In their losses the bullpen has seen its ups and downs and is on the way to becoming a reason for concern.
In the first game of the season, the Rockies were beating the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 after a strong performance by starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin. New manager Walt Weiss replaced Chacin with Matt Belisle in the seventh inning. Belisle got the one out he needed in the inning and Weiss moved on to new setup guy Wilton Lopez. Lopez, who was the Rockies only big offseason move, lost the lead and the Rockies were defeated in extra innings.
One game is not too much of a concern, but Lopez was acquired from the Houston Astros to solidify the eighth inning in front of closer Rafael Betancourt. Weiss has started using Lopez in non-save situations to try and boost his confidence. The Rockies were not envisioning this when making that trade in the winter. Lopez needs to get back to what he was last season where even on a bad Astros team he had an ERA of 2.17 with 10 saves.
During the Giants series the same thing occurred but with a different reliever. After a decent performance by Juan Nicasio, the Rockies found themselves with a 6-2 lead in the second game. Weiss, who watched Nicasio soar close to 100 pitches in five innings, pulled the righty after he walked the first two batters in the sixth. Adam Ottavino was called upon and promptly gave up a home run to light-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford to cut the lead to one. He went on to load the bases before giving the ball to Belisle.
Belisle has been one of the most reliable for the Rockies during his tenure. But on this night it was not to be as he gave up the game-tying hit to Hunter Pence. The Rockies went on to lose the game.
The bullpen has an ERA of 4.48 early in the season. ERA can become inflated early in the season, but this is still not where the Rockies want to be. During spring training, the starters were thought to be the weak link of the pitching staff. The starters have performed well except for a bad outing by Jorge De La Rosa and one by Jeff Francis. The bullpen needs to be a success if this team is going to even approach .500.
A strong bullpen has been a foundation to success for the Rockies in their history. If Weiss has lost confidence in any of these guys, changes will need to be made down the road. The playoff teams in 1995, 2007 and 2009 had good bullpens that backed up the starters well. This Rockies team is probably not destined for the postseason, but a good bullpen could make the season more of a success.