Rockies bullpen roles coming into focus

Rockies bullpen roles coming into focus

Rockies bullpen roles coming into focus
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For much of the spring, the specter of a finalized Rockies bullpen has been a hazy notion at best, out of focus with so many different pieces still to be decided.

Now, with one week left until Opening Day, that bullpen is shifting into focus out of necessity. Manager Jim Tracy started doing so Friday night by naming lefty Josh Outman to the Opening Day roster.

"He could be a multiple-innings guy, but he has the versatility and the stuff that ... I wouldn't shy away the least bit from having this guy come in and pitch to a lefty," Tracy said. "He has the stuff to come in and get one of them out -- I'm talking about a pretty damn good left-handed hitter in the middle of somebody's order."

Tracy said the announcement has no effect on Matt Reynolds' status. Reynolds would be the team's third lefty with Rex Brothers and Outman on the squad.

Outman's ability to work multiple innings makes him an asset because he isn't exclusively a lefty specialist.

With the departure of Huston Street, who was traded to San Diego in the offseason, the Rockies will turn to Rafael Betancourt to close games. Brothers and righty Matt Belisle will be the two primary setup men, and after that, filling in the slots gets a little trickier.

Reynolds' niche in the bullpen would figure to be the exact spot where he was used in Thursday's game against Cleveland. With Juan Nicasio nearing the end of his start and lefty Travis Hafner coming up, Tracy went to Reynolds with two outs and two on. Reynolds forced the powerful Hafner into a lazy flyout.

"I'll be counted upon to come in and get whoever they call upon me for -- whether it's a lefty or two lefties or a righty," Reynolds said. "Whatever the situation is they're going to probably bring me in for no more than one inning, and my job is to get those outs."

Tracy blamed overuse for Reynolds' second-half struggles in 2011, saying, "He got hit a little bit, so I'll wear that."

Though Tracy didn't get into specifics of whom he'll choose for the remaining slots, he said one of the biggest focuses will be length. He felt he had to extend his one-inning guys too frequently last season. Tracy sees his bullpen sort of like a sudoku puzzle, with one misplaced piece causing havoc on the rest of the equation.

"I don't like to see specialty people pitching unnecessary innings," Tracy said. "It just makes no sense to me."

That should give more hope to the relievers who can provide length. Tracy said Tyler Chatwood is in the mix for a relief spot, after it was announced he didn't make the starting rotation, and Guillermo Moscoso was optioned to Triple-A.

That means Chatwood, Esmil Rogers, Josh Roenicke, Edgmer Escalona and Alex White figure to be the pitchers competing for the remaining spots.

"As the season goes on, we'll see guys falling into more of what their roles are going to be," said Outman, who noted even when the season begins nothing is set in stone.

The Rockies had the 23rd-ranked bullpen last season, posting a 3.91 ERA which likely was elevated by the Coors Field factor. The Colorado relievers pitched the seventh-most innings of any big league club, making Tracy's desire for length a legitimate concern.