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Rockies’ Jake McGee will have to fill Mike Dunn’s shoes

McGee hasn’t been used as much as Dunn thus far, nor has he appeared in situations with as much leverage. But his improvement suggests he’ll be able to step in effectively.

The Colorado Rockies on Wednesday placed left-handed reliever Mike Dunn on the disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, April 23, per a club announcement. The injury, while a blow to the Rockies’ surprisingly good bullpen, isn’t catastrophic for a couple of reasons.

First, Dunn will be eligible to return to action on Wednesday, May 3, thanks to the new 10-day DL. That might only amount to 2-3 potential outings missed.

Second, the Rockies still have an above-average lefty in their bullpen in Jake McGee, who has logged just 6 23 innings thus far in 2017. McGee wasn’t used much in the spring, either, meaning his arm should be fresh and ready to handle increased workload until Dunn returns.

It also helps that he’s pitching with a little extra oomph this season.

“I’m able to better my timing and push off from a slide step to hit 97 [mph], where last year it was 94,” McGee said earlier this month. “My location is much better. I was dropping a little bit and getting under the ball too much.”

McGee’s issues were the consequence of a knee that never got back to full strength following surgery to repair the meniscus.

“I never really got my foundation back after that,” McGee said. “I felt good here and there, but as the season wore on, it wore my knee out.”

So far in 2017, McGee looks like a better pitcher than he was a year ago, although consistently hitting the velocity he’s capable of has been an issue. After clocking in at an average of 93.1 mph with his fastball in 2016, McGee is up to 94.5 this year. That’s not quite the 97 he was hitting in his first couple of outings of the season, nor is it the 96 he averaged from 2012-14.

But it’ll play. That shows in the numbers thus far; McGee has struck out nine batters and owns an FIP of 2.04 — a much better looking mark than his 4.05 ERA.

So, things are definitely better for the southpaw—acquired in a trade that sent Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo to the Tampa Bay Rays and also netted the Rockies German Marquez—in the early part of this season. But McGee will have to keep that up, especially while the lefty specialist Dunn is on the shelf.

Fortunately, it’s a task McGee and the rest of the Colorado bullpen is equipped to handle. Even after a poor performance on Tuesday, the unit owns the second-best relief ERA in the National League at 3.07.

“We have really good chemistry down there,” McGee said. “No one wants to be better than anyone else, everyone just wants to work together to win the game. That's showing so far.”