HOUSTON -- The Rockies are intrigued by successful starting pitchers who spent significant time in the bullpen at the start of their careers. It was the way of the successful Orioles teams in the 1970s, and such pitchers as the Mets' Johan Santana and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright did just fine after some relief time.
The Rockies are experimenting with a similar plan for right-hander Tyler Chatwood.
It's not as if Chatwood, 22, doesn't have experience. Last year he threw 142 innings for the Angels, who had an injury-riddled rotation. But the Rockies are carrying Chatwood in the bullpen to start this season and will use him in low-pressure situations initially.
Chatwood has a power pitcher's approach but ran into problems putting away hitters during his Spring Training starts. Sometimes pitching out of the bullpen makes a pitcher more aggressive early in counts, and that aggressiveness carries him through.
"It's a different mentality," said Chatwood, who went 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA in 27 games, including 25 starts, for the Angels, and was traded to the Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta during the offseason. "You've got to use all your pitches. You can't really try to save a pitch for the second or third time around. You go with the best pitches that you have that day.
"I came out of the bullpen a little bit last year in September when the starter got roughed up a little bit. Last year, when I was in the bullpen in September, I had a chance to talk to Dan Haren, who came out of the bullpen early in his career. He said it's a matter of making some pitches, building up some success and eventually getting back into the rotation."
General manager Dan O'Dowd said that the Rockies will see how the plan works.
"We looked at all of them, and none of us are smart enough, and I'm not smart enough, to know how all this is going to play out," O'Dowd said. "We'd love to bring Tyler along, because he showed us early in camp such electric stuff. Now, later in camp, there was a lot of inconsistency. He's going to be a work in progress."
In his Rockies debut, in Saturday night's 7-3 loss to the Astros, Chatwood showed both promise and areas that need improvement in two innings of work, striking out three but giving up two runs. Houston's Chris Johnson doubled with one out in the sixth and later scored, and Travis Buck tripled to open the seventh and would also go on to score.