Fowler, Rockies off to quick start in 2013

The Rockies apparently didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season. Manager Walt Weiss has his club boasting a 5-1 record after the first week of the season, in which the Rox won two of three games in Milwaukee before sweeping a weekend series at Coors Field against the Padres.

To show their excitement of having former Rockie slugger Dante Bichette back in uniform as hitting coach, the current Rockies partied like it was 1995, launching 13 home runs in the first six games of the season.

All 13 of those came courtesy of the new era Blake Street Bombers of Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario.

Of those five, Fowler has raised the most eyebrows. A homegrown product out of Georgia, Fowler gained little traction or consistency in his first few full seasons in the majors. Last year, however, he hit a career best .300 and showed he had some power.

The Rockies’ center fielder was rewarded in the offseason with a new two-year contract that provided him some relief that he wasn’t just a piece the club could use to obtain a starting pitcher.

Not many managers can say their leadoff hitter leads the team in home runs and slugging percentage. Weiss can, at least for now. No matter who is seeing the ball well at the plate, Rockies’ fans know they’ll hit. That hasn’t been a surprise at all so far this season.

Last week, I predicted they’d lead the league in hitting, home runs and runs. That might just be a reality at season’s end if week one is a foreshadowing of what’s to come from the offense.

This just in, the starting pitchers for the Rockies recorded wins in four of their five wins last week. You read that correctly. All but Jorge de la Rosa logged a quality start, defined by a starting pitcher throwing at least six innings while giving up three or fewer earned runs.

Last season, the starting rotation would often go weeks without a quality start, let alone stringing multiple ones together. By June, then-manager Jim Tracy was beside himself as he watched his starters be knocked out of the game by the fourth inning night after night.

The front office even got involved and implemented the octopus rotation, a failed experiment that limited four starting pitchers to 75 pitches before handing the ball to a predetermined “piggyback” reliever.

That seems like the dinosaur era after what the Rockies’ rotation has done so far. Jhoulys Chacin, who had an atrocious spring training and took the baseball twice last week, sports a miniscule 1.35 earned run average to begin his season.

Juan Nicasio, who has been rumored to be a better fit for the bullpen, also looked solid in his winning effort against the Brewers. Jeff Francis, tasked with starting the home opener, changed speeds and location to help baffle a San Diego offense all day long.

Jon Garland, signed less than two weeks ago to take over the final rotation spot, made Dan O’Dowd look like a genius Saturday night as he routinely got groundball outs en route to his first win in a Rockie uniform.

Fans that just look at box scores might think the Rockies are just winning games by the long ball and some lucky starting pitching. Look a little deeper, though. The Rox defense looks back to where it was before last season and the bullpen has done its part, aside from Wilton Lopez blowing a late-inning lead in Milwaukee on Opening Day.

And twice now already, Weiss has written lineups many would feel are “B” lineups. Sunday, for example, he rested Tulo, Josh Rutledge, Todd Helton and Cuddyer in favor of Jonny Herrera, Reid Brignac, Jordan Pacheco and Eric Young Jr. At game’s end, those “utility guys” finished 7-16 with three runs and two runs batted in. Good luck finding another manager that gets that kind of production from bench players.

Now comes a week where the Rockies’ metal will be tested more than last. Monday-Wednesday, the Rox play the Giants at AT&T Park, a venue the club has struggled at mightily. They can’t rely on home runs because of the Giants’ premiere pitching staff, as well as AT&T being one of the best pitching parks in baseball.

The Giants also have an underrated lineup filled with contact hitters, power bats, and speed. Teams that can score four or five runs at AT&T typically have a great chance to win, so the Rockies’ starters have to continue what they did last week.

After an off-day Thursday, the Rox travel to San Diego to play the Padres again. If the Rockies come out of this road trip at either 3-3 or 4-2 somehow, we have to start taking this team seriously.