TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Rockies have reduced Jason Hirsh's throwing program, the club revealed on Thursday, limiting the right-hander to rehab exercises and treatment for a shoulder strain that has precluded him from all but one Spring Training appearance.
Last week, Hirsh played long toss and hoped to begin throwing bullpen sessions soon.
Club officials said Hirsh's muscle strain is similar to the one catcher Yorvit Torrealba suffered in 2006. However, the club said the injury is not as severe as that suffered by Torrealba, who was limited to 65 games that year and dealt with pain last season. Memories of the Torrealba injury have the Rockies proceeding cautiously.
It will be a while before Hirsh can be considered part of the pitching depth the Rockies have assembled heading into 2008. Hirsh went 5-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 2007 as a rookie before he suffered a broken right fibula when hit with a line drive on Aug. 7. He was considered the favorite for the No. 4 spot.
Now, Hirsh, 26, will have to clear rehab hurdles and restart his throwing program before being considered part of the mix. Right-handers Kip Wells, who will begin the season in the bullpen, and Josh Towers -- who will start the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, provided he clears waivers and accepts the assignment, as expected -- are the options if any starter is injured or falters.
"It's in the rehab people's hands right now, it's up to Jason to stay regimented and stay focused on this," pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "I'm sure it's very discouraging to him with what he went through last year and at the outset of Spring Training. It's a lonely existence.
"But as far as we're concerned, we have to play this hand and make the best hand that we possibly can."
The Rockies have set Minor League outings in Tucson, Ariz., for their starters as they prepare for their first regular-season games. Right-hander Aaron Cook will pitch Friday in his last tuneup for Wednesday's start against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Righty Ubaldo Jimenez will pitch Saturday in preparation for his start against the Cardinals on Thursday, left-hander Mark Redman will pitch Sunday to prepare for the April 4 home opener against the D-backs and left-hander Franklin Morales will pitch on Monday in a Minor League game as he gets ready for his April 5 start against the D-backs.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.