Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort raised eyebrows this spring when he said on a Twitter chat that he thought his team could win 90 games so long as his players stayed healthy.
Despite losing two-fifths of his starting rotation already with Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood on the disabled list, Monfort is sticking to his prediction as the Rockies get set for their home opener Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The reason for his lone-wolf optimism - Colorado's starting pitching - hasn't lived up to expectations in the early going. The rotation has one of the majors' highest ERAs at 6.53 following Thursday's 8-5 loss at Miami.
After Colorado's starters allowed 13 runs over 15 1-3 innings in the first three games, Franklin Morales gave up three in 5 1-3 on Thursday before Matt Belisle coughed up a one-run lead by surrendering four runs in the eighth.
''It's definitely not how you write it up,'' said Michael Cuddyer, who went 2 for 5 with his first home run as the Rockies dropped to 1-3. ''Now we've got to look at the Diamondbacks and win that series and get right back where we need to be.''
With Chatwood (hamstring) expected back by mid-month and Chacin (shoulder) likely to return by the beginning of May if not sooner, Juan Nicasio (9-9, 5.14 ERA) will fill in against the Diamondbacks (1-5).
Nicasio pitched poorly down the stretch in 2013, going 1-3 with an 8.06 ERA in his last six starts. One of those outings came at home against Arizona, which tagged him for seven runs over 2 1-3 innings in a 13-9 loss Sept. 22.
''You hate to lose 'em the first two weeks because you would like to save that for later," Monfort said. "But we do have more depth, so we're hopeful that these guys get back and the guys that fill in for them do well.''
Nicasio, 1-1 with an 8.05 ERA in five starts against the Diamondbacks, hopes to hold down Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo. They each hit a two-run homer Thursday before reliever Will Harris allowed five runs in the eighth inning of an 8-5 loss to San Francisco.
Goldschmidt has gotten off to an 11 for 26 start while extending his hitting streak to 25 games, second-longest in franchise history.
"It's not something you ever think about," he told the team's official website after moving within five games of Luis Gonzalez's club record. "You just try to have good at-bats and if it happens, it happens."
Goldschmidt appears to have a solid opportunity to extend that streak since he's 3 for 9 when facing Nicasio and is batting .441 with three homers over a nine-game hitting streak against the Rockies. Arizona won seven of those meetings en route to a 12-7 record in the series in 2013.
The Diamondbacks look to continue that trend with Randall Delgado (0-0, 0.00) making his first start of the season. The right-hander came out of the bullpen to get two outs March 23 in a 7-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Australia.
He went 1-0 while allowing four runs over 11 innings in a pair of September starts against the Rockies last season.
Cuddyer has picked up where he left off after winning the 2013 NL batting title, going 7 for 17 to open the season. Carlos Gonzalez (5 for 15) also has hit safely in all four games for the Rockies, who batted an NL-high .293 with a major league-best 434 runs at home last season.
Troy Tulowitzki, who had two hits Thursday, is batting .416 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in his last 22 games against the Diamondbacks.