As it turns out, only having three starting pitchers just isn’t a sustainable model.
It’s like expecting a ceiling fan to keep a house cool on a 98-degree day. It’s better than nothing, but it just can’t be asked to do that much work. It will just be hot and uncomfortable, which is precisely what has happened to the Rockies since Sunday.
Colorado has lost three of their last four games in the eighth, ninth, or 10th inning because the relievers have either lost the strike zone or offered up batting practice to opposing teams. Daniel Bard took the blown save and loss with four walks (this doesn’t include the HBP) in the ninth inning on Wednesday. Justin Lawrence earned the blown save and loss in the eighth on Tuesday after giving up a homer, double, single, and a walk. The now Atlanta Brave, Pierce Johnson, took the loss after two walks and a hit against the Marlins on Sunday in the 10th innings.
It’s been a heartbreaking stretch after a really bright start to the second half of the season after the Midsummer Classic.
Despite ranking No. 26 with a 4.65 ERA and No. 27 with a 1.46 WHIP, the Rockies bullpen has delivered a lot of success this year, especially considering they’ve been asked to pitch 417 1/3 innings (fourth most in MLB). But now the Rockies are seeing what happens when a team uses a bullpen to not only perform its regular duties, but also pick up two out of five starts in a rotation.
With injuries decimating Colorado’s starting pitching, especially after Kyle Freeland went to the 10-day IL on July 9 with a dislocated glove shoulder, the Rockies haven’t had any easy choices lately when it comes to who to put on the mound to start each game.
In the 10 games since Freeland had to be removed from the rotation, Austin Gomber has made three starts, Chase Anderson has made two, and Connor Seabold started one as the only remaining starters from the pre-All-Star break. Thankfully, Peter Lambert has arrived to make two starts during this time, but Seabold struggled so much, he was forced to return to the bullpen. This has forced the Rockies to have three bullpen days where an opener from the bullpen was used to start and the relievers were relied upon for the entire game.
Over this stretch, the bullpen has pitched 59 2/3 innings, compared to 42 1/3 from the traditional starters (Gomber, Anderson, Lambert, and Seabold before he was moved back to the bullpen). The relievers have combined to win four games with six holds and two saves, but also have earned three losses and blown four saves. The non-opener starters are 2-2.
The Rockies are 6-4 since the All-Star break, which is pretty great. However, they should be 8-2 and could be 9-1. They just went 3-3 on a road trip in Miami and Washington, but it should have been a 6-0 sweep.
Obviously, the Rockies don’t have a lot of options, but overworking a good bullpen is not the answer. Thankfully, help is on the way with Kyle Freeland slated to return from the IL and start for the Rockies on Friday when they return to Coors Field to host the A’s. The Rockies also recently picked up veteran RHP Chris Flexen, who’s been building up his pitch count in Triple-A and should be able to join the rotation soon. The sooner the Rockies can give the bullpen a break and return to a reasonable load, the better it will be.
In the first eight games after the All-Star break, the Rockies bullpen had third highest fWAR in MLB at 1.0 (behind only the Brewers and Red Sox) and the fourth lowest ERA at 2.68. They also had the second most innings pitched at 47, only behind the Giants. After Tuesday’s loss, they dropped to No. 7 with 0.7 fWAR and No. 5 with a 3.31 ERA. Wednesday’s defeat will send them farther down and it will continue that way until they can have their workload reduced.
Thankfully, the Rockies have a welcomed day off on Thursday, before starting a busy stretch where they will play 19 games in 20 days. Hopefully, Flexen’s debut comes sooner than later. Before that, the Rockies need Freeland to have a solid start and stay healthy. If that happens, maybe there’s hope for the bullpen to pitch a reasonable amount of innings and be able to do its job.
This is good news! It’s even better because Bud Black and Kyle Freeland said that Freeland’s 25-pitch bullpen session went so well that the lefty won’t even be on a pitch count. Starting Friday, the Rockies will have four starting pitchers again. Riley Pint will be optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque after being called up on Tuesday and not seeing any action.
Dayn Perry classifies the Rockies as sellers, but with the disclaimer that “It’s never easy to figure out what exactly the Rockies are doing at any given juncture, but if horse-sense prevails then they’ll flip a few veteran pieces before Aug. 1.” He believes C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, and Jurickson Profar are most likely to be moved if the Rockies decide to make any more moves.
On Wednesday, MLB owners voted to keep Rob Manfred at the helm of the league. One of the big issues he’ll be focusing on in his next term is how to make more games more accessible to more fans in a world that is more streaming and less cable-bound. Evan Drellich’s article reflects back on Manfred’s reign since 2015, the challenges from minor league restructuring and treatment of MiLB players, as well as labor disputes that resulted in a strike that delayed the start of the 2022 season, to the Astros sign-stealing scandal and COVID. Drellich also talks about his successes in rule changes speeding up the game and growing revenue.
On the Farm
The game might not have gone very well for the Isotopes, but Brendan Rodgers went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Rodgers was slotted in at DH In his second game with Albuquerque as part of rehabbing from a left shoulder dislocation he suffered in Spring Training. Wynton Bernard hit a homer in the ninth inning for his second hit of the game and to end the shutout. Phillips Valdez gave up two homers in a rough start that saw the Isotopes go down 5-0 in the fourth inning. Tyler Kinley, who’s also rehabbing but from a flexor tendon tear that required surgery in June of the 2022 season, made his first appearance at Triple-A by relieving Valdez. Kinley struck out Heliot Ramos in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on third and, despite giving up one hit in the sixth inning, pitched 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Niko Decolati wasn’t about to see Hartford’s comeback come up short. After the Yard Goats erased a 6-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, only to see the Fisher Cats tie it up and take it to extra innings, Decolati hit a two-run homer in the top of the 11th to make sure the rally was successful. Decolati went 3-for-5 on the night with a walk and scored two runs, while Kyle Datres extended his hitting streak to 16 games by hitting a three-run homer in the fifth inning. Jordan Beck hit an RBI double, Cristopher Navarro added an RBI single, and Colin Simpson hit a sac fly to aid the Yard Goats victory. Even though Blake Goldsberry gave up one run after walking two and allowing a hit in the bottom of the 11th, he got New Hampshire to ground into a double play and struck out WIll Robertson with runners on the corners to end the game. Goldsberry picked up the win after throwing two solid innings with four strikeouts.
Spokane suffered a heart-breaking walk-off loss on Wednesday when Angel Chivilli gave up a three-run homer to Aeverson Arteaga in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Indians had rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in the eighth inning when Sterlin Thompson walked, Jamari Baylor and Nic Kent each singled, and then Bryant Quijada and Braiden Ward recorded RBIs by walking and being hit by a pitch, respectively. In the top of the 10th, the Indians got Baylor, their zombie runner, to third on a wild pitch, but all three batters struck out to stand him there. Juan Guerrero added an RBI double and Kent finished with two hits.
Daniel Amaral hit a home run, Bryant Betancourt posted three hits, Jesus Bugarin doubled and scored a run, and Jesus Ordonez added two singles, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Inland Empire’s 15 hits on Wednesday. The Grizzlies had their chances, but went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base, while the 66ers went 6-for-18 with RISP.
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