DENVER c If Colorado Rockies right-hander Jason Jennings believed an opening-day start was no different than his 32 other scheduled starts this season, he never would have lobbied so hard for the job or been so disappointed last year when the team passed over him in favor of Joe Kennedy to start the opener. But for Jennings, it might have been worth the wait. He hardly could have been better Monday in the Rockies’ 2006 debut, allowing one run and six hits over seven innings in a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. “He had a very strong effort,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was a big outing for him.” Though he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2002 and has been the team’s most reliable pitcher since, Jennings hasn’t started the past two openers because of his slow starts, usually struggling through spring training and April. This offseason, Jennings started throwing earlier and committed to a conditioning program designed to get him in better shape. The results have been promising. Jennings kept the ball low in the strike zone Monday and issued one walk. He also handled an Arizona lineup loaded with four left-handers and two switch-hitters. In Jennings’ career, left-handers have hit .312 against him. “I’ve had some rough Aprils, haven’t started the way I wanted, but hopefully this is a sign of things to come,” Jennings said. “It means a lot. It was just one start, but everybody likes to get off to a good start. I buried myself the last couple years, so hopefully I can build off this one.” The fact Jennings came dangerously close to missing Monday’s game made his performance all the more important. On Sunday morning, Jennings came down with a fever and nausea and was afraid he wouldn’t feel well enough to pitch effectively. But when Jennings woke up Monday, the illness had passed. “At about 5 o’clock I didn’t know if I’d be here today,” Jennings said. “It was a rough night but I woke up this morning feeling OK and got some fluids. It was just a little 12- or 24-hour bug I think. I got it out of my system in time.” Jennings’ timing was good once he got to the ballpark. Not only did he strike out six Diamondbacks, but his bloop single to shallow left field in the fifth inning drove home Brad Hawpe and tied the score 1-1. The game still was tied at 1-1 after the seventh inning when Jennings left having thrown 98 pitches. “I just kept my emotions in check, didn’t let my adrenaline get the best of me,” Jennings said. “I just kind of pounded the (strike) zone. Only one walk, which is good for me usually. My strategy was to pound the zone and let them put it in play and let the defense work behind me.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or email@example.com
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