Jennings out to prove home is sweet

Jennings out to prove home is sweet

The Arizona Diamondbacks are Colorado Rockies right-hander Jason Jennings' Opening Day opponent. He insists Coors Field will not be his enemy.

Starting with his debut in 2001, through his National League Rookie of the Year performance in 2002 and the following season, Jennings beat Coors Field more often than not, going 17-6 with a 5.60 ERA in 31 starts at home. Since the park opened in 1995, few pitchers showed Jennings' ability to shake off runs and wild happenings to earn a "W."

But over Jennings' 27 home starts the last two seasons, the park gained the upper hand by sending him to a 9-11 mark with a 5.78 ERA.

The Rockies anointed Jennings their staff leader by giving him the second Opening Day start of his career. But to lead the Rockies beyond their youth movement performances of 68-94 in 2004 and 67-95 last season, Jennings, 26, must set the example of how to conquer a supreme hitters' park.

"I don't feel like it's held me back," Jennings said. "It's made me stronger mentally. If you can deal with the stuff that happens and the challenges of pitching there, you can deal with everything. I feel I've done a good job of handling it, tried not to worry about ERA or hits per nine innings or any of that stuff."

How well Jennings, who believes starting strong and providing 200 innings will lead to success, does at home has less to do with the park's dimensions and Denver's air pressure than it does Jennings' pitch location. From 2001 to 2003, he struck out 112 and walked 69 at home. Since then, he has walked 96 against 95 strikeouts.

"For him to take the next step, that's an issue he's going to have to address this season," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's always been a little bit of a rock in his shoe, the walks at times, especially the quick ones, the four-pitch ones.

"I even talked to him last year. I said, 'When you can get your strikeout-to-walk ratio 1-to-2 or, God forbid, 1-to-3, you'll arrive and you'll let people know who you are."

Jennings, who started last year slowly but found his form before suffering a season-ending broken right middle finger in July, hopes to arrive before he would have to leave Colorado. Jennings is in the second year of a two-year, $6.9 million contract that has a club option for next season, then he would be eligible for free agency.

Two of Jennings' friends, right-handers Shawn Chacon and Scott Elarton, found success and big contracts only after leaving the Rockies. Rather than looking to the exits, Jennings is hoping to find his happiness without moving.

"I was happy for them," Jennings said. "'Chac' [Chacon] had been with the Rockies longer than I had, and it was good for him to get a fresh start with the Yankees. Elarton has done the same, with Cleveland and Kansas City. It's not difficult to see them succeed.

"It's a tough place to pitch, but I think I'm equipped to pitch well there."

  Rockies probable lineup
1.CFCory Sullivan
2.SSClint Barmes
3.1BTodd Helton
4.LFMatt Holliday
5.3BGarrett Atkins
6.RFBrad Hawpe
7.2BLuis Gonzalez
8.CDanny Ardoin
9.PJason Jennings

Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Jason Jennings
• 6-9, 5.02 ERA in 2005
• 0-2, 4.38 ERA in 2005 vs. ARI
• 4-5, 5.08 ERA lifetime vs. ARI

ARI: RHP Brandon Webb
• 14-12, 3.54 ERA in 2005
• 3-0, 3.10 ERA in 2005 vs. COL
• 6-3, 3.44 ERA lifetime vs. COL

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• COL: UPN 20
• ARI: 3TV

On radio
• COL: KOA AM 850
• ARI: KTAR AM 620; KSUN AM 1400 (Español)

On deck
• Tuesday: Off
• Wednesday: vs. Arizona, 6:35 p.m. MT
• Thursday: vs. Arizona, 6:35 p.m. MT

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.