Over the last week I have previewed the 2012 season for the Rockies position by position and I am at the end: relievers.
Players lost: In 2011 the Rockies used 21 different pitchers out of the bullpen and 16 of those 21 made at least 12 appearances. Huston Street and Matt Lindstrom headline those who are no longer with the team. Street was traded to San Diego for nothing to free up $7 million while Lindstrom was part of the trade to bring Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado. That is over 110 innings of solid pitching; Lindstrom finished ’11 with a 3.00 ERA and Street with a 3.86.
Felipe Paulino, Clayton Mortensen and Franklin Morales were all traded away during the season last year. Matt Daley is a non-roster invitee with the New York Yankees this year, J.C. Romero is with the St. Louis Cardinals and Eric Stults is trying to make the team in Chicago that plays on the south side. Finally, guys who made a few appearances for the Rockies like Jim Miller, Bruce Billings and Edgar Gonzalez are no longer with the Rockies.
Players gained: Jim Tracy will undoubtedly use Rafael Betancourt strictly in the ninth inning this year as he has been labeled the team’s “closer”. Of course, if Betancourt is the team’s best reliever he should be used in the situations with the highest leverage; if the Rockies are up by one run in the seventh inning and the middle of their opponents order is due up Betancourt should be in the game. But explaining the benefits of this strategy to Tracy would be akin to me explaining why crack cocaine is unhealthy to Lindsey Lohan.
To continue to pick on Tracy’s bullpen usage let me ask you this: which pitcher would you use against left hand pitchers?
Pitcher A: has a batting against slash of .217/.305/.457
Pitcher B: has a batting against slash of .292/.324/.552
Trick question, both are Matt Reynolds and “Pitcher A” is his stat line against right hand batters while “Pitcher B” are his splits against lefties. He had 105 and 106 plate appearances against last year against right and left hand batters. For some reason Tracy wants Reynolds to be his left hand specialist out of the ‘pen. He wants a guy who gets hit harder by left hand batters than he does right hand batters to only face lefties. Make sense? No, it doesn’t. Tracy doesn’t need to look at numbers because “the book” says lefties are better against lefties. Just another reason why Tracy is one of the worst, if not THE worst manager in baseball.
The Rockies didn’t sign a lot of bullpen help this year. A few of the guys vying for a starting position can pitch out of the bullpen if needed and the organization does have some young talent that could get their feet wet in the major leagues pitching in relief.
Minor leagues: As stated in my starting pitchers preview I mentioned Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson and Peter Tago as potential call-ups during the season and we can toss Zach Putnam into that basket of names. Many organizations these days bring up top prospects to pitch out of the bullpen to begin their career and then move them to the rotation the next year. Guys like David Price and Adam Wainwright went this route in recent years and now the Texas Rangers are looking to move their closer, Neftali Feliz, into a starting spot in their rotation.
Who makes Opening Day roster: The team can break camp with 25 players which will consist of five starting pitchers and 11 or 12 position players which will leave eight or nine bullpen spots open. Matt Belisle, Betancourt, Rex Brothers, Reynolds and Josh Roenicke will make the team and that leaves two or three spots left. My guess is that Esmil Rogers, Tyler Chatwood and either Edwar Cabrera or Putnam break camp with the team. Needless to say the bullpen will be very fluid throughout the season.
Who might come up during the year: There is a litany of names of guys who will be called up during the season. There are some veterans who will land with the team and pitch in the minors hoping for a call and some of the young studs will be looked at as possible solutions, too. Probably safe to say that 8-10 guys will be called up during the year at some point to lend a hand…or an arm.
It appears the end of the Rockies bullpen is in place and it might even be solid. If the starters can get the ball to the guys in the seventh inning the Rockies might be A-OK