DENVER -- The offseason to impress bumped head-first into the flu season for Rockies right-handed pitching prospect Chaz Roe. The Rockies sent Roe, chosen as a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of the 2005 Draft, to the Arizona Fall League's Scottsdale Scorpions after a successful year at Double-A Tulsa. But Roe, 23, became ill before his first scheduled start. That one was scratched, and he began the year 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in three starts. "I was feeling good, and was ready to go, then I woke up the morning of my first start and could barely move," Roe said.
However, he rebounded with three scoreless innings on Monday against the Mesa Solar Sox. It's more in line with Roe's work over the course of 2009 -- a year full of forward strides. The year the Rockies selected Roe 32nd overall, they took shortstop Troy Tulowitzki out of Long Beach State with the seventh pick. Tulowitzki, of course, made the Majors quickly and is cheered and chanted about daily. The 6-foot-5 Roe, who overmatched opponents while at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky., with his size and advanced curveball, undertook a longer learning curve. Roe believes his work in Tulsa signified a breakthrough. Feeling confident enough not to have to think about his delivery, Roe went 7-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts -- a figure that would have been higher if not for a left oblique strain that cost him time in May and June. He struck out 77 and walked 43 in 115 innings. The Texas League hit .241 against him. The highlight was his lone complete game of the season and third of his career, a six-hit, 11-3 victory over Northwest Arkansas during which he gave up two earned runs, struck out three and walked three. Roe said Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey helped him achieve greater production. "I was not reaching 90 miles per hour on my fastball when I got to Tulsa," Roe said. "He just told me, 'I know there's more in there than what you're getting.' With his help, I stopped worrying about a lot of things, like mechanics, and just went out there and pitched my game." In five Minor League seasons, Roe is 33-25 with a 4.06 ERA, with 429 strikeouts and 236 walks. Rockies player development director Mac Gustafson witnessed one of the rough AFL starts, but has seen plenty of improvement as well. "He is making positive strides with his delivery, staying on line, and getting a good, downhill angle," Gustafson said. "He had a pretty darn good year when he was out there. The health piece is what we're looking at. He's had no major issues but he's had a strain or some tendinitis here and there. He's healthy now, and we're still looking for a good fall league out of him." This winter, the Rockies are expected to protect him on their 40-man Major League roster to prevent him from being exposed to other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft. Then Roe, who is throwing his fastball consistently at 90-91 mph but can reach 94, can continue a journey that already has him close to Coors Field. "At first, you think you will get there faster," Roe said. "But since I've been in the organization, they've taught me a lot. I've learned a lot of things that are working for me."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.