fielder Drew Stubbs could draw interest. Teams will see if the Rockies will listen to proposals for young, productive outfielders such as Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson.

Geivett declined to comment on trades or free agents.

Rumors will fly regarding Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. But Geivett spoke against dealing core stars -- even with the pitching needs.

"If we're going to win, they're going to need to be part of it, too," Geivett said.

Geivett realizes the Rockies are holding their course when patience is running thin from so many corners.

"If you look at the talent that we've had and all the unfortunate things that have happened, you'll have a different take." Geivett said. "But at the same time, our record has been our record, and that's the most frustrating thing about all this.

"It's not really from a criticism standpoint. It's internal -- the frustration of the players and the staff, frustration of the front office, everybody that works at the stadium, those involved in the business operations. For all the promise and expectations we had for this season, not being able to come up with a better record is frustrating."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.