With a Colorado Rockies bullpen that has gone through so many changes since spring training ended abruptly in Scottsdale in March, a new theme has emerged for the crew … along with the new faces.
“Ring the bell” is the new mantra for this group of Colorado Rockies relievers who now have another challenge ahead of them after Phillip Diehl was sent to the alternate training site on Tuesday afternoon to make room on the roster for newly acquired outfielder Kevin Pillar.
That “ring the bell,” according to interviews with relievers Tyler Kinley and Carlos Estevez, means any Rockies reliever is ready on any given night to fill whatever role manager Bud Black needs him to fill. It’s required throwing away the traditional “set up man” and “closer” tags and preparing for any number of innings on any role.
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Now, it’s only right-handers who will be answering the call when needed. Diehl represented the lone left-hander in the bullpen after fellow southpaw James Pazos was sent down over the weekend. As September’s first game dawned at Coors Field on Tuesday night, nothing but right-handed relievers were available for manager Bud Black as both Pazos and Diehl have disappointed this season.
Is the lack of lefties a problem? Black shrugged it off before Tuesday’s game.
"“Well, again, it’s nice to have that balanced bullpen. We just don’t have that right now,” Black told media members, including Rox Pile. “It’s gonna require our right-handed pitchers to get both left- and right-handed hitters out.”"
Simple enough, right? Well, in a season where nothing seems simple for the Rockies (or traditional for baseball), having a left-handed reliever available to face a left-handed batter isn’t as big of a strategy as it has been in years past, thanks in part to the three-batter minimum in place for relief pitchers in 2020.
So what are Colorado’s options? Regarding left-handers, there isn’t much outside of Diehl, Pazos, and Zac Rosscup, who was recently brought back by the Rockies but hasn’t shown enough to return to the Majors … yet.
That leaves the right-handers who are currently a part of Colorado’s pen and Wade Davis, currently working his way back from the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain.
Knowing that, here are the right-handed relievers who had been the most effective against batters on both sides of the plate heading into September. We’re listing their opponents’ batting averages against them.
And yes, all of these numbers were before Tuesday night’s 23-5 beatdown at the hands of the Giants.
Against left-handed batters:
Tyler Kinley (2-for-26, .077)
Jairo Diaz (6-for-27, .222)
Carlos Estevez (8-for-33, .242)
Against right-handed batters:
Yency Almonte (7-for-32, .219)
Daniel Bard (6-for-26, .231)
Also against right-handers, there’s a pitcher with a smaller sample size in Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-for-13, .154) and a newcomer to the team in Mychal Givens (4-for-32, .125).
Kinley, Bard, and Givens are all part of Colorado’s 2020 plan to put together a reliable bullpen. You can also add Antonio Santos into that mix, a 23-year-old who made his MLB debut against San Francisco on Tuesday night.
So far, the experiment has had mixed results. Through August’s final games, Colorado’s bullpen posted a 6.01 ERA while opponents had a combined .290 average. A strong start to the season by the relief corps has been erased.
Colorado’s inability to have a left-hander on the roster is a testament to a failed roster construction and a lack of preparation for what’s next after Jake McGee was released back in mid-July. It was also interesting to see Givens, another right-hander, as the only reliever brought in at the trade deadline.
Can the Rockies survive without a left-hander in the bullpen? It could happen, especially in a shorter season. However, it’s a situation that the franchise seemingly could have avoided with foresight and a deeper farm system.