The club announced that they would be going with a four-man rotation where the starting pitcher was done after 75-pitches, and another "starting" pitcher would come in afterwards and throw up to 50 pitches. The theory made nearly everyone shake their heads and made the Rockies the butt of many jokes from around the league.
The complaint was that the decision made no sense. The decision was made in an effort to get the starters to throw strikes and become more efficient. However, the critics questioned what it would do to the bullpen. Even with the lack of success from the starters before the implementation, the fact is, every now and then, the bullpen got a few days off here and there, or at least a couple of games now and then that would make the burden a little lighter.
Throughout the implementation, the starting pitching, with the exception of Jeff Francis, hasn't pitched better. They haven't become dominant, they haven't gone deeper into games.
The one thing that remained strong, even against logic, has been the bullpen. Despite the workload the Rockies relief corp has been phenomenal. Josh Roenicke, Matt Belisle, Adam Ottavino and Matt Reynolds in particular seem to pitch on a daily basis, and rarely give up runs.
At some point, that had to change. That happened on Friday night. While Ottavino pitched three great innings, giving up just one run, the flood gates were opened wide when Reynolds showed the overuse.
Before recording an out in the top half of the 8th inning, Reynolds gave up six runs, all earned. He walked one and gave up five hits in the frame, including a home run. Incredibly, Reynolds ERA rose over one full run during the inning. It was the type of outing that a reliever will regret when they show up at their arbitration hearing.
Reynolds has already made 50 appearances in 2012. In those outings he has recorded 46-1/3 innings. In 73 games in all of 2011, Reynolds only pitched 50-2/3 innings. With 60 games to go, Reynolds is already near his total from a year ago. He is going to start to wear down. The numbers will start to reflect fatigue.
This is the time of year when the Rockies will start to realize how much of a burden they have put on their bullpen. As bad as things have been for this team, one of the few bright spots has been the bullpen. If those relief pitchers start to feel the fatigue of overuse, things might get even worse in a hurry.
The Rockies are bent on thinking outside the box. That is fine if they are willing to accept the bi-products that come along with doing things that don't line up with the tried and true traditions of the game.
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