Colorado Rockies To Try Unconventional Bullpen Approach In 2013?

By Thom Tsang
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Colorado Rockies are going to buck the MLB trend in pitcher usage. What, they’re not even going to wait until the team is out of contention this season?

Fortunately for Rockies fans, this particular plan to fly in the face of convention isn’t as drastic as the four-man rotation with the 80-pitch limit that the team went with last season, though it’s not entirely unrelated:

Speaking to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Rockies’ director of major-league operations, Bill Geivett, said that the team is “trying to find the best pitching model” and that the decision to use an extra arm at home will be a “fluid situation.”

The plan stems from the same theory that the Rockies went with last season to protect their starting pitchers, who have more trouble reaching the seventh inning consistently in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field.

Keeping a hybrid arm at home and then bouncing them back to the minors for an extra bench player when the team goes on the road will give the team flexibility to go with a more traditional approach in their lineup.

According to Renck, Rockies relievers worked 50.1 fewer innings away from Coors in 2012 because the starters went a little longer, even on their restricted pitch count of 80. In those games, the extra reliever wasn’t really necessary and it even forced the team in moments where they had the hybrid pitcher hitting in crucial situations, where a bench player would have been more useful.

It’s actually a fairly sensible plan, if a bit unconventional. The Rockies pitchers do face an uphill battle because the team does play 81 games at Coors, and even though the starters won’t be limited to 80 pitches this time around, the rotation is going to be full of question marks in terms of health and the extra reliever will likely come in handy more often than not.

That is, unless the team is going with the wishful thinking route of hoping to get close to 200 innings out of Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Jeff Francis, anyway.

The unspoken victims in this plan, of course, are going to be those called upon to regularly make the switch back and forth between the Rockies and AAA who have minor league options.

I sure hope players like Josh Outman and Jonathan Herrera have their Air Miles cards ready because there is going to be a whole lot of extra traveling in their futures.

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