Jon Paul Morosi

Instead of making excuses, Rockies winning

Instead of making excuses, Rockies winning

If the Rockies were having a sluggish April, they'd have plenty of ways to rationalize it.

Ian Desmond, their $70 million free-agent signee, and promising outfielder David Dahl have yet to play in the regular season because of injuries.

Chad Bettis, who led Colorado with 14 wins last year, is on the disabled list while undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer. Jon Gray, who led the staff in strikeouts last year, is out for at least the next month with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Carlos Gonzalez is batting .175 and left Wednesday's game after being hit on the right hand by a Clayton Kershaw pitch. Gonzalez's hand is bruised, but preliminary X-rays were negative. Trevor Story, last year's April sensation, is off to a .125 start. 

Rockies booth on CarGo's injury

Yet, despite a 4-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday night, the Rockies remain tied with the Diamondbacks for the most wins in the National League. And between the NL West expansion cousins, Colorado has the better chance to sustain its early-season momentum.

With players coming back from the DL -- and production returning to established norms, in the case of Gonzalez and Story -- the Rockies have plenty of upside potential. And the present looks promising, too.

Third baseman Nolan Arenado is, on a nightly basis, one of the top five position players in the world. If anything, he benefited from the experience of going through offensive struggles during Team USA's triumph at the World Baseball Classic -- the highest level of competition thus far in Arenado's professional life.

Once the regular season began, Arenado resumed his usual production with the Rockies, for whom he's led the National League in home runs and RBIs the past two seasons. He entered Wednesday with six homers and 11 RBIs, placing him within range of the leaders in each category. And when Arenado reaches the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time, he'll have the World Baseball Classic experience to draw upon.

Meanwhile, veteran Mark Reynolds has proven to be one of the most cost-effective signings in baseball this season. He's delivered a .965 OPS and four home runs -- on a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Outfielder Gerardo Parra also has outperformed expectations, while waiting for mainstays DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon to return to last year's pace.

In Denver, the starting rotation is a perpetual question. That's especially so without Bettis and Gray on the active roster. But 22-year-old Antonio Senzatela (2-0, 2.37 ERA) has been a revelation, and the Rockies have defeated the Dodgers in two games started by left-hander Kyle Freeland.

Neither Senzatela nor Freeland pitched in the Majors before Opening Day, so the usual qualifiers apply as to the rapid adjustments made by video-savvy opposing hitters. But Colorado's starters, young and old, are backed by a bullpen that has been among the Majors' best this year. The offseason additions of closer Greg Holland and Mike Dunn have paid immediate dividends, alongside returnees Adam Ottavino, Scott Oberg and Carlos Estevez.

The Rockies aren't reprising the concepts of piggybacking starters or four-man rotations, futile attempts to tame Coors Field that were abandoned long ago. But in this Era of the Reliever, general manager Jeff Bridich has built a bullpen that -- so far -- has been as sturdy as any in the Majors.

And through internal improvements alone, Colorado will look like a postseason team -- something the Rockies haven't been since 2009.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for and MLB Network. He also has covered baseball for FOX Sports, the Detroit Free Press and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.