"You can look back at my career, and I'm at my best when you pitch me a whole bunch," said DeJean, who made more than 60 appearances four of the last five seasons, including 75 in 2001 and 76 in '03. "If that sounds selfish, I'm sorry, but that's how I'm going to be the most effective. It's hard for me to sit for five or six days and then go out there and get guys out."
DeJean, who broke in with the Rockies 1997-2000, returned to the club in July after beginning the year with the New York Mets and helped spearhead the improvement by pitching frequently.
Just twice did DeJean sit for more than four days, and he went 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA with 35 strikeouts to 12 walks and no home runs against in 38 games (33 2/3 innings) for the Rockies. Four of the appearances came a day following an appearance and once he pitched both games of a doubleheader, but he gave up runs in just one of those games.
With the Mets, DeJean went 3-1 with a 6.12 ERA in 28 games until he was released on June 20. The gaps in his appearances began showing up in June, when he posted a 13.50 ERA in five games. With the Mets, he had 18 walks against 17 strikeouts and gave up three homers in 25 2/3 innings.
"It's kind of strange to say because arm strength is usually a good thing, but when I get too strong it affects my sinker and breaking ball and all that stuff," DeJean said. "When I'm a little tired it allows me to stay with my pitches better."
DeJean's signing already puts Colorado's bullpen ahead of where it was at the start of last season, when four of the seven pitchers were rookies and just one -- Byung-Hyun Kim, who proved miscast as a middle reliever -- had more than two full seasons in the Majors. The bullpen makeup fared poorly at the beginning of the year, going 1-7 with a 9.00 ERA and seven blown saves in nine chances through April 28.
Only when the Rockies brought in veterans such as Jay Witasick, Dan Miceli and DeJean -- all of whom they pursued last winter but couldn't sign because of a tight budget -- did the team improve. By season's end, Colorado's 67-95 matched the 1993 expansion team for worst in club history but the bullpen was 18-25 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranked seventh in the National League.
Colorado plans to use DeJean in the seventh inning, and potential free agents Miceli (who missed the end of the season with a broken foot), Witasick (traded to Oakland) and potentially Atlanta's Chris Rietsma are among those who could be pursued as a bridge to closer Brian Fuentes. The prospect of experienced late relief helping a young club that improved as 2005 progressed has DeJean excited.
"The young guys here have confidence that they can play, and the Rockies know they're sitting on a good group of young players who can be combined with people they have coming up," DeJean said. "We've got to fill some holes, but I think we can win now. The second half of the season we were very competitive, and to do it for two halves will be a challenge."
Rockies teammates identified DeJean as a leader, a fact not lost on general manager Dan O'Dowd.
"I don't think any one person is more important than another person, but the continuity of having Mike, the type of person he is, was even more important than his ability," O'Dowd said. "More than anything he else, he is a very good human being and a role model."