Notes: Morales helping Rox stay afloat

Notes: Morales helps Rox stay afloat

SAN DIEGO -- Rockies left-handed phenom Franklin Morales didn't spend Spring Training immersing himself in English, or spend all that time studying his delivery on video just to come to the Majors and be flustered by the presence of a Cy Young Award favorite pitching against him.

Morales, 21, pitched six one-hit, shutout innings against the Padres, whose stalwart Jake Peavy gave up one run in seven innings, in Friday night's 2-1, 14-inning Rockies victory.

"I didn't think about that, if it's Peavy or whatever pitcher," Morales said. "I don't care. I throw my fastball, my changeup, and work against the hitter. If Peavy is the best pitcher in the National League, it's OK."

This exquisitely simple approach has helped Morales pitch 17 scoreless innings in his last three starts. He is 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA through his first seven Major League starts. Morales made 17 starts at Double-A Tulsa (3-4, 3.48 ERA) and three at Triple-A Colorado Springs (2-0, 3.71) before making his Rockies debut Aug. 18.

Morales and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.14) have helped keep the rotation afloat amidst regular season-ending injuries to right-handed starters Aaron Cook (oblique strain), Rodrigo Lopez (right elbow surgery) and Jason Hirsh (broken right fibula).

In five of his seven starts, Morales has lasted at least five innings and given up two or fewer runs. He has 16 strikeouts to 5 walks.

Starting this spring, Tulsa pitching coach Bo McLaughlin, who has joined the Rockies' coaching staff for the end of the season, spoke to Morales primarily in Spanish and had the pitcher answer primarily in English in an effort to improve his comprehension so conversations with coaches can occur more easily.

The Rockies and McLaughlin also broke Morales' delivery into three parts and had him study each, so flaws can be corrected quicker.

The club was confident he could make the emotional adjustment.

"He's had the experience of pitching winter ball down in Venezuela, where there is quite a bit of pressure and the big stage already," McLaughlin said. "He pitched very well, even at the age of 19 already."

The Rockies have kept the adjustment simple for Morales, as well as Jimenez, 23, by not feeding them too much information. Before their starts, both meet with the catcher to discuss hitters, but the Rockies keep the younger pitchers away from video study of opponents.

"That's part of growth -- being more in tune with yourself than your opponent," Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said.

Being chased: The National League West-leading Diamondbacks have more than a passing interest in the Rockies-Padres series. Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin considers the Rockies as much a contender as the other teams close to playoff status.

"Both of those teams are really good teams, and I'd love to see both of them just go away," he said.

Melvin has long believed the Rockies were a legit threat, and the six-game win streak they took into Saturday night was not a shock.

"They haven't surprised me," Melvin said. I've seen it all year. That's -- no question -- the best offensive team in our division, and they've been playing better and better and better here as they've gone along.

"They're on a ridiculous roll right now, where no matter what they do they seem to win, whether they take the lead, whether they fall behind."

The leader: Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday, who didn't start Saturday night's game with a strained left oblique muscle, entered Saturday's play leading all players in RBIs (26), runs (23) and home runs (12) during September.

Up next: Rockies lefty ace Jeff Francis (16-8, 4.25) will start the series finale against Padres righty Greg Maddux (12-10) at 2:05 p.m. MT on Sunday.

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