Tagged: Rex Brothers

Winnable division is doable for Rockies

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

It does not look good at first glance.

The Rockies finished the pre-All-Star break with a 46-50 record.

Despite being 4 1/2 games out, it would be hard to take any team with a losing record seriously as a playoff team.

That’s what logic tells us anyway.

With that said, the NL West is a mediocre division at best. Not one team stands out. That’s why the Rockies are contenders in spite of themselves.

It’s on the Rockies to take advantage of the opportunity to win in a division that is weak. They don’t get opportunities like that often. It’s hard to think this is going to be the case every year. The Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are not going to be mediocre year in and year out.

Shame on the Rockies if they don’t win the division. This season would be a failure if they don’t win it.

The talent is there to win the division.

The Rockies have three good starters that produce quality starts in Jorge De La Rosa, Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin. That’s a good foundation to win the division.

They are not in the class of Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey and Adam Wainwright, but they are efficient. Efficient can do this season in winning the NL West.

De La Rosa is 9-5 with a 3.21 ERA.  He could have won 12 games if he had run support this season, and if he had 12 wins, he would have been an All-Star.

De La Rosa has been consistent all season when it comes to throwing strikes and putting on a good performance. He makes pitching at Coors Field easy by getting out of jams and getting ahead of the count. He finds a way to get outs when he is in a jam.  He uses all of his pitches to get outs such as fastball, slider and curveball. He knows what he is doing out there.

Chatwood has been a revelation since he was called up in May. He pitched well in eight of his last 10 starts, and that should be enough of a sample size to say he is a legitimate starter.

He averages six innings a start, and his command has been a difference in him being a good starter. He worked on developing his slider to help him throw strikes, and it paid off for him this season in getting guys outs in the majors. He knows how to mix in a slider with a curveball to get hitters out. The 23-year-old starter has finally found the confidence and stuff that turned him into a better pitcher.

After a rough start, Chacin turned his season around by pitching well in his last seven starts. He figured it out after a June 11 start against the Nationals where he threw strikes to get the Nationals out after he gave up a 2-0 lead. Since then, he found a way to throw strikes and not create a big inning. He is working faster, and he knows how to protect leads.

If Juan Nicasio or Drew Pomeranz can get it going, the Rockies are going to be in great shape where they can trot out four good starters every fifth day.

Good starting pitching sets the tone in winning games, and the Rockies have that.

They also have a great bullpen where they can protect leads after the sixth inning. The Rockies expect their starters to go six innings, and after that, they give the ball to Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt.

Belisle, Brothers and Betancourt have been reliable in protecting leads. They throw strikes, and they throw zeroes when they are on the mound. It’s a good feeling for Rockies manager Walt Weiss to have.

Pitching may have been the Rockies’ bugaboo for a long time, but this is not one of those years. This is actually their strength.

The hitting has been up and down for the Rockies, but the talent is there to win games.

As long as Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, the lineup should be good.  Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez will benefit with the Rockies shortstop being in the lineup as they will see more pitches to hit. That wasn’t the case when the Rockies All-Star was on the disabled list.

Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario have to play better than they have showed. They have done okay, but okay should not be good enough for those two that are capable of being great hitters.

The Rockies are in the top 10 in runs scored as they are ranked 10th in runs scored by scoring 426 runs. Still, they can do better. They have to stop making inferior starters look better than they are as they demonstrated against Chris Capuano last week.

The lineup is good enough to perform. The output can be better. The Rockies are banking Tulowitzki’s return will be the difference.

Not only do the Rockies have talent, but their competitors are not good.

The Diamondbacks leave a lot to be desired with their pitching. Their starters have not pitched well, and their bullpen leads the majors with 19 blown saves.

The Giants have struggled to score runs, and their pitching has been inconsistent.

The Dodgers have played well, but their pitching is a question mark outside of Kershaw.

The Padres are not good enough to win the division. Their pitching is a question mark, and their hitting is nothing to write home about.

When comparing the Rockies to other teams in the division, it would be a shame if they fail to make the playoffs.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

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.

So many Rockies should be in midsummer classic

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

Bruce Bochy will be managing the National League in the All-Star Game next month at New York, and he will have the unenviable position of selecting guys for the midsummer classic.

At least, he will get some help. Players will be involved in selecting their peers for the All-Star Game.

My advice to Bochy would be that there should be six representatives from the Rockies in the All-Star Game.

Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler, Jorge De La Rosa , Rex Brothers and Matt Belisle should play in that game based on them playing a role in the Rockies’ success so far this year. The team is 34-30, and they are 1 ½ games behind the division-leading Diamondbacks in the NL West.

Tulowitzki figures to be starting in the All-Star Game. He is leading in his ballot at shortstop by having  1,691,262 votes. Brandon Crawford is second with 1,015,633 votes, so unless the Giants fans stuff the ballots for their shortstop, look for a Rockie to be represented at shortstop.

This is well-deserved for Tulowitzki. After missing out last season with a groin injury, he has bounced back by batting.351 (2nd in batting average among NL leaders), hitting 16 home runs (3rd in home runs among NL leaders) and driving in 51 runs (2nd in RBIs among NL leaders).

Tulowitzki has played like a MVP candidate. He has stepped up in scoring position by hitting .347, and he looks comfortable at the plate as one can tell by his batting stance.

He has been labeled as injury-prone, and rightfully so. It always seems he comes up with injuries every season.

He took games off this year with a shoulder injury and a leg injury. Fortunately, it hasn’t been serious.

Based on how he performs, it’s easy to understand why Tulowitzki is valuable for the Rockies. It shows in the standings. The Rockies had a terrible season last year based on him being out of the lineup. It’s hard to win games when a great player like him is out.  He is hard to replace. He is not only a great hitter, but he is a great fielder, too.

Tulowitzki’s absence had a role in Carlos Gonzalez’s struggles last season.

Pitchers were able to walk Gonzalez, so he couldn’t get anything to hit.

That’s not the case this year, and it showed yesterday. Luke Gregerson couldn’t walk Gonzalez with Dexter Fowler at second and Tyler Colvin at third with 1 out in the ninth inning yesterday. If he did, Tulowitzki could have won the game with a base hit.

Gregerson pitched to Gonzalez, and that didn’t end well.

Gonzalez tied the game at 9 with a double that drove in Colvin and Fowler.

It’s a great feeling for a team to have when they can have a great hitter behind a great hitter in a situation like yesterday’s game.

Gonzalez is going to be a MVP candidate if he can sustain his play for the last two months. He leads the Rockies with 17 home runs (2nd in HRs among NL leaders) and he has 48 RBIs (3rd in RBIs among NL leaders) while batting .302 with an OPS of .992.

Gonzalez has also saved games with great defensive plays. He has been a highlight reel in the outfield as a Rockie.

There’s no question Gonzalez and Tulowitzki make an impact on the Rockies based on their offense, and that’s why they are All-Stars.

While it’s a good bet Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are playing in the All-Star Game, there are questions if the other four are a lock to play. They should be.

Fowler is also deserving of being an All-Star. He has played well, and he delivered a game-winning RBI with two outs in the tenth inning yesterday in the Rockies’ 8-7 win over the Padres.

He has hit well. There are so many outfielders deserving, so he will not make the cut. He should be, though. He has had a better year than Byrce Harper, who is in the top 3 in the OF ballots. The first three outfielders will be voted in.

De La Rosa is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA, and he was 4-0 in the five games he pitched in May with a 2.08 ERA. If he wins 11 games, he has to be a cinch to be in the All-Star Game. He is worthy of pitching in that game since he is the Rockies’ stopper. He gives them a great performance every five days.

De La Rosa has to win all of his starts when one realizes the rest of the starters are not good. He is not that good of a pitcher to do that, but he has found a way to get it done.

One can make a case for Brothers and Belisle.

There is something to be said about a reliever having an impact on a team when he shuts down a team late in the game and having the ball every game.

That’s what Brothers and Belisle do when they are out there when they are called upon whether it’s to protect a lead or pitch in a tie game late in the game.

When those two pitch with a lead, it’s game over for the other team. That’s how good they have been.

Brothers is 2-0 with a 0.31 ERA, and he has given up only a run this year in 28 2/3 innings. He threw 28 strikeouts this year.  He is getting a shot to close while Rafael Betancourt is on the disabled list with a groin injury.

Belisle is 4-2 with a 3.15 ERA in the 31 games he pitched this season, and he has only walked seven batters in 34 1/3 innings this year.

When both relievers want the ball every game and get the job done, managers like that. They know the importance of a bridge to a closer in a game. Those guys play a role in keeping this lead. Guys like that are hard to find, and that’s why both of them are worthy.

It’s hard to believe both will make it, but one of them has to make it.

Bochy knows what Belisle and Brothers can do based on him watching those two against his Giants this year. He knows how valuable they are to the Rockies. It would be shame if either of them doesn’t make the All-Star roster.

The Rockies needed Belisle and Brothers to come through since they play tight games late. If those two didn’t get it done, the Rockies would not be winning that many games. There’s something to be said about good relief.

Anytime a team has that many All-Stars, it shows the value each has had on a ballclub. Those guys are invaluable based on the impact they have had in wins and losses.

The Rockies have six of those guys.

Who knows where the team would be without them?

That’s why they are All-Star worthy.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

Closing audition begins for Brothers

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

The future can be the present in a moment’s notice.

That’s the case with Rex Brothers right now.

After being viewed as the closer of the future for the Rockies, Brothers have to step in to close right now with Rafael Betancourt on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin.

While Brothers is not comfortable to close under unfortunate circumstances, he knows opportunities don’t come often. He has to use this as an audition for next year.

Betancourt will be seeking to be one of the highest paid closers in baseball with him serving the last year of his contract, and the Rockies are not going to offer what he wants since they believe Brothers can replace him next year.

It’s the right move to make for the Rockies. There’s no point overpaying Betancourt when they have a guy who is good enough to close in Brothers. They can allocate their money for other needs.

Now is the time for Brothers to show the Rockies that they can feel comfortable with him as a closer.

He will get that shot now.

Brothers has three career saves, and he has two saves this season.

His first two saves for 2013 have been seamless.

It will be interesting how he handles many save opportunities, and it will be interesting how he handles blowing a save if it happens in the next couple of weeks.

The Rockies would prefer Brothers would be perfect, but there’s a chance he could blow a save while he is filling in for Betancourt.

How he handles blowing a save will go a long way to him handling the closing role if this scenario happens.

The great closers don’t let a blown save fester into the next game. That should be a good indication if Brothers is a great closer or not.

It will be a matter of time until Brothers blow a save. It may not be awhile he replaces Betancourt, but it will definitely happen next year. No closer is immune from blowing a save, and Mariano Rivera is a great example of that.

Brothers is not naïve to think closing is going to be seamless. Like life, there are going to be ups and downs to being a closer.

Being a closer is something Brothers would not trade for.

He knows the money and fame comes from being a closer. He knows the responsibility that comes from being a closer. This is why he relishes it.

The Rockies believe Brothers have the presence and stuff to be a closer.

He works fast by being ahead of the count against the hitters, and he gets hitters out by striking them out. He mixes in the changeup with the slider well. He gives the Rockies a good feeling that he will get his team out of the inning by getting hitters out quickly.

As a reliever, he threw 83 strikeouts in 75 games he pitched last year.

Brothers gave up a run while striking out 25 in the 28 games he pitched this year.

Based on watching him, it’s easy to understand why the Rockies believe he is a closer material.

Sooner or later, Brothers has to get an opportunity to close.

The timing is right to see what he can do right now.

A nice impression can give the Rockies assurance that they found their right guy in Brothers. That’s what they want to see.

A question can be answered heading to next season by great performances by Brothers.

It’s hard to believe he will be closing this year even if he does well. The Rockies don’t want to have other guys change roles in the middle of the season. It’s an adjustment that is hard to make while the season is going on. Plus, there’s no reason to trade Betancourt unless the Rockies fall apart this year.

Brothers is living the moment right now. He knows this is his time to shine.

He knows he is in a good place. It’s about him finding out if he is the right guy to close. It’s why he is not going to regret passing an opportunity to close while his teammate is out.

He needs to know if he can get it done as a closer right now.

Fair or not, that’s why Betancourt’s injury is a blessing in disguise for Brothers and the Rockies.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

 

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.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

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.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.