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Wednesday Rockpile: Fireman Matt Belisle talks to Purple Row

When Matt Belisle came into the Colorado Rockies organization in spring training 2009 as a player on a minor league deal, not much was expected of him. All he's done since is become one of the most reliable members in Colorado's relief corps over the last five years.

Doug Pensinger

DENVER -- When Matt Belisle came into the Colorado Rockies organization in spring training 2009 as a player on a minor league deal, not much was expected of him. The righty, a former starter, was hurt during that spring but did enough to earn a spot in Colorado's bullpen.

All he's done since is become one of the most reliable members in Colorado's relief corps over the last five years. As a Rockie he's thrown 337 innings out of the pen with a 3.61 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9 rate -- production that has been good enough for a 127 ERA+ (27% better than league average) and 5.6 rWAR. Given the recent injury to Rafael Betancourt, it's more likely that the Rockies will pick up Belisle's mutual $4.25 million option for 2014.

Belisle has mastered the art of being an effective pitcher day in and day out at Coors Field -- a fact detailed brilliantly by Dave Krieger in an article last summer. Read that article for a blueprint of how to be a successful pitcher at Coors. I had the opportunity to interview Belisle last month and found him to be extremely engaging in person.

On his mentality at Coors Field (and mentoring other pitchers)

"I talk (to other pitchers) about the physical and mental side -- that's the key, it's both. The altitude here's a crutch. I think from a mental side you have to think of it as an opportunity to learn a lot more about yourself and to really be in tune with your pitches because it's different here, it really is, but you've just got to bear down, be successful, and keep the ball down."

On how he pitches differently home and away

"The arsenal doesn't change, maybe the selection changes, especially if fatigue sets in. The spin on the breaking ball here is lacking -- I may go to more changeups, more cutters, or a smaller slider, because my curveball's different here. But really, you've got to adjust when you get on the road because everything gets a lot better, so you've got to readjust your release point. It's a constant ebb and flow."

On the advice Belisle has received from his pitching coaches (Jim Wright and Bo McLaughlin)

"I think Jim's been a real mentor in the mental game. We all have the physical ability -- it's all between the ears, the attitude, the confidence you can instill, and the unwavering belief that you can get it done. He's been, to say the least, a huge help in my career."

On the starter to reliever transition

"Dan O'Dowd brought me over here in 2009 with an equal opportunity to start or relieve, but that Spring Training I had a forearm issue that stopped me from logging innings to have a shot at the starting rotation, yet I still did well enough to where he wanted me on the team out of camp, so I was in the bullpen. After that, that's all it's been. I've always loved starting and I'd go back to starting, but I don't feel the need to worry about anything other the job I've been given and try to do your best at it. Whatever will help the team win the World Series is what I want to do."

On the year-to-year existence of being a MLB reliever

"Unfortunately relievers are not given really long leashes or contracts for some reason. We've always tried to fight for that for the league. The Rockies have been very good to me with extensions here and there, it's been a good thing. But, those are distractions if you make them one and I choose not to. The job is just to try to win. What Walt (Weiss) preaches here is your ultimate worth is how valuable you are to helping the club win -- and that's really what I try to do."

Thanks to Matt Belisle for his time!

Los Links!

Carlos Gonzalez took batting practice last night and hopes to go on a rehab assignment soon. Given Colorado's position in the standings, there doesn't really need to be a huge amount of urgency in getting him back in the lineup, though it is a lot more fun when CarGo is smacking the ball all over Coors Field.

Former Rockies player Gabe Kapler writes another outstanding (free) guest column for Baseball Prospectus about the bias inherent in baseball towards coaches with big league experience -- often at the expense of fine coaches who lack such experience. Given the Rockies' recent coaching hires, I felt that this was a germane topic.

Meanwhile, Forbes is claiming that the Astros (who had an Opening Day payroll of $26 million that is considerably reduced now) are the most profitable team in history thanks in large part to a new regional sports network. I'm very skeptical of the assumptions that went into that claim, and so is Colin Wyers of BP.

Either way, I'm not diametrically opposed to a big league team bottoming out in a rebuilding year, so long as the ownership group is willing to spend money on the right talent when the time is right. Seeing as the time has yet to be right for the Astros under the current regime, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Applying that lesson to the Rockies, we see that Colorado has indeed paid money in many occasions to retain its own talent; rather, it's the insular way in which the team operates in free agency and in trades that rubs many the wrong way.


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