No Rocktober, just lots of questions | AspenTimes.com

No Rocktober, just lots of questions

Tracy Ringolsby
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen CO, Colorado

Colorado Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, of the Dominican Republic, throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

DENVER ” The Rockies are tainted by the struggles of this season, but not jaded.

Disappointments have not caused dismay.

Manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Dan O’Dowd met Monday to start finalizing an offseason approach that will carry into 2008. They admit changes are pending, including on the coaching staff, but the feeling remains that the Rockies have the foundation to contend in the National League West.

“With all that didn’t go the way we had envisioned I also saw some encouraging standpoints,” O’Dowd said. “The emergence of [catcher Chris] Iannetta and [third baseman Ian] Stewart give us reason to feel the future is bright. The development of Ubaldo Jimenez and the evolution of Jorge De La Rosa to go with Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook give us four good starters going into next year.

“We don’t have to rebuild our staff, but we need to complement it. It could come from outside the organization or we could have one of three in-house candidates [Jason Hirsh, Franklin Morales and Greg Reynolds] step forward.”

None of the Rockies coaches have been told whether they will be invited back for 2009, and it could be a couple of weeks before those decisions are finalized. There is no guarantee that any of the members of Hurdle’s 2008 staff will return.

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“We aren’t going to hurry into anything,” O’Dowd said. “They each know where we are. We’ve met with each coach.”

The spring training focus will be reshaped, with the Rockies looking to regain the emphasis on day-to-day execution, which was so critical in their drive to the first NL pennant in franchise history in 2007.

“We’re not going to try and reinvent spring training,” O’Dowd said. “But we need to review our focus. What’s the value of playing in ‘A’ games compared to ‘B’ games? What’s the value of making the road trips? How many innings or at-bats do we need players to get? The little things can become big things. We don’t want to have things get away from us.”

There will, however, be some players who might get away, particularly closer Brian Fuentes, who is free-agent eligible.

The Rockies will offer arbitration, and even though Fuentes would likely command at least $10 million in that process, the Rockies would be thrilled if he accepted. But the reality is he most likely is going to get a three-year deal from a team that will be worth closer to $36 million.

The Rockies, though, do have the type of talent that could lead to front-page-type trades, including third baseman Garrett Atkins, made expendable by the development of Stewart, and left fielder Matt Holliday, whose value will diminish once next season begins in light of his pending free agency and the presence of agent Scott Boras.

“We are extremely happy with who we are as an organization,” O’Dowd said, “but we do have personnel decisions to make. We have the depth that will allow us to make the club better overall.”

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