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Sentimental favorite

Right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook knows all about the Rockies' lean years.
/ Source: Rocky Mountain News

Right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook knows all about the Rockies' lean years.He has lived them.

Todd Helton, a first-round draft choice in 1995 out of the University of Tennessee, is the only player who has been in the organization longer than Cook, a second-round choice in 1997 out of high school.

Now that the Rockies are enjoying their best of times, Cook would like to be able to feel a part of things, just like Helton.

So far, Cook has been relegated to cheerleading. Sidelined in August with a strained muscle in his side, Cook aggravated the injury a month later, and the Rockies decided against putting him on the postseason roster for the sweeps of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Championship Series.

Will the third time be Cook's charm?

Rockies management began discussing a World Series roster Friday, and the No. 1 topic of conversation is whether to activate Cook.

"Physically, he's good to go," manager Clint Hurdle said.

So what's the hang-up?

"Sharpness," Hurdle said. "He hasn't been in a (major league) game for more than two months. That's something we have to weigh."

What adds to the challenge for Hurdle and his staff is separating the emotions from realism, and not letting Cook's stature in the organization - he was the Opening Day pitcher - overshadow the competitive concerns.

"We discussed that (before the NLCS)," Hurdle said. "I said leaving him off that roster was the most difficult decision I have had to make as a manager in terms of personnel. You have to find a way to stand back and be objective. You need to have acute vision."

Putting Cook in the rotation would allow the Rockies to move rookie left-hander Franklin Morales into the bullpen, giving Hurdle a third left-handed reliever to go with Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Fuentes.

A likely victim in finding Cook a roster spot would be right-handed reliever Taylor Buchholz, who did not pitch in the first two series.

Part of the discussion will be the Rockies' opponent. Cleveland has taken a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series that resumes tonight at Fenway Park. Game 7 would be played in Boston on Sunday night.

Cook made a statement against the Red Sox this season. He suffered a loss in his Fenway Park debut in June, but it was 2-1. He gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings. A Red Sox lineup that has only two left-handed-hitting regulars - David Ortiz and J.D. Drew - couldn't get the ball in the air against Cook. He gave up five singles and two doubles and had 16 of 21 outs recorded on groundballs with four others on strikeouts.

While Ortiz and Drew are a combined 7-for-14 in their career against Cook, the rest of the Red Sox roster is only 11-for-53.

Cook doesn't have a history against Cleveland. The only two Indians position players he has faced are Kenny Lofton, who is 5-for-13 against him, and Trot Nixon, who is 2-for-3.

Morales has not faced anybody on either team.

Morales finished the season strong. He was 3-0 in his last four starts, equaling a franchise record with a streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings and allowing three earned runs in 22 innings.

Hurdle, though, has not given the 21-year-old left-hander much margin for error in the postseason, although he started the Rockies' NLCS-clinching victory.

Against Philadelphia, he allowed three runs in three innings. Against Arizona, he was removed for a pinch hitter with two out in the fourth after allowing one run.

Cook hasn't pitched since Aug. 10, but he was hot when he was injured.

He was only 3-1 in six starts, but allowed 11 earned runs in 41 1/3 innings at the time of the injury. He thought he was healed, but in his first rehabilitation start for Triple-A Colorado Springs, he reaggravated the injury in the first inning he pitched for the Sky Sox.

"Personally, there's no doubt we all would like to see 'Cookie' get a chance," general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "He has a history here. But we have to sit back and look at who gives us the competitive advantage."