Tagged: Edgmer Escalona

Bullpen showing signs of being overworked

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

It’s a problem when the Rockies’ starters don’t go deep in games.

The bullpen is getting overworked as a result, and it is starting to show in recent games.

Wilton Lopez could not protect a lead in the seventh inning last night, and as a result, the Rockies went on to take an 8-7 loss to the Phillies at Coors Field.

There’s no question Lopez was bad. He gave up a two-run triple to Freddy Galvis that tied the game at 7, and he gave up a single to Jimmy Rollins that scored Galvis from third to give the Phillies an 8-7 lead.

With that said, Lopez is not going to be perfect all the time. No reliever is. Not many relievers can be Rex Brothers and pitch well every game.

Blaming Lopez is missing the point of what’s going on.

The Rockies can’t find starters who can give the bullpen a night off, and that’s a problem moving forward.

If the relievers continue to be overworked, they are going to blow more games like last night.

Weiss did not want to use Lopez last night, but he had to after Juan Nicasio could not throw a zero on the scoreboard with a 7-2 lead in the sixth inning.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss hoped Nicasio would throw six innings last night. Despite his starter’s struggles in the sixth inning, he was hoping his starter would somehow get through the inning by getting out of jams. He got the first two outs, but he struggled to get the last out of that inning, so he was relieved before he blew a 7-2 lead altogether.

For Nicasio to not pitch through a 7-2 lead in the sixth inning, it shows he can’t be trusted to pitch in the sixth inning ever no matter how good he is pitching. Hitters figure him out, and he does not have other secondary pitchers to get hitters out for the second or third time.

Nicasio gave up three runs in that sixth inning, and that set the tone for the Phillies to make a comeback in the seventh inning.

If Nicasio pitched at least seven innings, Weiss could have brought Matt Belisle and Brothers to protect the lead.

It’s something he hoped to see from Nicasio and other starters often, but that’s never going to happen.

Outside of De La Rosa, no starter can go seven innings. This is a recipe for failure. It takes a toll on the relievers as their arm deals with the wear and tear.

It’s no coincidence Lopez, Josh Outman, Matt Belisle and Edgmer Escalona have struggled to get guys out late as a result of making too many appearances.

This is why everyone wonders if the Rockies can sustain their good play for the entire season. It’s hard to believe the relievers can be effective by August and September with the way things are going for them right now.

The Rockies have to hope Tyler Chatwood can go seven innings today and beyond. If he can do that, that will help the Rockies bullpen.

It can’t just be him, though. It has to be couple of other starters, and that’s why there has to be changes in the starting rotation. The Rockies need to find couple of other starters that can win and go deep in games.

They hope it’s Roy Oswalt and Drew Pomeranz when the Rockies call them up.

Oswalt is a question mark, though. He has been ineffective in the last two years, and it’s hard to believe he can go deep in games anymore. The Rockies are desperate to hope he can get the job done.

Pomeranz has the stuff to be a dominating starter, but he needs to have the proper mindset to believe he can succeed. They have to hope he has it in him to be an innings eater when he is out there.

If Chatwood, Oswalt and Pomeranz can be effective by giving quality starts and throwing seven innings, the bullpen should be okay to pitch for the final two months of the season.

That’s what the Rockies are hoping for.

If that does not work, this team will not be making any playoff run.

The Rockies need to get better in the rotation or else we are going to see more bad performances from the relievers as a result of them being used often.

The organization knows they have to do something about it.

They have to hope changes in the rotation can save the bullpen from being exposed of overwork.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

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Rockies can always count on their bullpen

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd has been criticized for not fielding a competent starting rotation in his 14 years at the job.

At least, he can say he found guys who can be reliable in the bullpen.

The Rockies have created a good bullpen this season, and that’s one of the reasons the Rockies are off to a respectable start this season.

Prior to the Rockies’ game against the Giants Friday night, the Rockies’ bullpen ERA is 2.85, and that’s good enough to be in the top 5 when comparing it to the other 29 teams in baseball. Hitters are hitting .245 when they go up against that bullpen.

It’s basically game over once the bullpen pitches with a lead in the seventh inning. That pen is also the reason the Rockies have a chance to win in extra innings with the game being tied late in the game.

That’s a good feeling for a manager to have. Rockies manager Walt Weiss knows what he has with his relievers.

O’Dowd assembled a good group with guys like Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth respectively. He also has Edgmer Escalona, Adam Ottavino, Rob Scahill and Wilton Lopez providing depth in the pen.

Part of a winning ballclub is to have a great bullpen.

What’s refreshing about this bullpen is their relievers want the ball every game. It’s a good thing they have that mindset to pitch everyday because the Rockies want to limit their starters to 100 pitches. That helps.

It will be interesting how their arms hold up in August. There is a good chance they can be worn down, but then again, every reliever gets burned down at that time of the year. It’s about survival of the fittest. That’s where durability comes in. If those guys can hold up, the Rockies are going to be fine.

Belisle will be an interesting case. He has made 22 appearances already, and he made 80 appearances last year and 74 two years ago. He is capable of handling the workload, but he also was hit hard in the final two months of the year.

The Rockies need him to build a bridge to Brothers and Betancourt. The seventh inning is where the leads stay or be blown. He is the right guy to protect that lead and that spot. He is invaluable in that regard.

So far, Belisle has been good.

Brothers has been a revelation with the way he has pitched. He is so good that he is now the setup guy after the Rockies pegged Wilton Lopez for that role when the season started.

The Rockies’ setup man has a 0.42 ERA in the 23 games he pitched, and he has 21 strikeouts. That is a definition of a lights-out pitcher. It’s also why the Rockies want to groom him to be a closer.

Betancourt continues to be reliable for the Rockies year in and year out. He has 10 saves, and he hasn’t blown a save. He gets guys out through strikeouts, and he has 18 strikeouts this year. He doesn’t get anyone nervous about him blowing  a save since he pitches a seamless inning. That’s why he is one of the best closers in baseball.

When a team has guys that can shut down the game after the seventh inning, it’s a great luxury for a manager to have. Not many teams can have that.

In tight games early or late, Lopez, Escalona,  Ottavino, Scahill can give the Rockies innings, and they can have shutdown innings, too. They also can fill in for Brothers or Belisle when either of them needs the day off.

For the Rockies, it’s a necessity to have a great bullpen with the starters not being good enough to go deep in games.

The Rockies’ starters can’t go deep in games. That’s why the Rockies have a pitch count limit. If the starters were good, there would be a pitch-count limit, and there wouldn’t be potential changes in the starting rotation with Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood and Roy Oswalt replacing Jeff Francis, Jon Garland and Juan Nicasio in a month or so.

The bullpen has been the Rockies’ saving grace, and that’s why they have been able to have a winning record.

For the Rockies to keep up with the Giants and Diamondbacks, their bullpen has to keep it up in being effective. That team can hit. It comes down to protecting leads, and Rockies have that in their relievers.

Handling the workload is the only thing the Rockies have to worry about with their relievers. That’s the only question moving forward.

How they handle it will determine if the Rockies create Rocktober III.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

Rockies should savor this win against their tormentors

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

A game-tying hit.

A grand slam.

An insurance run.

A diving catch.

Striking out the side to get a save.

Those five moments stood out in last night’s Rockies’ 10-9 victory over the Giants at Coors Field.

It was only significant since this played a role in the Rockies snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Giants.

A win against the Giants never felt this good for the Rockies.

Make no mistake. The Rockies almost blew another lead after blowing the first lead of the game, and they were in danger of losing to the Giants for the second straight night. With the errors and wild pitches, it’s clear the Rockies were feeling the pressure to get that win.

A 10-game losing streak to the Giants can wear on the Rockies along with going 9-31 since 2011. The losses and the questions of when will it end take its toll after awhile.

The Giants were relentless throughout the game. With that said, the Rockies found a way to respond, and they should be commended for it.

After the NL West division leaders took a 5-4 lead in the fourth inning, the Rockies created a big inning by scoring five runs in the fifth inning.

Dexter Fowler singled to start the fifth inning, and Carlos Gonzalez walked after that. Wilin Rosario’s RBI single tied the game at 5 as Fowler scored.

When D.J. Lemhaieu walked to load the bases, Jordan Pacheco hit a grand slam to give the Rockies a 9-5 lead over the Giants.

The crowd applauded, and the entire Rockies bench was fired up with Pacheco receiving a bear hug by Rosario.

The Rockies needed that. They wilt when the Giants regains the lead everytime it happens, so on this night, it was refreshing to see the home team was not going to back down on this night.

The grand slam gave the Rockies a new start in the middle of the game. They knew they can get back at the Giants.

Despite what the Rockies did, the Giants were not going to quit on this night. It is never over until the 27th out is made.

That’s why Gonzalez’s home run was huge in the sixth inning when that home run extended the Rockies’ lead to 10-5. It was a much needed insurance run.

Insurance runs are always a must for an opponent playing against the Giants.

It’s a good thing the Rockies had one. The Giants continued their assault on the Rockies by scoring three runs in the seventh inning, and they cut their deficit to 10-8. In the process, they got to reliable Rockies reliever Edgmer Escalona.

Escalona walked Buster Posey to start the seventh, and Hunter Pence tripled that sent Posey home for the Giants’s first run of the seventh inning.

Then, Escalona threw a pitch that Rosario could not hold on to, and Pence scored to give the Giants their second run of the seventh inning.

From there, Escalona expressed his frustration by gesturing at Rosario.

After Brett Pill hit a double off Escalona, Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a pitching change with no outs in the inning. He had to as his reliever was not into the game after the Giants scored runs off him.

Joaquin Arias hit a single off Rex Brothers to have Pill scored the Giants’ third run in the inning.

Unlike Escalona, Brothers shook off the hit and got the last three outs by striking out Brandon Crawford, getting Gregor Blanco to ground out and having Angel Pagan to line out.

Brothers received an assist by Fowler who made a diving catch to end the inning. If the Rockies centerfielder does not hold on to the ball, it would have been a 10-9 game. The game may have been tied if the inning continued.

Fowler’s catch was the turning point of the game.

This is how to step up and put a stop to it when another team creates a big inning by getting outs and making defensive plays.

The Giants kept it going in the eighth inning when Posey hit a two-out solo home run off Matt Belisle. It was now a 10-9 game. What? You expected Giants to quit?

With Pence hitting a double, he was the tying run.

Pressure was on Belisle to get the last out, and he found a way by getting Pill to ground out.

The Rockies needed three outs to get this win.

Rafael Betancourt is reliable as a closer with nine saves and no blown save to show for it prior to last night’s game, but it wasn’t going to be easy with the way the Giants were scoring in this contest.

The Rockies closer handled the inning with ease by striking out the side.

Talk about an exclamation mark to end the game and end the losing streak against the Giants for the Rockies.

It was a symbol that the Giants were not going to deny the Rockies a win.

For one night, the Rockies did not have to answer the media’s questions about another loss to the Giants. It was a welcome relief.

Winning a game against the Giants meant something. They could have lost another one. Instead, they preserved whenever the Giants were cutting deficits. They found a way to get a key hit, key outs, key strikeouts and a key play.

The Rockies learned something about themselves for one night. They know they can do something about putting a stop to what the Giants are doing.

That’s what makes this win against the Giants more special than others.

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Rockies can always count on Belisle for relief

(Barry Gutierrez/AP)

(Barry Gutierrez/AP)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

The bullpen is a strength for the Rockies in this young season.

Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino, Edgmer Escalona and Rafael Betancourt are part of the relief corps that gets the job done for the Rockies when they are called to pitch.

Belisle stands out the most of all the relievers pitching for the Rockies.

He is off to a great start by striking out 13 hitters and walking four batters in 11 relief appearances. His ERA is at 2.70 after making an appearance last night in the Rockies’ 6-3 victory over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

The seventh inning is always the most precious inning for a pitcher. Either a starter is going deep in protecting a lead or a reliever is out there to protect a lead and build a bridge to the setup man and a closer.

With the Rockies, Belisle has the responsibility of protecting the lead in the seventh inning more times than not. It’s rare that a Rockies starter pitches past the fifth or sixth inning.

If Belisle does not get the job done, Brothers and Betancourt does not have the opportunity to close it out when it is their turn to pitch.

Either a team makes a rally or they fall apart in the seventh inning. Belisle’s responsibility is to prevent another team from gaining momentum.

Belisle has done a great job of throwing shutdown innings for the most part. His only blemish occurred on April 9 when he couldn’t protect a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning as the Giants tied it. He took the loss when the Giants took a 7-6 lead in that same game.

The Rockies trust Belisle nine out of 10 times when they have him out there.

It’s easy to understand why when he got out of a bases-loaded jam last night in the seventh inning by getting Martin Prado out on a pop-up and striking out Paul Goldschmidt.

This is what he does. He gets outs through strikeouts. He uses his fastball and slider to get hitters off-balance, and he has success with it.

The 32-year old reliever has been doing this for the Rockies since 2009. He has pitched 244 innings of relief for the last three years. He made 80 appearances last year, which was a franchise record for a reliever.

It’s surprising his arm hasn’t worn off. Most relievers tend to break down after making many appearances for several years. They don’t make guys like Belisle anymore.

The one thing about Belisle is that he relishes having the ball on a daily basis. He never wants a day off. He is a guy that gets after it.  That attitude has served him well, and that explains why he is effective. It helps he has the stuff to be effective every time, too.

For him to make 11 appearances already in April, it shows the team is winning and that he is pitching with the Rockies leading in most of the games.

It’s always a great sight when Belisle pitches. He can be counted on to throw zeroes on the scoreboard.

Middle-inning relievers are always taken for granted for unknown reasons.

The setup guys and closers are only guys that stand out with the fans since they are protecting leads in the eighth and ninth inning. Six outs are hard to come by, and those guys are going to be under scrutiny when it comes to closing it out.

While that’s a hard job, it shouldn’t diminish what a seventh inning guy does.

Before the setup guy and the closer are out there, the seventh inning guy has to protect a lead for both to do their thing.

The Rockies can put the game away by the seventh inning with Belisle out there. It’s a good feeling for Rockies manager Walt Weiss since he knows he can trust Brothers to get three outs in the eighth and Betancourt to close the game.

What the Rockies have to hope is Belisle does not wear down late in the year. It’s on Weiss to discern when his seventh inning guy needs a day off.

The Rockies have a nice bullpen depth. Weiss can use Escalona or Ottavino to fill in for Belisle on his day off. By using other relievers, it will keep the Rockies’ 7th inning guy fresh for six months.

Belisle was worn down late last season after then-Rockies manager Jim Tracy overused him for the first few months of the year.

This can’t happen again, especially if the Rockies want to contend for a playoff spot this year.

Belisle is valuable for the Rockies. He is the glue that makes this relief corps based on his ability to be reliable and pitch everyday.

That’s why he stands out the most.

When it comes to most valuable Rockies pitcher, it’s Belisle and no one comes close.

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Stop nitpicking about Rockies’ wins

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

We have become cynical about anything in life.

It certainly is true when it comes to watching sports and following sports teams.

Heading to the weekend series against the Diamondbacks, the Rockies are 11-4, and they are in first place in the NL West. Yet, Rockies fans are cynical about their team’s start.

There are fans that are waiting for the Rockies to fall apart.

There are fans saying the Rockies have 11 wins by beating awful teams in the Brewers, Padres and Mets.

Both are fair points. That said, there is no reason to be cynical about the Rockies.

Enjoy the start for what it is. The Rockies are playing good baseball. They are getting quality pitching, and their hitting has been superb. Plus, they are making plays on defense.

It’s not the wins that should be the story. It’s about how the Rockies are playing baseball, and how they are executing well. The wins are a byproduct of the team executing all facets of the game.

There has been bad baseball for the last two years to the point the Rockies were unwatchable under the horrible leadership of Jim Tracy.

Walt Weiss has come in and demanded accountability from the players in his first year as the Rockies manager. He and his staff have put in the work in getting his guys ready to play, and this goes back to when the guys worked on defensive drills during spring training. This team has been hustling to make plays, too.

That’s a step in the right direction for a franchise that is finding its way.

That’s the big picture that fans have to look at when it comes to the Rockies.

Even if the Rockies fell short of victories, they have been fun to watch.

After two years of bad baseball, no one should be questioning where the wins are coming from. This is the same team that lost to horrible teams the last two years.

To beat the teams that they are supposed to beat is something the Rockies have to do this year for them to have a successful year. That’s how a team creates a winning culture. The Rockies need to continue to do that this year for the franchise to progress.

The more the team wins, the more it becomes a habit. It means they know how to win games. That’s why beating bad teams is something no one should sneer at.

This season is all about development, and right now, the Rockies are developing quite fine. This season is about hope. So far so good with players like Dexter Fowler, Wilin Rosario and Edgmer Escalona performing well.

There’s no question the Rockies won’t keep this up as far as being in first place goes. They are not good enough to win the NL West.

They may not even have a winning record.

That’s okay. It’s about development for this season.

Who knows? Maybe if the players continue to play well, the team may be good enough to go on a great run this summer.

That’s why baseball is fun. The unknown becomes known during the course of a long season. We are going to find out if the Rockies are good enough to be a winning team this year.

The Rockies have good core of young players on offense. It’s about the pitching with them. That’s why the team is intriguing in itself, and that’s why it’s fun to watch them.

Instead of wondering when the Rockies are going to fall apart, enjoy seeing a young team grow into being a winning team. That’s the fun part of watching baseball.

It would be nice to root for a team like the Giants or Yankees that win every night.

It would be nice to watch a team that is expected to make the playoffs. With that said, there’s no joy when a great team is supposed to be there.

Sports is about appreciating the journey that the team goes through during the year.

That’s why the Rockies are fun to watch. It’s nice to see them grow as a team when they churn out prospects after prospects every year.

This start has provided intrigue early on, and that bears watching.

That itself is why fans should be excited instead of dreading for the worst.

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