Summer is here, with the Colorado sun hotter than the race in the National League West. And the hardy Rockies bullpen is beginning to wilt.
As an incorrigible worrywart, I felt obligated to ask manager Bud Black: Are his relievers tired?
“I’m going to say no,” Black replied. “Have they been tested? Sure. Have they overall, in the big scheme of the season, done their job? Yes, for sure. Have there been some body blows over the last couple of weeks? Yes. Have they taken the body blows and held their ground? I think so. That’s going to happen during the course of a heavyweight flight. You’re going to take some blows.”
There’s no pretty way to put it: The Colorado bullpen has been getting bullied. During the nine games before Wednesday’s meeting with Arizona, the Rockies’ relievers had a collective 8.55 earned run average and a 1.79 WHIP, while surrendering 11 home runs.
Ouch. That’s a pummeling.
Nobody’s panicking around here, even with the recent struggles of Mike Dunn, Jordan Lyles and Chad Qualls. Not to mention names, but if ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser says Colorado is a fraud, then he needs to take more treks between the White House and Capitol Hill to see what people not to be trusted look like.
These Rockies are for real. While we can all get as moist as a beer bottle on a muggy, 96-degree afternoon while toasting our misty, water-colored memories of October 2007, this is the best team in franchise history.
The time to go for the World Series is now. And that means general manager Jeff Bridich needs to be an aggressive buyer as the trade deadline approaches.
Don’t get me wrong. Colorado doesn’t need much to hang with the Dodgers, Nationals or Cubs. The Rockies are two-deep in MVP candidates, with Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. The kids in the starting rotation are all right, whether we’re talking now or in the August heat of a playoff race.
But the Rockies appear to be one arm shy in the bullpen.
I see three options to reinforce the relief corps.
German Marquez, Rockies: Of all the young guns in the starting rotation, the stuff of Marquez seems most easily translated to the pen. Set up batters with his 95 mph fastball, put them away with that nasty curve. He could be a good answer in the seventh inning, but the Rockies can do better, if they’re willing to make a trade.
Brad Hand, San Diego: The Padres are going nowhere in the NL West. But Hand will be in demand, not only because he is averaging 1.25 strikeouts per inning, but because the 27-year-old is a lefty and arbitration eligible for two more seasons. His bargain salary of $1.375 million, however, might well drive up the price a trade suitor must pay in minor-league prospects.
Pat Neshek, Philadelphia: Can I make a little confession? I have a little man crush on Neshek. I’m enthralled by his funky sidearm delivery. And what’s not to like about the 36-year-old right-hander’s refusal to walk anybody, which gives him a WHIP under 1.00? His salary is $6.5 million. He’s a pending free agent. His past postseason experience with four major-league teams makes him an ideal hired gun.
Let’s give a standing ovation to Bridich for his recent rebuild of the relief corps. Now Bridich needs to grab his cellphone and work a trade for more bullpen help. Sooner rather than later, well before the wheeling and dealing gets totally insane in late July. The Rockies are 45-0 when leading after seven innings. Make the real strength of this team stronger, rather than allow Coors Field to wear out the bullpen.
“If there are eight guys in the pen, you’d like to have five or six guys really throwing the ball well, and couple guys that are probably not,” Black said. “You need those type of ratios, of guys who are performing to guys who aren’t. The same thing as on the hitting side. The more that you get away from those good ratios and they become bad ratios? Rough action.”
When I peer out to the Rockies’ bullpen in right field, the royal shade of purple is turning to a burned-out shade of brown.
Well, the boss is in the house. I saw Dick Monfort wearing his trademark purple sneakers, leaning against the batting cage before the game against Arizona. It’s time for the Rockies owner to show a little gratitude for the hard work this team has done and put another small down payment on a World Series ring.