Colorado Rockies: Pitching Problems Nearing Crisis Level
It’s been a rough week for the Colorado Rockies’ rotation and a lot of question marks remain before it can be decided if things are going to improve or implode as the season moves into its second month.
In the same week that Jordan Lyles was sent to Triple-A to try to solve his control issues, Jorge De La Rosa suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for the near future. But injuries and demotions aren’t the entire story. Including Pittsburgh’s romp on Tuesday night, the Rockies have now fallen behind to start six straight games. A late-inning Colorado rally against the Dodgers on Friday night is the only thing that is preventing the Rockies from riding a seven-game losing streak.
Colorado manager Walt Weiss has often talked about how the Rockies have to take advantage of their home field and be dominant at 20th and Blake. It hasn’t been the case this season as the Colorado Rockies have dropped seven of their first 11 games at Coors Field. Much of that can be blamed on the pitching, which has once again sunk to the bottom of Major League Baseball’s ERA category with a 5.87 ERA.
Colorado’s starters are MLB’s worst in terms of ERA with a 5.89 ERA overall. In the first 75 pitches of any game, the ERA is 5.41 (only Cincinnati is worse). On average, Colorado has surrendered 2.6 runs in the game’s first four innings (26th in the league) and that number jumps to 3.27 in the first four innings pitched at Coors Field.
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There have been bright moments, including Jon Gray‘s 10-strikeout performance and Chad Bettis continuing the improvement he flashed toward the end of last season. Consistency, however, is the key to success and Colorado’s rotation has yet to find that.
With Lyles out of the rotation, Chris Rusin was slated in his spot. So far, he’s 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA this season so that’s definitely a bright spot. But where do the Rockies go from there? The injury to De La Rosa, who was Colorado’s Opening Day starter but has struggled to a 10.18 ERA, leaves a hole in the rotation. How is it filled?
The most likely answer is Christian Bergman, who had a spot start against the Chicago Cubs during the Rockies’ recent road trip. He and Rusin were both tabbed for long relief roles heading into the season but rotation issues have changed that plan completely.
Another option is Eddie Butler. The Rockies will bring up Butler from Triple-A on Wednesday to take De La Rosa’s spot on the roster. Butler has a 4-11 career MLB record (including a disastrous 3-10 season in 16 starts last year) but is 2-0 with a 4.19 ERA this season in Albuquerque. The Rockies will need for him to show improvement in his 2016 role, whether that is long relief or starter.
There will be a lot of discussion about bringing someone else up from the minors, but there really aren’t a lot of options. Jeff Hoffman, you say? Absolutely, his time is coming … but it’s not now. His sub-2.00 ERA is tempting, but look at the big picture. He’s seen action in just 24 games and 11 of those were at Class A. To rush him into action after just four Triple-A starts could do more damage than good. Desperation is never a good reason to do anything, including bringing up a 23-year-old who is expected to be one of the cornerstones of the rotation in the near future.
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It’s a tenuous time for the Rockies. Early-season momentum has been washed away by a stretch of high ERAs and slumps at the plate by Trevor Story, Tony Wolters, and other April surprises. The Rockies are looking for some good news and that has to begin with strong outings on the mound by its starters.