LOS ANGELES — A state of alert overtook the Rockies’ pitching rotation Friday before the club kicked off a difficult three-city divisional road swing at Dodger Stadium. The call can come any minute.
“I can be available to start today. I’m dead serious,” lefty Tyler Anderson said. “If they said, ‘Hey, we want you to pitch today,’ I would. Whenever they want me to, I’ll start. Whenever they want me to throw out of the pen, I’ll throw out of the pen. As long as I can help give us a chance to win.”
Anderson’s eagerness to rejoin the Rockies rotation after missing 22 days with a left knee injury suggests three pressing concerns for Colorado’s pitching staff:
1. The Rockies took to the road after a constructive 5-2 homestand that curdled quickly in two blowout, high-scoring losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks, dropping them from first place in the National League West to third in a matter of hours. Rookies Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela each gave up nine runs, Hoffman in 3 1/3 innings Wednesday and Senzatela over five the next day.
The rotation could use reinforcements. “This will always be a game of adjustments moving forward,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.
2. The Rockies will soon see two season-opening starters return to availability: Anderson and right-hander Jon Gray (broken foot). Gray will pitch Saturday in Albuquerque in what most likely will be his final rehab start for the Triple-A Isotopes. Anderson returned to Colorado’s active roster Thursday and pitched in relief, striking out three of the five batters he faced in a scoreless ninth.
Fitting them in could be a challenge. Or a bonanza. Black said they will consider moving a starter or two to the minors or the bullpen or the disabled list or other end of the dugout, depending which way the wind blows. For now, despite his previous protestations, Black has a six-man rotation. Anderson pitched in relief on his regular day to throw a warm-up side session. Friday would have been his regular start day.
Anderson, instead, seems set for a Sunday start, maximizing the matchup against a Dodgers lineup that struggles to hit lefties. Marquez, then, would likely go Monday to start a series at San Francisco.
“We’re figuring that out,” Black said. “You don’t want to get Tyler too far away from his start, if indeed he does pitch Sunday. If we pitch Marquez Monday, it gives him an extra day of rest. There are a lot factors involved here in the next 24 hours.”
3. Anderson watched a rotation with four rookies surge in his absence after he struggled to a 5.85 ERA over 60 innings in 11 starts. His disabled list stint came at a convenient time for rest. But he returned to higher expectations.
“I feel really good right now,” Anderson said. “It’s a different beast out of the pen. It’s definitely weird. It took me a little bit to settle in. Excited energy, I’d say.”
The taller task will come when Gray returns, likely next week. A starting staff that has largely consisted of rookies Senzatela, Hoffman, Marquez and Kyle Freeland, along with Tyler Chatwood, who pitched Friday, has compiled a 4.35 ERA, sixth-best in the National League.
“We’re figuring it out,” Black said.
Footnotes. Right-hander Chad Qualls (back spasms) threw a 17-pitch bullpen session Friday that pitching coach Steve Foster said flashed a two-seam fastball with good depth. His pending return from the DL also complicates Black’s roster juggling, leaving one fewer spot in the bullpen to temporarily plop a young starter. … Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was kept from the Rockies’ lineup Friday because of a sore right shoulder, Black said. He is considered a day-to-day proposition.
Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood (6-7, 4.08) at Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (10-2, 2.61), Saturday 8:10 p.m., ROOT, 850 AM
On Chatwood’s extreme home-road splits — the second consecutive season of wild disparity for the 27-year-old, Rockies manager Bud Black said: “I’m still trying to get to the bottom of it.” He has a 6.39 ERA at Coors Field against a 2.41 mark away from Colorado. But he gave up just two runs over six innings at Coors Field last week against the Giants, a fourth consecutive outing with two or fewer earned allowed. Kershaw, oddly, gave up a career-high four home runs in a victory over the Mets his last time out. But forget it. He remains one of the best pitchers in the game. Nick Groke, The Denver Post
Sunday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (3-5, 5.75) at Dodgers RHP Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 2.87), 2:10 p.m., ROOT
Monday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (5-3, 3.92) at Giants TBA, 8:15 p.m., ROOT
Tuesday: Rockies at Giants, pitchers TBA, 8:15 p.m., ROOT