The Rockies demonstrate why pitchers do so many fielding drills

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Spring training begins in February. Thirty seconds after spring training begins, pitchers start doing those fielding drills in which they cover first base. They do those fairly damn continuously until, oh, five minutes before the first pitch on Opening Day.  Pitchers moan about it, but there’s a reason they do this. Just ask the Rockies, who lost last night’s game in large part to a pitcher’s failure to cover the bag.

The Padres had runners on first and second with one out Edgmer Escalona was pitching for Colorado, when Chase Headley grounded to Todd Helton at first base. Helton checked the runner heading to second, realized he had no shot at him, and turned to flip it to the covering Escalona.

Except Escalona wasn’t covering and Headley managed to beat Helton in the foot race to the bag. That loaded the bases, and the Padres’ seventh run came one batter later when Nick Hundley hit a sac fly that would have been out number three if Escalona had remembered his training. The Padres ended up winning 7-6.  Jim Tracy after the game:

“You’re taught from Day 1 that a ball hit to the right side on the ground, you move to that direction. It’s that simple.”

Or at least it should be.  What won’t be simple is next spring training if the Rockies miss the playoffs by one game, because Tracy will likely run pitcher fielding practice from dawn to dusk and tell his hurlers to get their arms in shape on their own time.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.