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5 COLORADO Rockies
Phil Taylor
March 25, 2002
Bank on more cost cutting if a pair of aces fails to rebound from a poor 2001
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March 25, 2002

5 Colorado Rockies

Bank on more cost cutting if a pair of aces fails to rebound from a poor 2001

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THE LINEUP

projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER

B-T

PVR

BA

HR

RBI

SB

BATTING ORDER

CF Juan Pierre

L

72

.327

2

55

46

SS Juan Uribe

R

no

.300

8

53

3

RF Larry Walker

L-R

7

.350

38

123

14

IB Todd Helton

L

4

.336

49

146

7

3B Todd Zeile#

R

135

.266

10

62

1

LF Todd Hollandsworth

L

91

.368

6

19

5

2B Jose Ortiz*

R

58

.240

13

38

4

C Ben Petrick

R

193

.238

II

39

3

BENCH

OF Benny Agbayani#

R

221

.277

6

27

4

IF Greg Norton

S-R

245

.267

13

40

1

IF Terry Shumpert

R

275

.289

4

24

14

PITCHER

PVR

W

L

IPS

WHIP

ERA

STARTERS

LH Mike Hampton

114

14

13

6.3

1.58

5.41

LH Denny Neagle

121

9

8

5.7

1.48

5.38

RH Shawn Chacon

193

6

10

5.9

1.53

5.06

RH John Thomson

173

4

5

6.7

1.16

4.04

RH Denny Stark (R)*#

198

14

2

6.3

1.09

2.37

PITCHER

PVR

W

L

S

WHIP

ERA

BULLPEN

RH Jose Jimenez

74

6

1

17

1.42

4.09

RH Jose Paniagua#

201

4

3

3

1.47

4.36

RH Justin Speier?

218

6

3

0

1.19

4.58

#New acauisition

(R) Rookie B-T Bats-throw IPS: Inning pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)

*Triple A stats ?Combined AL and NL stats

Although they are both lefthanded pitchers who failed to put enough zeros on the scoreboard to justify all the zeros in their paychecks last season, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle have little else in common. Hampton is a roaring fire, a bulldog of a pitcher who looks as if he should be in a helmet and pads instead of on the mound. Neagle is a cool breeze, a jovial fellow with an easy delivery and a relaxed manner. But in an attempt to atone for their lackluster performances of a year ago, it seems that, without even realizing it, each is trying to adopt a bit of the other's personality. Hampton has vowed to tone down his intensity, while Neagle intends to dial his up a notch.

Rockies manager Buddy Bell doesn't care if Hampton and Neagle wear each other's uniforms, as long as they start to resemble the kind of pitchers Colorado thought it was getting when it signed them to fat free-agent contracts last year. If they don't, the Rockies are in for their third last-place finish in the last four years. Colorado gave Hampton an eight-year, $121 million deal, the most lucrative ever for a pitcher, and the first return on their investment was his 14-13 record and 5.41 ERA. Neagle signed a five-year, $51 million contract and finished 9-8 with a 5-38 ERA. Coors Field, every hitter's best friend, can't be singled out as the culprit. Hampton was 6-7 with a 5.10 ERA on the road, and Neagle was more effective at Coors, where he was 6-2.

After a 9-2 start Hampton's season went south. Despite a lingering groin injury mat would ultimately require surgery after the season, he insisted on pitching with the pain and doing his normal running and throwing on days between starts. "I'm getting paid to be the ace of the staff, and I wanted to do my job," he says. "This year I'm going to take a day off here and there when I feel my body needs a rest."

Neagle hopes his body won't need as much rest this year. He attacked his weightlifting with new determination during the off-season, intent on building his endurance. "It was a matter of doing three sets instead of my usual two, or 12 reps instead of eight or 10," he says. "I want to get back to pitching deep into games again, to being a 200-inning pitcher." Neagle threw only 170? innings last year, an average of 5? innings in his 30 starts, and worked as many as seven innings just twice.

Concerned about the budget drain caused by Hampton's and Neagle's deals as well as the nine-year, $141.5 million contract extension given to All-Star first baseman Todd Helton before last season, the formerly free-spending Rockies dumped several players to trim their payroll from $65 million to $51 million, including Jeff Cirillo, their solid third baseman, whom they dealt to the Mariners. Outfielder Larry Walker shook up training camp when he blasted management's spending cuts and indicated that he wouldn't mind being traded. Walker, who won his third batting title in 2001, agreed to defer $18 million of his salary last year because he was told it would help Colorado sign Hampton without having to break up the rest of the team. "A lot of lies," Walker told The Denver Post. He also said that he was angered to see Helton get his big deal a few days after he deferred his money.

The Rockies have no plans to explore trade possibilities for Walker, who submitted a list of teams for whom he would consider waiving his no-trade clause, including the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals. Colorado badly needs Hampton and Neagle to regain their old form, or disgruntled players and fans might be flying out of Coors Field as frequently as home run balls.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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