2012 Rockies Position Preview: Bullpen
For all the Rockies’ troubles in 2011, the bullpen was really the least of their worries. It had its moments, but for the most part it performed consistently, especially once Franklin Morales and Felipe Paulino were gone. Can it be steady again in 2012 and keep the team in games? Or will it be more of a problem area?
Matt Belisle (R)
People get mad at me when I criticize Belisle, but I promise I love him to bits. He’s a very reliable middle reliever, who can give you 3 innings if you need him to, and who is posting a 0.00 ERA in 8 2/3 innings pitched this spring. I feel great when Belisle comes into the game in the 6th because the starting pitcher couldn’t go deep, or in the 8th because the game is a lost cause and we need somebody to keep it from becoming more lost. He’s versatile and consistent and has three very good pitches (fastball, slider, curve). He’s not going to throw 100 mph, but he is going to give you close to a strikeout per inning, and he’s going to keep runners off the bases. The times I gripe about him are when he comes in with runners on. They score more often than not, and then he can’t stop the bleeding and gets some earned runs of his own. But I love him at the beginning of any inning. He’s a vital part of this pitching staff.
The set-up man has become the closer thanks to the departure of Huston Street, and I think he’ll do it very well. He’s had a couple of tough outings this spring, but, as everyone knows (and constantly jokes about), he’s a little slow to get started. This is true when he comes into a game to pitch and at the beginning of the season. He understands the task in front of him this season and I think he’s up for it. Don’t look at his 5.63 ERA in camp, because that’s not reflective of who he is. He uses his fastball most often, but he gets hitters to chase it so he can get away with limiting himself to that pitch. His trademark the past few seasons was a WHIP below 1.00 and a K/9 over 9.00. He puts batters away, and that’s what makes him a closer.
Chad Bettis (R)
There is some disagreement about whether Bettis slots into the rotation or the pen; I like him in the pen simply because his pitch selection is still too limited. He may transition into a starter one day. Bettis pitched just 3 innings this spring and allowed 2 earned runs. He’s already been sent back down to the minors, so he won’t start the season with the big league club. Still, I wouldn’t rule out a mid-to-late-season call-up.
Rex Brothers (L)
Brothers is the closer of the future for this team, and he has the filthy out pitch to prove it. For now, in just his second season, he’ll be the set-up man in front of Betancourt. He only allowed 1 earned run in 10 1/3 innings pitched this spring, and he recorded 9 K’s, which is what you’d expect from Brothers. I feel very comfortable with him in the 8th inning, regardless of the hitters he’s facing.
Tyler Chatwood (R)
Chatwood really had a tough spring, and at this point I’m pretty convinced he needs some more minor league time. He’s lstill on the roster, however, and if he can find some success there there’s a chance he stays with the big league club all year. In the meantime, he needs to work on keeping the ball down. He pitches to contact, which is good, but only if your fielders can get to it. If he intends to give a batter something to hit, then he needs to make sure it gets hit to one of his defenders.
Edgmer Escalona (R)
I really like Escalona, but I he’s been edged off the roster since this pitching staff is so crowded right now. He can do long relief or set up, and he’s generally very steady. He hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time this spring, though, which tells me that the coaching staff isn’t as interested in seeing where he’s at as they are some of the others. That could have meant they were very confident in what he can do or that they were already sure they’re not going to have a place for him come the regular season; it looks like it was the latter. I think in general the pitching situation is going to be very fluid, though, especially in the first half as some guys won’t be able to take advantage of the chance they’re given, and Escalona should probably be ready for a call-up before too long.
Prior to spring training, I thought Moscoso was sure to make the rotation, but his struggles combined with the brilliance of Juan Nicasio and Jamie Moyer mean he’ll start the season in the minors.. That’s not the worst thing in the world, since he needs to try to get his flyball count down anyway. He’s still young – 2012 will be just his third full season – and has the potential to be a great starter at some point. His secondary pitches are under-developed, which partly explains his troubles this spring (9 earned runs in 11 innings).
Josh Outman (L)
Outman has actually logged 150+ innings in the majors, but you wouldn’t know it because he’s still pitching like a prospect. His spring training numbers this year are a lot better than they were last year with Oakland, but they’re still not anything that inspires confidence. 6 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings is not quite good enough. I’d like to see Outman start the season in Colorado Springs, but instead he’s starting it on the disabled list. From there, he’s got a spot on the active roster, so it’s up to him to take advantage of that opportunity.
Zach Putnam (R)
Putnam only pitched a handful of innings this spring before being sent down, and he gave up an earned run for each one. He’s likely to spend the entire season in the minors, because he has very little major league service time and still needs some development. He’ll get another look in 2013.
Matt Reynolds (L)
Reynolds had a tough time getting out of innings on occasion in 2011, and his 4.09 ERA reflects that. He’s generally used as a lefty specialist, and is certainly capable of filling that role. I’d like to see him get back to 2010 form and I believe he can. He’s not having a perfect spring, but his 4 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings is closer to where I think he belongs. He only gave up one home run, which is very promising since he gave up 10 in 50 innings last season. Reynolds doesn’t have a lot of competition for the LOOGY role, so he’s likely to get at least this season to get it right. If he doesn’t, well, that’s a different story.
Josh Roenicke (R)
Roenicke isn’t a superstar, but he’s a power pitcher who works quickly and doesn’t allow a lot of home runs, which is key for Coors Field. In 16 2/3 innings in 2011 he allowed 7 earned runs, but he actually maintained a 0.00 ERA for more than a month, and then had a couple of really tough outings. I think he’s underrated, and I like him as either a righty specialist or a set-up guy. He stands to get time as both in 2012, and will also probably be used in the 9th when it’s not a save situation. As he continues to develop, he has closer potential for the future.
Esmil Rogers (R)
I am to the point where when Esmil Rogers comes to the mound I want to hide my eyes in hopes that maybe he’ll disappear. He’s not good. He can’t seem to get a sense of equilibrium that would allow him to survive difficult outings and recover. Instead, when things start to derail with him, it’s all over. And these days it feels like they start to derail immediately. This spring he’s allowed 8 earned runs in 11 innings and I think that’s absolutely reflective of who he is as a pitcher. He’s no longer being considered for the rotation, but can we leave him out of the bullpen too? He has no options, so I don’t know what we do with him, but I vote for cut before opening day. Naturally, I did not get my wish on that.
Carlos Torres (R)
Did you know who Carlos Torres was prior to this spring training? No, odds are you probably did not. It was his first time in Rockies camp, having previously played for the White Sox. Despite the fact that he’s not on the roster and really doesn’t stand a chance at ever getting on it, he got quite a bit of playing time this spring: 8 innings to be exact. He also gave up 7 earned runs, which is maybe all we need to know about him. Well, that and the 2 home runs. He’s a strikeout guy – 10 K’s in those innings – but won’t get a chance to try that out at the big league level again just yet.
Alex White (R)
White is a future member of the rotation, but he’s definitely not ready for it yet. He struggled mightily in 2011 after coming over from the Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. 15 home runs in 51 innings – yikes. His spring wasn’t any better, as he allowed 13 earned runs in 18 innings. The good news for him is that we don’t need him quite yet. There were holes all over the rotation when he came to the Rockies last season, and he was thrust into a position he wasn’t prepared for. Now those holes are plugged, more or less, and White can spend some time in the minors figuring things out.
Who makes the 40-man: Belisle, Betancourt, Brothers, Chatwood, Escalona, Moscoso, Outman, Reynolds, Roenicke, Rogers, White
Who makes the 25-man: Belisle, Betancourt, Brothers, Outman, Reynolds, Roenicke, Rogers
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