DENVER -- Needing to bolster their bullpen, the Rockies designated outfielder Eric Young Jr. for assignment before Wednesday night's game against the Nationals and recalled right-hander pitcher Chris Volstad from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Rockies have 10 days to trade, release or assign Young to the Minors.
With the Rockies dealing with various pitching injuries and two games into 13 days without a day off, the need to bolster pitching was clear. The back end of the bullpen has undergone shuffling since right-hander Rafael Betancourt went on the 15-day disabled list on June 2 with a groin injury, and the Rockies announced Tuesday that middle reliever Edgmer Escalona would be on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
In addition, righty Tyler Chatwood missed his last start with a right arm issue and left-hander Jorge De La Rosa is being watched closely because of a cut left middle finger.
Volstad made the Opening Day roster and was 0-0 with an 8.53 ERA in four games before being optioned to Colorado Springs on April 19, and went 3-1 with a 5.31 ERA in eight Triple-A starts. The hope is Volstad can help a staff that's already been affected by long stretches of games at home and in hitters' parks on the road, with Interleague road series at Toronto and Boston on the horizon.
The pitching is important for the Rockies, who entered Wednesday 35-30, second in the National League West, one game behind the D-backs.
"What precipitated this was the need to add a pitcher of length," said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations. "We're in a stretch of 15-of-18 at home, and the three on the road were in Cincinnati. Then we're going to go to Toronto. The level of pitching we've had, we're trying to keep that intact as best we can."
Young, 28, a 30th-round pick in the 2003 MLB First-Year Player Draft, found big league traction by hitting .316 in 98 games last year before suffering an oblique injury that ended his season early. This year, he won a roster spot in Spring Training. He posted a.242 batting average and took a step backward defensively in the outfield. Young was a second baseman before being moved into the outfield in 2009.
Also, outfielder Tyler Colvin, after a long stint in Colorado Springs to find his swing, has been an immediate contributor since being called up Saturday. Like the switch-hitting Young, Colvin plays all three outfield positions.
"There's been an attachment to 'E.Y.' since he showed up, in the Minor Leagues and all the things that he's done," Geivett said. "It's not only his toughness, but his energy level and that he's a tremendous person. He's got to be one of my all-time favorites as a guy and a competitor and all that. And his performance last year before he got hurt was tremendous, and he performed well in Spring Training."
Young is son of Eric Young, who forever became a fan favorite during the team's inaugural home game at Mile High Stadium on April 4, 1993, when he led off the bottom of the first with a home run off the Expos' Kent Bottenfield in the Rockies' 11-4 victory.
Eric Young Jr. has been a fan favorite with his hustle, as well as his fan interaction and charity work.
Young Jr. Tweeted: "Best wishes to the Rockies organization. Thank you for my time with you. Truly a blessing to be with the city of Denver. Thank you all for the support. Love you all. Always have faith in the man upstairs and in yourselves. #blessings Phil 4:13"
Rockies manager Walt Weiss, a teammate of Young's father who watched Young Jr. grow up from a clubhouse perspective, said the move touched him.
"Extremely difficult," Weiss said. "I've known him a long time. He's almost like another son to me. A really tough day, from that aspect."
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said: "It always makes it tough when a guy has known only one organization, such as E.Y. You feel for him, but at the same time, you've got to look at it as hopefully he gets an opportunity with a team, and whoever gets him is getting a good guy."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less