Pitchers agree to contracts
After earning little more than the league minimum the past two seasons, the right-hander agreed to a two-year, $7 million deal Tuesday that includes a club option for 2007. Left-hander Joe Kennedy also accepted a $2.2 million, one-year contract, solidifying two of the top spots in Colorado's rotation. Both had filed for arbitration Friday.
"I know it was in their best interest to not pay guys who didn't have to be paid, and they didn't have to pay me," Jennings said. "I understood, but obviously it was frustrating because I felt like I deserved more. I think this two-year deal more than made up for it."
A groundball pitcher who gives up plenty of hits, Jennings has shown a knack for working out of trouble and shrugging off bad outings.
The 2002 NL Rookie of the Year is the only Colorado pitcher to win 10 games in each of his first three seasons, leaving him 10 wins shy of Pedro Astacio's team record of 53. Jennings also has 23 wins at hitter-friendly Coors Field, one behind Astacio's record, and was 17-5 there his first two seasons.
Jennings was 11-12 with a 5.51 ERA last season, though he pitched better the second half of the year and would have had more wins if not for Colorado's struggles in the bullpen -- there were four blown saves in Jennings' final seven starts.
But what the Rockies like most about Jennings is his ability to accept that pitching at Coors Field is like nowhere else, something most pitchers can't handle.
"You don't like to give four or five runs a game, but you just have stay focused because if you give up four runs, eight out 10 times you're going to win at Coors Field," Jennings said. "As long as you get your win total up, you're OK. You're not going to win the World Series with your ERA, you're going to win the World Series by winning games."
That kind of attitude was a big reason the Rockies ponied up the money this year after renewing his contract each of the past two seasons.
After making $340,000 last year, Jennings gets a $200,000 signing bonus, $2.3 million this year and $4.4 million in 2006. Colorado has a $5.5 million option for 2007 with a $100,000 buyout, and the option price would rise to $6.4 million if he pitches 400 innings in the next two seasons. If Jennings is traded, 2007 becomes a mutual option.
"This guy's a homegrown kid, a No. 1 pick, was the Rookie of the Year and he's certainly gone through some ups and downs," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "We've renewed him and he never complained about it, he just kept going out and doing his job."
Kennedy, who made $320,000, was one of the surprises in 2004, setting a career-high with nine wins (9-7). He became the first Rockies pitcher with an ERA under 4 at 3.66, seventh-best among NL left-handers, and was particularly effective at Coors Field, where he was 6-1 with a 3.59 ERA.
Not bad for someone who was 3-12 with a 6.13 ERA with Tampa Bay the year before.
"We thought he was a perfect bounce-back guy," O'Dowd said. "He still has a ways to go, there's still some things we need to continue to work and develop, but a sub-4.00 ERA in this ballpark is extremely difficult to do."
The Rockies are still trying to work out a deal with right-hander Shawn Chacon, who asked for a raise from $1,925,000 to $2,925,000 and was offered $2.15 million. An All-Star as a starter in 2003 when he went 11-8, Chacon struggled after being converted to closer last year.
Chacon had trouble with control -- 52 walks in 63 1-3 innings -- and the precision that comes with being the closer, finishing 1-9 with a 7.11 ERA and nine blown saves, tied for the NL lead. He did end up with 35 saves, but only because the Rockies kept sending him out there.
Chacon lost his job as closer the final week of the season and is expected to move back to the rotation this year.
"It's a difficult case," O'Dowd said. "I think we'll get something done with him, but I just think it's going to drag out a bit."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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