Rockies looking at Pavano, Lowe for rotation
Club has already added righties Batista, Volstad on Minor League deals
DENVER -- After signing Miguel Batista over the weekend and reportedly reaching an agreement with Chris Volstad on Monday, the Rockies are pushing for two other veterans to compete for a starting-rotation spot -- Carl Pavano and Derek Lowe.
Batista's Minor League contract has been confirmed by the club, and Volstad's was reported Monday morning by the Denver Post. Major League sources confirmed a Post report of the Rockies pursuing Pavano and Lowe.
The Rockies also remain interested in evaluating former Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2009 because of shoulder issues. Webb is expected to throw in front of scouts for various teams sometime soon.
The Rockies believe the rotation will be bolstered by the healthy returns of two accomplished pitchers whose 2012 seasons were abridged by injury -- righty Jhoulys Chacin and lefty Jorge De La Rosa. They also re-signed veteran Jeff Francis. However, the rest of the rotation candidates figure to be young. Two of the young candidates are coming off season-ending injuries -- right-hander Juan Nicasio (left knee surgery) and left-hander Christian Friedrich (lower back stress fracture). The club has set a priority of adding one more experienced starter.
One issue has been the Rockies have a full 40-man Major League roster, and they would have to make a trade and would need to clear salary to bring in a pitcher on a Major League deal. The Rockies have talked to several teams about trades involving center fielder Dexter Fowler, and they could be willing to deal veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez, but nothing has come to fruition.
In the past, the Rockies have had success with veterans coming off injuries or rough years who have signed with them in an attempt to reestablish their value. Last year's experiment with Jamie Moyer didn't work out long term, but signings of Darren Oliver and Shawn Estes a few years back were successes. Pavano, 37, and Lowe, 39, if throwing well, fit the Rockies' desire to have a ground-ball pitcher with a low rate of walks.
Pavano battled a right shoulder strain for part of last season with the Twins and finished 2-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 11 starts, but he has found interest on the free-agent market. He was involved in talks with the Mets earlier in the winter. The Rockies have pursued Pavano heavily in past years and are known to have had their eye on him throughout this offseason.
Lowe went 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 21 starts with the Indians, and he also made 17 appearances with the Yankees last season (1-1, 3.04 ERA). Lowe also has experience with the National League West, having pitched for the Dodgers from 2005-08. That time included a 16-8 performance in '06.
Volstad, 26, went 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA in 21 starts for the Cubs last season. His first win came on Aug. 26 against the Rockies, when he ended a 24-start winless streak by going 6 2/3 innings in a 5-0 Cubs victory at Wrigley Field that was shortened to eight innings because of rain. Volstad also went 3-5 with a 5.17 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Iowa.
The Rockies hope Volstad can recapture the form of the early stages of his career. He went 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA as a rookie for the Marlins in 2008, and 12-9 with a 4.58 ERA with the Marlins in 2010. The Marlins dealt him to the Cubs for pitcher Carlos Zambrano and cash considerations before last season.
The versatile Batista, who turns 42 on Feb. 19, appeared in 30 games and started five for the Mes last year before being released on July 26, then made five relief appearances for the Braves. Overall, he went 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA.
If Batista does not fit into the starting-rotation plans, he could compete for one of the hybrid bullpen spots. After experimenting with a four-man rotation last year, the Rockies are going back to the traditional five-man rotation, but they are staying with the idea of three relievers who pitch on a rotation and can be asked to face as few as one batter or pitch multiple innings.
The Rockies also have offered a Minor League deal to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who was the team's starting catcher on the 2007 team that won the National League championship and the '09 team that went to the playoffs. Torrealba, who hit a combined .227 last season with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers, is believed to be considering his options.
Hernandez and Wilin Rosario, a rookie last season, are the only catchers on the Rockies' Major League roster.
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.