Notes: Rockies finalize bullpen

Notes: Rockies finalize bullpen

TUSCON, Ariz. -- The final piece in the Rockies bullpen finally came into focus Thursday, though ultimately it was a matter of a blurry spring from veteran lefty Tom Martin costing him his once-secure spot and paving the way for both Manny Corpas and Ramon Ramirez to break with the team.

Martin was placed on the disabled list Thursday, a day after watching his spring ERA climb to 15.19 during an outing of two-thirds of an inning that featured back-to-back home runs by the Cubs' Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Following Wednesday's performance, Martin emphasized questions about his mechanics, rather than his health. He had dropped down from his three-quarter delivery to alleviate some tension in his shoulder, but difficulty finding his release point prompted him to consider returning to three-quarter.

"I'll sit down with [pitching coach Bob Apodaca] and look at some tapes and try to come up with a game plan," Martin said Wednesday. "I absolutely have to do something different from what I'm doing now. It's terrible."

The Rockies have identified a strained left groin as the source of Martin's struggles, and the southpaw will start the season on the DL.

"We've never seen Tommy like that," manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday, trying to explain whether the groin strain was related to his mechanical issues. "I don't know if one affected the other. I'm just going to stay out of that area."

The 36-year-old southpaw was 2-0 with a 5.07 ERA in 68 appearances for the Rockies in 2006, throwing a career-high 60 1/3 innings. His dependability led to a commitment from the club in the form a of a one-year contract agreement in December, but his erratic spring meant losing his mainstay standing.

"We're taking the best available seven, as far as I'm concerned," Hurdle said of his bullpen's makeup. "They all have pitches to get out both [left-handed and right-handed] hitters."

In addition to second-year pitchers Corpas and Ramirez, the 'pen will feature two-time All-Star Brian Fuentes returning as closer, veteran acquisition LaTroy Hawkins as the primary setup man, left-handed specialist Jeremy Affeldt and long men Taylor Buchholz and Byung-Hyun Kim, both candidates for the starting rotation when camp opened.

The 25-year-old Buchholz came to Colorado as part of the Jason Jennings trade, and he went 6-10 with a 5.89 ERA in 19 starts for the Astros last season. His final spring outing was shaky, going 2 2/3 innings Thursday and yielding four runs on six hits while striking out five, leaving him with a spring ERA of 7.36.

"We have to get him over that break period where there's good and there's bad," Hurdle said. "You saw a really sharp breaking ball, especially to left-handers. Little challenge getting the breaking ball to his glove-hand side to the right-handers. He had some good sequences and then some sequences where he made mistakes. We just have to keep working with him."

Kim was a member of Colorado's rotation for most of 2005 and all but a month of 2006, when he was 8-12 with a 5.57 ERA while pitching a career-best 155 innings. He made his mark as a closer early in his career, winning World Series rings with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox and earning an All-Star berth in 2002. His initial dissatisfaction with moving to a middle-relief role has led to trade rumors, but Hurdle is determined to keep Kim in his plans.

"He's on our club," said Hurdle. "His challenge is to embrace [his role] and run with it and know that this is a part where he can help his club."

On tap: A half dozen pitchers stood in the empty ballpark outside the clubhouse at Hi Corbett Field, each speaking into their cell phones to pass on the latest news. Though the team was preparing to head north to Colorado later in the day, these pitchers had just learned they were to stay in Tucson.

The news was not as bad as it might have sounded. They'd all made the club, but despite closing their big-league camp Thursday, the Rockies figured the best chance these pitchers had of getting their work in Friday was to stay in the Arizona sunshine one more day.

The Rockies are scheduled to play an exhibition game with the Triple-A Sky Sox in Colorado Springs at 2:05 pm MT on Friday, but with over six inches of snow already fallen by Thursday morning and continued cold and wet weather in the forecast, the outlook for getting the game off was growing iffy.

The club decided to leave all of Friday's scheduled pitchers in Tucson, where they can be guaranteed of getting a "camp" game in at the Minor League complex. Scheduled starters Rodrigo Lopez and Brian Lawrence, along with scheduled relievers Corpas, Ramirez, Fuentes, Affeldt and Hawkins, all will pitch on the back fields at Hi Corbett Field at 11 a.m. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba also will stay in Tucson and catch the game, his first game action since spraining his ankle Monday.

"All the pitching we wanted to get done tomorrow will get done tomorrow," Hurdle said. "We'll anticipate going to Colorado Springs and playing the game there and using adjusted pitching that's available. We have a lot of options there."

The Rockies started most of their Opening Day lineup in their Cactus League finale on Thursday. It's unlikely that all of them will start back-to-back days, but Hurdle promised a representative group would be in Colorado Springs for the game.

Francis on fire: Jeff Francis had an outstanding final Spring Training outing Thursday, holding the White Sox hitless through 4 2/3 before yielding an infield single. He shut out Chicago through his five innings, lowering his spring ERA to 4.23.

"I was moving my fastball to both sides of the plate fairly well," Francis said. "I was changing speeds a bit with the two-seamer and the changeup. My curveball is always kind of a progress thing. I threw some good ones, but there's always work to be done."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.