Chacin to begin season at Double-A Tulsa

March 30, 2009 | 8:17 pm | 3  

Jhoulys Chacin, the Rockies top pitching prospect, will begin the season at Double-A Tulsa. His first start is scheduled for April 9 when the Drillers open their season at Corpus Christi.

The Opening Day start will be nothing new for Chacin, 21. He drew that assignment in 2007 at Rookie Casper and last year at low Class A Asheville, where he allowed one hit in six scoreless innings in a game the Tourists won 5-4 in 11 innings and a game that pointed Chacin toward his 2008 heights.

Chacin went 10-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 16 starts for Asheville and 8-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 12 starts for high Class A Modesto, where he was limited to five innings in his final nine starts to keep his workload in check. Chacin, who led the minors with 18 wins last year, finished with 177 2/3 innings.

His outstanding 2009 season earned Chacin an invitation to big league camp where he was more impressive in his early outings and showed mound poise and ability to sink the ball. Chacin made a Cactus League start March 16 against Arizona when the Rockies opted to have Aaron Cook pitch in a minor league game that day rather than face the Diamodbacks, whom he’ll oppose April 6 when the season opens. Chacin pitched two scoreless innings before yielding three runs in the third, his final inning.

In his final outing March 21 before being reassigned to minor league camp two days later, Chacin uncharacteristically struggled with his control when he walked four in 2 1/3 innings against the Rangers and allowed five runs, four on a grand slam by prospect Chad Tracy, whose father, Jim, is the Rockies bench coach.

Sending Chacin to Tulsa to start the season rather than Triple-A Colorado Springs has several advantages. April weather in Colorado Springs can be unpredictable and harsh, so Chacin will have a better chance to begin his season with regular work at Tulsa.

Chacin may be talented enough to bypass Double-A and jump to Triple-A without much trouble. But developmentally, there is nothing wrong with having him move one level at a time, experience success at Tulsa and have that success to draw on when he does advance to Colorado Springs.

At Tulsa, Chacin will also have a chance to work with Drillers pitching coach Bryan Harvey, who has returned to the organization this year. Chacin can only benefit from being around Harvey.

A former closer with the Angels and Marlins, Harvey began his coaching career in 2007 at Asheville but had to take last off year to deal with a family matter. At Asheville, Harvey was an immediate hit with the pitchers he worked with, Tourists manager Joe Mikulik, Jim Wright, who was then the roving pitching coordinator, player development director Marc Gustafson and assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations Bill Geivett.

3 Comments »

  • Zack | March 30, 2009 | 10:37 pm

    I understand it, but this is a little disappointing, especially since I live in CS and was hoping to see Chacin a few times. So Tracy, how do you think the AAA rotation will look? Will Fogg accept a move to AAA and be in that rotation? I am thinking Hirsh, Reynolds, Smith, Hynick, and maybe Fogg if he’s down there.

  • Tracy Ringolsby | March 30, 2009 | 10:41 pm

    Zack, I assume the first four are pretty accurate, and my guess is the fifth would be either Fogg or Belisle if he is sent down.

    Don’t worry. Chacin should be in the Springs by mid-season. He, however, still needs to refine his breaking pitch, which will be better handled at Tulsa.

  • Jack Etkin | March 30, 2009 | 10:54 pm

    Zack,
    You should get a chance to see Chacin. But it might be for only a little more than a month, if he follows say Jeff Francis’ trajectory in 2004 _ 17 starts at Tulsa, where he went 13-1 with a 1.98 ERA, seven at the Springs where he went 3-2, 2.85 and then the big leagues.
    With Smith now sidelined with a dead arm or shoulder soreness of some sort, and this coming soon after the flu-like symptoms that threw him off course, he hasn’t been able to get stretched out. He’ll need time to get in starting-pitching shape, so I wouldn’t expect him to be in the rotation when the season starts. Hirsh, Reynolds, Hynick and Fogg and possibly Morales if the Rockies decide he’s better served making a couple starts for the Sky Sox before April 21 when the Rockies need a fifth starter.