Notes: Wells ends on a high note
After struggling through first three innings, righty closes strong
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rockies rotation has seen better days. With No. 2 starter Aaron Cook scratched from a start Friday and fourth starter candidate Jason Hirsh missing his previous appearance and his upcoming start, you'd think somebody would raise their hand and offer up their credentials to take the two available jobs in the rotation.
When Kip Wells went four innings against the Royals on Friday, it was the fourth mediocre performance by a starting candidate in three days.
"I felt like I wasn't way off," Wells said. "I felt a lot better about my tempo and how much I was in control of what I was doing today in comparison to last time out, I felt a little excited for lack of a better word."
Wells allowed three runs on three hits, walked three and a hit batter over four innings. Three of the four runs scored came from runners he'd walked or hit.
"Obviously you go out to pitch every time with an agenda of having a dominant outing," Wells said. "I finished my outing strongly, and the only thing I did today at times was beat myself a little bit with putting guys on. If I eliminate that -- sure there's going to be times when you get hit around -- but for the most part I'm not going to get beat based on stuff."
Pitching coach Bob Apodaca agreed about the strong finish, and saw the turnaround come in the third inning, when Wells made a good pitch that Alex Gordon knocked for a two-run double. But then Wells recovered to retire the next three batters in a row and six of the final seven batters he faced. For both Apodaca and manager Clint Hurdle, the issue was Wells' timing.
"I thought he struggled for three [innings]," Apodaca said. "Very inconsistent counts, really making his job a little tough with counts to the leadoff hitters. Everything was not on time.
"He really started righting the ship in the third inning, and he took that thought pattern to his fourth inning, and it was by far his best inning. He was able to duplicate pitches. He was able to run his fastball in on right-handers. He was really balancing the plate out as far as being able to go on both sides. His rhythm was better; he was on time better."
Getting himself to ease back on his energy output is a worthy exercise for Wells in the Cactus League and a vital survival tool at Coors Field.
"Pitchers have to rely on feel," Apodaca said. "Until he feels it, he's not going to replicate it. The fourth inning was huge for him developing for the rest of the spring. Something to really sink your teeth into and base everything off of that for future innings."
Swing man: Brad Hawpe crushed his second spring homer Friday, a two-run shot that bounced off the Surprise party deck in deep right field. He was 3-for-3 with a walk and looks to be in midseason form.
"It felt good; I'll take a bunch of them," he said of the homer. "It usually takes a lot of [at-bats] for me. I've had quite a few [at-bats], so I'm starting to feel better with it. [I'm] just trying to get some timing and rhythm."
It won't be long: Right-hander Esmil Rogers spent three years as an infielder in Colorado's Dominican Summer League before converting to the mound at Class A Casper in 2006. He made a big impression in his first Cactus League outing Friday, pitching a scoreless eighth to protect a two-run lead.
"He's tough," Apodaca said. "Calm, poised, no fear. "He's a remarkable young man with a world of ability that has the athleticism of a shortstop and takes that athleticism to the mound with him. I'm very impressed with him.
"Everybody needs to get a good look at him, because it might not be long for him."
No more nix: Jayson Nix got his first Cactus League hit in style, launching a fifth-inning solo shot to left field. The pressure has been on as he competes for the second-base job.
"There's a point in time as a young player -- and I felt it -- when it's not all about grinding," Hurdle observed. "And it's not all about going harder. I just think he's in a good place where he just needs to trust his skills and let them play out, and that's what we're encouraging him to do. It looks like some steps were taken in the right direction today for that."
Cook and Hirsh play catch: Cook and Hirsh played catch in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, according to Apodaca.
"He felt great today," Apodaca said of Cook, who has yet to miss a bullpen session. "I think it's something very minor."
Stride like a Walker: Center-field prospect Dexter Fowler hit an infield single in the eighth and surprised the Royals, along with his manager, by easily beating it out.
"He catches me off guard," said Hurdle. "The only guy that would take strides like that and eat up yards was Larry Walker, who I'd seen a long time. Dexter eats up that kind of yardage with his strides."
First cut: Southpaw Sean Thompson, a La Junta, Colo., native, was an early cut for the Rockies, who released him Friday. He had thrown 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
"It wasn't a fit," Hurdle said of the 25-year-old claimed off waivers last July. "We didn't see enough there, and this will give him an opportunity to catch on with somebody else."
Up next: The Rockies return to Hi Corbett Field after two days in the Phoenix area. Ubaldo Jimenez will start against the Angels, with Victor Zambrano, Taylor Buchholz, Brian Fuentes and Ryan Speier slated to follow. The Angels will throw right-hander Dustin Moseley in the 1:05 p.m. MT game.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.