Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black is steadfast that Wade Davis will be the team’s closer to open the 2020 campaign. But, in a shortened season, will the Rockies if Davis falters in the role?
After a 2018 campaign where Wade Davis led the National League in saves by racking up 43 with the Colorado Rockies, 2019 was a much different story. Davis struggled to an 8.65 ERA (including an 11.10 ERA at Coors Field) and lost the closer job in August. The 34-year-old right-hander admits that a strained left oblique he suffered in mid-May that landed him on the injured list impacted him the rest of the season.
But Davis and Black will quickly tell you that the past is the past. It wasn’t far into Spring Training 1.0 in Arizona when the Colorado manager pronounced Davis would be back in the closer role in 2020. Davis lived up to the proclamation by pitching 3.1 scoreless innings in three games before COVID-19 halted activities.
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With Spring Training 2.0 kicking in at Coors Field, however, so has the worry about Davis. Back at altitude, Davis has surrendered the long ball once again, including back-to-back home runs by Raimel Tapia and Trevor Story in Monday’s intrasquad game.
For now, Black has shaken off the issues that have been seen in Davis in short samples at Coors Field in 2020, citing that Davis is still working on some pitch refinements as well as pitchers are still rounding into game shape.
"“I’m still bullish on Wade,” Black said. “You know, 2018, he led the National League in saves and was a big part of our success and going into the playoffs. I think Wade has a lot of pride. I think he really, truly feels as though he’s going to bounce back and I’m sort of right there along with him.”"
However, Black is also quick to point out that performance will be a key in a shortened 2020 campaign when 60 games are on the schedule rather than 162.
"“On the pitching side, we have to have the critical eye to really watch how a guy is pitching. Even though he might not be getting the win, he might be getting some losses, is he truly making pitches and things will turn around, or is he not? Is his stuff a little light or stuff a little short? Do we have to make a change, to give another guy an opportunity? All these things will be constant conversations, knowing that we won’t have the six-month season to assess, so it’s going to be critical how we use our personnel and how we make changes if needed, or show some patience with players,” Black said. “That will be a big part of all of this for sure.”"
Every victory or defeat will be magnified knowing it’s a sprint for the postseason with a condensed schedule. With off days at a premium (just six throughout the season, and not one during a 20-day stretch from mid-August to early September), don’t be surprised to see a mix of late-inning relievers put into potential save situations, including Davis.
"“Wade’s been there before. He’s done it,” Black said. “He’s conditioned for it. But it’s going to come down to performance once we get settled in. It could be a combination of a few guys just like we did last September.”"