Morales' stuff unimpressive so far 

March, 10, 2008
The first of several dispatches from the Cactus League ...

Franklin Morales' outing Sunday adds more trouble to the Rockies' growing pile of pitching woes. With Aaron Cook and Jason Hirsh both sidelined with shoulder soreness and Luis Vizcaino out with elbow soreness, Colorado is more likely to need Morales to take one spot in its Opening Day rotation. Morales' stuff, however, is nowhere near what it was last season, when he was working at 94-97 mph with a toxic slider and earned the No. 8 spot in this year's ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball. On Sunday, he worked at 86-91 mph, and dropped down to just 86-87 in the second inning before bouncing back with a few 90-91 mph fastballs in the third inning. He didn't throw his slider and threw just a few changeups, a pitch on which he's allegedly working but which still grades out as below-average. Making matters worse was his poor fastball command; he couldn't locate the pitch and couldn't just blow it by most hitters, although the Giants are a fortuitous opponent for a pitcher working without his best stuff. I spoke to a scout who'd seen Morales' prior outing, and he saw the same things I did. It's an ominous sign at a point in the spring when most pitchers are approaching their normal in-season velocity.

• Jayson Nix may be in line for the Rockies' starting second base job, but they'll be looking for an upgrade in short order. He's behind anything better than an average fastball and doesn't recognize breaking stuff well. His swing is long, and he tends to pull off the ball. In six full seasons in the minors, Nix has only hit well twice  in 2003 in the hitter-friendly California League, and last year as a repeater in Colorado Springs.