Rockies' bullpen delivers in homestand

Rox bullpen delivers in homestand

DENVER -- When Juan Rincon walked off the disabled list and onto the pitcher's mound Wednesday night, it wasn't a save situation. The Rockies were down, 6-1, in the fourth, and with Josh Fogg struggling in his first start of the season, filling in for the injured Aaron Cook, Rincon came on with four innings of huge relief, saving the bullpen and quite possibly saving a spot on the roster for one of the Rockies.

"I told Juan Rincon last night, 'You're my hero,'" said Matt Herges, who followed Rincon to combine for six innings of scoreless relief in the loss. "The fact that he went four, basically gives [the Rockies] the opportunity to not make a move to get another pitcher here today. Who knows who the odd man out was on that one, but somebody was going down. It also gave the opportunity for [Rafael] Betancourt, [Joe] Beimel, Streeter [Huston Street], [Matt] Daley, [Franklin] Morales, to rest a day. That's immeasurable in my eyes."

The rest was big for the bullpen, with the rubber match vs. the Dodgers on the line Thursday and another big series in San Francisco starting Friday. The bullpen entered the finale with the Dodgers having thrown 25 innings in the first six games of the homestand, posting a 3.60 ERA while earning wins from Herges in 10 innings Tuesday and Adam Eaton in 14 innings Monday, plus a save from Street on Sunday.

"When you've got guys down there that can keep the team in the game, even in a game that's seemingly out of hand, then you continue to breathe and it makes the rallies count," Street said. "That's the character of this bullpen now. We've asked Rincon to throw the eighth before with a one-run lead. He's gotten the job done there, too. Hergie pitched the other day in a tied game and got the job done there. The nature of the bullpen is we're going to do whatever you ask us to do, no matter what the role, no matter what the situation we're in. By and large, we get it done."

Rockies relievers entered Thursday with a 4.43 ERA, the fourth-best mark in club history, and they are 35-for-46 in converting save opportunities, for a franchise best 76.1 percent. Street accounts for 33 saves in 34 opportunities, giving him a National League-best 97.1 percentage, second in the Majors to Mariano Rivera's 97.3 percent.

One of Street's biggest challenges may have been to sit on his hands in the 10-inning win over the Dodgers on Tuesday after manager Jim Tracy told him before the game he would not be used after appearing in seven games in nine days.

"I walked into Tracy's office [before Tuesday's game] and I asked him if I had any wiggle room," Street said. "If there was any room to wiggle, I was going to try to find a way to wiggle myself into being hot that day. Tracy told me, 'Normally, there's dialogue, today's it's a monologue.' You can't argue with the man and his decision-making right now. It worked out. We won, and I didn't have to pitch."

As determined as the Rockies are to win every game, to protect their three-game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card and to make up their three-game deficit behind the Dodgers in the NL West, they are being extremely prudent in the handling of their pitching staff.

"There are no heroes in August," Street said. "You're not going to win a championship in August, but you can cost yourself one."

Street has never felt so energized so late in the season. With a new strength-and-conditioning plan with his new team and proactive treatment from chiropractors and massage therapists, he's been able to feel at his best even after that nine-day stretch of intense work. He didn't feel he needed the break, but he acknowledges it was the right decision and he'll be better for it in the long run.

"This is the first season where I've been healthy all the way through," Street said. "Maybe in years previous I was trying to fight an injury or battle through something. That's just a lot of extra energy you got to put forth to survive, not just to pitch. This year I haven't had to deal with that. We've been really smart with making the adjustments with my workout routine."

Rockies relievers can also take a breath with the knowledge that reinforcements are on the way on Sept. 1, when rosters can expand and the team will bolster its bullpen with a core of familiar faces.

"It makes games like last night a little less consequential when you've got three extra guys down there," Street said. "And the best part is it's going to be all guys that have been up in the bullpen already this year. We're all going to have a good feel for each other. We've had a great chemistry the entire year. We've pieced it together, mixed and matched, made a few trades, but by and large in September it's going to be a group of guys that have all played with each other this season, and I think that's going to be unique. Chemistry on a team is extremely important, especially down in the bullpen."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.