The club intends to activate starting pitcher Jason Hammel on Wednesday and has encouraging reports from rehabbing starter Jeff Francis and closer Huston Street, but the back of the bullpen suffered another casualty Tuesday.Left-handed reliever Franklin Morales, who has served as the team's closer with Street out of commission all spring, is headed for the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 5.
With a storm settling in over Coors Field on Tuesday that ultimately postponed the Rockies' game against the Phillies, Colorado held off on making the official move -- though manager Jim Tracy announced that Morales would go on the DL and right-hander reliever Edgmer Escalona would be called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs to take Morales' spot on the roster.
When it was announced the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Wednesday, the Rockies' patience paid off. With the move not officially made, the Rockies can potentially activate Hammel to take Morales' spot on the roster, and Escalona's callup and potential Major League debut can be put off for another time -- meaning Escalona gets no Major League service and loses no options.
With the weather questionable for Wednesday as well, the Rockies may be able to put off the move an additional day, in which case another scenario could present itself if they don't need Hammel immediately. Either way, there seems little question that Morales will get some time on the DL to rehabilitate his pitching shoulder.
"He has some weakness in his left shoulder," Tracy said. "I get the impression that this is a definite precautionary-type thing. There was some testing that was done over the weekend in Los Angeles, and one of the strength tests that they performed, they weren't real happy with it. He did throw a little touch-and-feel bullpen [session] over the weekend. But it still wasn't right yesterday."
Morales has been bothered by the shoulder for nearly two weeks now, noting it began in his longest appearance of the season -- a two-inning outing against the D-backs on April 28.
"I feel a little pain. When I throw, I feel it," Morales said, pointing to his upper arm, just below the shoulder. "I [first] felt it when I pitched to Arizona the last game [at Coors Field]. When I threw the second inning, I felt it."
Morales pitched the ninth and 10th innings of that game, ultimately taking the loss after yielding an extra-inning game-winning solo shot to Kelly Johnson. He has been hot and cold since then, with the pain primarily affecting his fastball command.
While Tracy said no additional tests were called for, he expressed concern about pushing Morales early in the season and ending up with a situation like last year, when the southpaw went on the DL for nearly two full months with a strained left shoulder.
"It's more [a case of being] worried that if we push the envelope, you run the risk of injuring the guy," Tracy said. "We're not interested in doing that."
Morales felt the issue was probably minor, and despite going to the DL, he was reassured by a conversation with the Rockies' head athletic trainer, Keith Dugger.
"I asked the trainer, and he said [I need] a couple days," Morales said. "I need to work out and make my shoulder strong."
Morales was not available Monday night, and the Rockies went to Manuel Corpas with the game tied in the ninth. Corpas gave up the go-ahead run, followed by a three-run homer, in taking his first loss of the season.
Escalona, 23, has yet to see any Major League action since being signed by the Rockies out of Venezuela in the fall of 2004. He has made 14 appearances for the Sky Sox this season, all in relief, and has posted a 1-0 record with a 7.84 ERA. Tracy described his recent performances as "back and forth." In 20 2/3 innings, Escalona has yielded 19 runs (18 earned) on 18 hits and 11 walks while striking out 12 and serving up a half-dozen homers.
"He's got a dynamic arm," Tracy said. "He throws a very heavy sinker. He throws the ball with very good velocity. The one thing you concern yourself early on with a young pitcher -- is he going to get too amped up with the opportunity because he's going to try and show you how hard he can throw, [and as a result] come out of his delivery and start misfiring drastically? But believe me, he has a very, very good arm. I saw enough of it in Spring Training to be completely convinced of that."
It looks like fans will have to take Tracy's word for it, as the pitching prospect appears headed back to Triple-A to continue refining his performance on the mound.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less