DENVER -- The Rockies entered the season with a much maligned pitching staff, but on Saturday showed faith in their hurlers. They received an accomplished Major League right-hander from the Dodgers in Aaron Harang, then immediately announced that they weren't keeping him.
After receiving Harang in a trade for catcher Ramon Hernandez, the Rockies designated Harang for assignment and began efforts to deal him, rather than have him push one of the five starters out of the rotation or have him block one of the Triple-A Colorado Springs pitchers from a possible promotion.
The Rockies' rotation of Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis and Jon Garland -- a veteran picked up late in Spring Training -- will stay intact. Colorado Springs' rotation includes Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood, all of whom have shown ability but are inexperienced. If a veteran is needed, Aaron Cook, a Rockies ace a few years back, is also in Colorado Springs.
"It sends a message that we like our guys down there," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We've got some really good arms down in Colorado Springs.
"It was nice being able to send those guys out to fine-tune some things. They probably didn't think so at the time. In reality they could be up here competing at this level, but the fact they have an opportunity to go down there and tighten some things up has been positive. We're certainly counting on a number of guys down there."
Fans who witnessed the rotation's struggle last year might have trouble getting their minds around the Rockies turning down any kind of proven Major League pitching. But Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations, said many of the pitchers in the rotation now battled injury last year and are expected to do well now that they're healthy.
"We're happy with our guys," Geivett said. "Whether it was Chacin who missed a lot of time, or De La Rosa who missed a lot of time, or Nicasio who missed a lot of time, there's some ring-rust that comes with a new season and not having a full season last year. At the same time, we're confident in them."
Rockies will look to move newly-acquired Harang
DENVER -- The Rockies sent catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Dodgers on Saturday -- and escaped some of their financial commitment to him -- in exchange for pitcher Aaron Harang, whom the Rockies will not keep.
The Rockies decided at the end of Spring Training not to keep Hernandez when they went with Yorvit Torrealba as the veteran backup to Wilin Rosario, and were hoping to find a place for Hernandez and escape some of the $3.2 million salary he was owed. In the trade, the Dodgers agreed to pick up about $1 million of Hernandez's salary.
The Rockies also announced they had designated Harang for assignment, meaning they have 10 days to decide what to do with him. The Rockies are committed to trading him. The other options within the 10-day period are to release him or outright him to the Minors, but there is no plan to have Harang pitch at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
"With Aaron, we've respected him and what he's done in the past, but we've committed to five starters and we know he wants to start," said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations. "We also have a group of younger pitchers that are in Colorado Springs right now, and we'd like to make sure there is opportunity at some point of the season for them to come up."
The Dodgers were looking to deal Harang throughout Spring Training and offered him to the Rockies, who were looking for a groundball pitcher and ended up signing Jon Garland (who made his Rockies debut Saturday night against the Padres), and found a trading partner when their need for backup catching arose.
Now the Rockies are hoping to use Harang to fill another need. In dealing him, the Rockies are not necessarily looking for a Major Leaguer or even a 40-man roster player, but a prospect -- hitter or pitcher -- that can be developed.
"I don't know that we're close, but we're talking to a number of clubs, and we spoke to Aaron's agent," Geivett said. "We'll begin those discussions now."
Switch-hitting paying off in big way for Fowler
DENVER -- Rockies switch-hitting center fielder Dexter Fowler entered Saturday with three home runs this season -- all no-doubters, and all left-handed.
Well, remember 2011, when Fowler struggled from the left and there were suggestions being floated that he should quit switch-hitting? Fowler sure remembers answering questions about it, sensing that there was the possibility the Rockies would ask him to bat only right-handed. Fowler was a right-handed hitter in high school, and was taught to switch-hit when he turned pro with the Rockies.
No one ever actually asked him to end switch-hitting, nor did he ever figure out who thought that was a good idea. No person was ever publicly identified. Former manager Jim Tracy said at the time Fowler was going to find his stride as a switch-hitter, and there was no reason to change him.
"I'm still trying to figure out who the culprit is," Fowler said. "Tell them to come raise their hand and say, 'You know what? I was wrong.' I don't know who said it. Nobody's fessin' up to it. If you're man enough to say it, you should fess up to it. Nobody ever says anything.
"There's always a grapevine and nobody knows the source. And the source never speaks up when they're wrong."
Fowler spoke without bitterness, but he is proud of how he has developed as a switch-hitter. Last season, when he finished with a career-best .300 average, he hit .315 right-handed and a respectable .293 left-handed. He had more than twice the at-bats from the left (311) than from the right (143). He also hit 10 homers left-handed and three from the right.
"I knew I could hit right-handed and left-handed," Fowler said. "When I first started, obviously, it was a little difficult like anything you do starting from scratch. But I put a lot of work into it."
New Rockies manager Walt Weiss said that he is surprised by the power shown by Fowler, who is about 6-foot-4 and entered the Majors no heavier than 180 pounds and now weighs around 220. But he knows as long as Fowler's athletic ability isn't stifled it isn't an issue. Over his career, there have been suggestions he eliminate the upper-cut from his swing and concentrate on hitting the ball on the ground. But when Fowler takes his full swing, he not only has more power, but he's better able to hit doubles and triples to the gaps.
"There's a tendency in this game to get real mechanical, whether it's your footwork defensively or your swing," Weiss said. "In the end, you've got to go out there and be an athlete. These guys are great athletes. We don't ever want to put handcuffs on these guys."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.