One of the biggest criticisms of any Major League Baseball manager, including Walt Weiss of the Colorado Rockies, is how and when he decides to use certain relievers in certain roles.
Weiss once again came under the microscope in Saturday night as the San Francisco Giants posted a 10-5 comeback decision over the Rockies at Coors Field. That eighth-inning rally by the Giants that resulted in their victory was the first time this season that Colorado had lost when they had the lead after seven innings. They’re now 19-1 in such games.
Still, that “1” stuck with the Rockies and fans long after the field had cleared that night. Carlos Estevez, who has earned the role of the “eighth-inning guy” for the Rockies this season, had pitched in the previous two games but was called upon once again on Saturday night. The results were disastrous as the 23-year-old right-hander gave up three runs on three hits while not recording an out as the Giants scored six times in the inning to turn a one-run Colorado lead into a deficit that would not be overcome.
In some ways, the move made sense. Bringing in Estevez in the eighth inning has worked this season for the Rockies (he had seven holds entering Monday’s contest with the Cincinnati Reds) … but did it still make sense in that situation after he had pitched two days with Miguel Castro and the newly activated Jason Motte sitting in the pen? The answer from Weiss was an unequivocal yes.
“Those decisions are made before the game,” Weiss tersely said when asked about bringing in Estevez after the game on Saturday. He also reminded reporters that Estevez had “only thrown 29 (actually 30) pitches” against Boston.
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After the inning blew up on Estevez, several folks on Twitter starting bashing the decision, saying Motte or Castro should’ve been used. Finally, one person brought up a true but interesting point: Isn’t it nice for Colorado fans to be able to have an argument about who should come in rather than knowing there’s only one person the Rockies can count on?
On Sunday, Walt Weiss further explained the decision when pressed on the Estevez decision.
“As much as you can, you try to define roles,” Weiss said. “I think there would’ve been a lot more questions if I hadn’t used Estevez and we lost that game. Estevez is our eighth-inning guy. He’s been dominant in that inning. If he’s available, and we’re very thorough in making sure guys are available and ready to go, and if that’s the case, why wouldn’t I use Estevez in that situation?
“Motte is going to be in the heat. He’s going to be in high-leverage situations but he’s had one outing. I didn’t want to throw him into the fire in his first time in Coors Field, trying to protect a one-run lead, when you have Estevez ready to go. It wouldn’t have made any sense.”
Certainly, Rockies fans have their antennae raised any time a lead is blown late in the game. It’s become almost expected over the last couple of seasons. However, this is a different bullpen, Weiss emphasized.
“I think our pitching is deeper. I think the back end of our bullpen is better. The makeup of the club is very good,” Weiss said.
Colorado has the luxury this season of having Castro, Estevez, Motte (who is still working his way back into things after coming off the disabled list) and closer Jake McGee, who has converted 14 saves in 16 opportunities. And don’t forget about Boone Logan, a southpaw on the disabled list who has been a neutralizer of left-handed batters this season. Additionally, Adam Ottavino is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and may be ready for the second half of the season.
There’s a system in place for the Rockies. Have the starter work six or seven innings and then let the bullpen take over. Weiss has faith in the pieces the Rockies have assembled. For the vast majority of the season when it’s worked, it’s been a thing of beauty. When it didn’t on Saturday night, Rockies fans started having flashbacks.
Rest assured, there’s a plan … and rest assured Colorado actually has the personnel to execute it this season. They just haven’t shown it since Saturday’s meltdown against the Giants.