Rockies won't rush young arms

Originally Published: June 16, 2004
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
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Baseball fans in Colorado have grown accustomed to bad pitching over the years. The toll of life at altitude is enough to neutralize a breaking ball (Greg Harris and Darryl Kile), turn an ace into a basket case (Mike Hampton) and hinder the development of a potential No. 1 starter.

The Rockies hoped they might have found one when they picked Jamey Wright, Jason Jennings, Jake Westbrook and Mark Mangum in the first round of the draft, but the search continues.

The 2004 season is proving that while things may never get better in Denver, they can always get worse. It's enough to make a Rockies-watcher yearn for the days of Armando Reynoso and Kevin Ritz.

The Rockies, who entered the season with aspirations of at least hanging around a winnable National League West, went into the weekend with a 23-42 record, six wins in their last 27 games and baseball's worst ERA at 6.26.

While that's no shock at Coors, it's still horrendous given that only two other staffs, Arizona and Baltimore, have ERAs over 5.00. Worst of all, the Rockies have allowed a major-league high 302 walks. The Yankees, in contrast, have walked 161 batters this season.

Joe Kennedy sure could use a little help at the top of the rotation -- which is why you'll be hearing Jeff Francis's name more often as the season progresses.

Francis, Colorado's top pick in the 2002 draft, is putting up minor-league numbers so startling, they border on cartoon-ish. He's 10-0 with a 1.87 ERA for the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League, with 112 strikeouts and only 16 walks. In 86 2/3 innings, he's allowed 55 hits.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer