Jul 12, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Rafael Betancourt (63) and left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) after the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Rockies won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
LaTroy Hawkins has been demoted from the closer’s role – at least, for the time being – and Colorado Rockies fans can breathe a sigh of relief. But what does that mean going forward?
The Colorado Rockies under Jeff Bridich and Walt Weiss are making moves and analyzing events much quicker than the club has seemed to do in the past.
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Yeah, the Rockies ain’t messing around, and that’s great.
Hawkins gave up the game on an 0-2 pitch with two outs Sunday afternoon. It’s one thing to blow a save (because that’s going to happen), and another thing to blow two saves in a row like he did in Milwaukee (also, believe me, that’s going to happen).
But it’s something different altogether for a pitcher – a veteran like Hawkins, no less – to throw a ball down the middle on an 0-2 pitch and miss that badly that a non-home run hitter can club a go-ahead two-run home run when the Rockies are one pitch away from a victory. Brutal.
Hawkins, obviously, knows better than to do that again. But, you’d think he would know better than to do it the first time, and yet, here we are.
Anyways, good on Walt Weiss and whomever else was involved in this decision-making process to sit down Hawkins for the time being and let Rafael Betancourt (and maybe John Axford, when he returns, and hopefully Adam Ottavino) take over closer duties for the club.
This move signals more than just Hawkins’ ineffectiveness, though. Blown saves aside, there’s two things about it that I’m really, really excited about for the summer ahead.
The bullpen is deep enough to allow this to happen!
Last year, and in many years, how many closers could the Rockies have legitimately gone to should the top choice falter?
The club has three guys with significant closer experience (Hawkins, Axford, Betancourt), one guy who can miss bats enough to probably do it well (Boone Logan) and, oh yeah, a closer in the waiting who’s arguably the best arm in the bullpen (Ottavino).
Plus, Brooks Brown has been nails this season so far, and Tommy Kahnle and Jairo Diaz are power-power arms stashed in AAA Albuquerque. And oh yeah, Rex Brothers is still around if he can ever figure it out again! And oh yeah, the guy the Rockies just called up, Scott Oberg, has 61 career minor league saves across his first three professional seasons!
Is the club going to hand the ball to Oberg, Kahnle, Diaz, Brothers, or Brown in the ninth inning? No. At least, not right now. But that’s the point; the team is deeper in the bullpen than they’ve been recently, and they’re stocked with more power arms at the top of the depth chart than many other clubs around the National League. These are good things.
I’m not saying the Rockies’ bullpen is going to be incredible (though some of us kinda sorta think so!), but I am saying depth matters, and quality depth trumps that, and the Rockies have it in spades. And now they’re going to use it. What a concept!
The club is in “win-now” mode.
Ok, maybe that’s a slight stretch. Hell, the starting rotation is, um, iffy at best. And considering what is happening with the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres in the division, the Rockies probably can’t realistically expect to set their sights on the postseason.
But, a Rockies team of even a year or two ago would’ve let Hawkins work his way out of jams and right himself for another outing or two, at least (if not more). Not in 2015.
A short leash on your biggest veteran presence signals to the entire club that (virtually) no job is safe and effectiveness trumps anything else.
That’s a good thing, and the Rockies need it if they want to eventually win the NL West.
It looks like with Hawkins, as they did with Jhoulys Chacin a few weeks ago, the team is making decisions based on competitiveness and winning first and foremost.
It sucks that this hadn’t seemed to be the case, you know, always, but now that Jeff Bridich is in charge, the culture here does seem to be changing and Hawkins’ demotion signals more of that competitive fire the Rockies need in order for us to take them seriously.
It might not be #winnowrockies quite yet, but moves like this put the club in the right direction.