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Veteran pitchers will get long look in Rockies' camp

The SportsXchange

With the Colorado Rockies coming off a season of awful pitching, two newly acquired veterans will have a shot of making the Opening Day roster.

Colorado agreed on minor league contracts with pitcher Miguel Batista, who could add depth to the bullpen, and Chris Volstad, who could help the rotation. Meanwhile, the Rockies also are interested in signing veteran starter Derek Lowe, a free agent.

Batista, who turns 42 on Feb. 19 and has pitched for 11 franchises, has started and relieved during his long career that began in 1992. He will compete for a middle-relief spot with the Rockies. Last season, Batista went 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA in 35 games, including five starts, for the Mets before being released July 26. He then made five relief appearances for the Braves and had a 3.00 ERA with no record. Overall, Batista had 33 walks and 36 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings.

Batista has pitched in 658 games, 248 as a starter. His lifetime record is 102-115 with a 4.48 ERA. He last started extensively in 2008 when he was with the Mariners.

Volstad, 26, whose salary will be $1.5 million if he's in the big leagues, spent his first four seasons with the Marlins before being traded to the Cubs along for pitcher Carlos Zambrano and cash in January 2012.

Volstad went 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA for the Cubs in 21 starts last year. He began the season 0-9 before ending a 24-start winless streak with a victory on Aug. 26 against the Rockies at Wrigley Field. Volstad pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits in Chicago's 5-0 victory. In his penultimate start of the season, Volstad lasted three innings at Coors Field, giving up 10 hits and seven runs in an 11-3 loss.

The Royals claimed Volstad off waivers from the Cubs on Oct. 26 but then released him a month later. He reportedly agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Rockies on Jan. 20, but the team didn't immediately announced the signing.

While with the Marlins, Volstad worked with Mark Wiley, who was their pitching coach in 2008 and 2009, Volstad's first two seasons in the majors. Wiley worked twice previously for the Rockies before they hired him in October to be director of pitching for the entire organization.

Lowe, 39, went 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA last season in 21 starts for the Indians before they released him Aug. 10. Three days later, Lowe signed with the Yankees, and he went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 17 relief appearances for New York.

In his heyday, Lowe had one of the most vaunted sinkerballs in the game, but that time is past. Still, he might have enough stuff and mound savvy left to bolster the back end of the rotation. He does have plenty of experience at Coors Field, where keeping the ball down is imperative. Lowe is 4-5 with a 5.55 ERA in 11 starts there, the last in 2011 with the Braves.

The Rockies' starters went 29-68 with a 5.81 ERA during a forgettable 2012. The club lost a franchise-record 98 games and utilized a four-man rotation for two months. The Rockies believe the rotation will be better by having Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa healthy. Chacin missed nearly three months with nerve soreness in the area of his right pectoral muscle, but he pitched well after returning Aug. 21. De La Rosa had a slow comeback from Tommy John surgery in June 2011. He made three starts for the Rockies last September, going 0-2 with a 9.28 ERA.

Others competing for a spot in the rotation include Jeff Francis; Juan Nicasio, whose 2012 season ended June 2 when he suffered a knee injury that subsequently required surgery; Christian Friedrich, who made 16 starts before a stress fracture in his lower back ended his rookie season July 28; Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood. Chacin, De La Rosa and Nicasio combined to make just 28 starts last season.
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