|Friedrich was robbed of a win.|
That theory is what has shifted the way Rockies starting pitchers are handled, including Saturday night when Christian Friedrich was removed from the game after throwing five innings of one run baseball, having delivered just 81 pitches.
The theory might be just fine if the team has really good middle relievers. The back end of the Rockies bullpen is solid, so bridging the gap is the key to success.
The problem for the Rockies is that their middle relievers, or as they refer to them, their "piggyback" starters, are not good enough to come in for two or three innings and keep their team in the game.
On Saturday it was Jeremy Guthrie who piggy-backed on Friedrich's start. The righty continued to be an albatross in the Rockies season, giving up a home run to the third batter he faced, which came immediately after he hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch to put the tying run on base.
Friedrich had thrown exceptionally well. In his five innings of work he didn't walk a batter, struck out five and effectively exercised the demons of Coors Field that had haunted him in the early going of his career at home.
Guthrie stepped to the mound with a 2-1 lead. His job was to get through two innings in order to hand the ball to the back end of the bullpen to secure the series victory. Instead, he continued down the same path that has Rockies fans longing for the day when the club will return to conventional baseball and quit using Coors Field as an excuse.
Why Guthrie remains a member of the 25-man roster is a question that only O'Dowd can answer. If the Rockies were given an offer for Guthrie and O'Dowd turned it down, it is further evidence that it is time to turn the page on the O'Dowd era in Denver. The mistake was made by bringing him in, it is time to cut losses and move on.
Adam Ottavino didn't fare much better. In his inning of work he gave up four earned runs, effectively ensuring that the Rockies would head back to the clubhouse as losers.
The reality is, pulling a young pitcher who was doing as well as Friedrich was, with only 81 pitches under his belt, is a slap in the face to a young prospect. It is also a slap in the face to everyone watching the game and paying money to be at the park. The 75-pitch limit may not make sense, but it is fine if the starter gives up a few runs and is shaky.
However, when that starter is on his game, is pounding the strike zone, and has given his team a chance to win, there is absolutely no reason to remove him from the game. The team knows what it has from the pitcher that day, whereas the guy in the bullpen is a question mark at best. In Guthrie's case, a question mark would be on his best days.
As the Rockies continue to lose, as they continue to make a mockery of their franchise, fans can only sit and wait and hope for changes in the offseason. Those changes are long overdue and need to be swift. Unfortunately, the Rockies have become a franchise of excuses, a franchise that truly believes that they can't win in a park where they play 81 games per year. That mindset will never allow the Rockies to win with their current leadership, therefore, it is time for a sweeping change.
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