It was in 2012 that injuries and poor performance forced the Rockies to experiment with a four-man rotation with a pitch count around 75. It was scrapped before the end of the season. Last season, in his first year as Rockies manager, Weiss paid attention to pitches thrown, especially early for a staff that had four of its five starters coming back from major time-loss injuries.
The result? Jorge De La Rosa (16-6, 3.49 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (14-10, 3.47) had two of the best seasons in Rockies history, and righty Tyler Chatwood (8-5, 3.15 in 20 starts) went from talented youngster to someone the team could count on going into this year. Weiss kept De La Rosa below 100 pitches until May, because he had missed most of two years with an elbow injury. Chacin, who missed extensive time with a nerve issue in his chest, was kept out of triple figures until July.
"For how the starters felt, I know some of them were a little frustrated early in the year, but at the end of the year, they were kind of happy that they were held back a little bit," Geivett said. "They felt like they were tired, and they hadn't pitched a lot the year before.
"But there's that give and take. Walt has to keep our starting rotation intact as best he can. Injuries are going to happen. At the same point, anything that we can do that's going to keep those guys in line, in order and pitching for us is all that we're trying to do."
This season, the only projected starter who has a concern is Chatwood, but he says he has long healed from having bone chips removed from his elbow last October. Geivett said Weiss will nonetheless watch the workload early. There isn't a rigid count, which allows Weiss to take several factors into account, some of which the Rockies won't reveal for strategic reasons.
For example, De La Rosa, working through a bruised left thumb in 2013, won six straight starts from Aug. 9 to Sept. 4, sometimes throwing just under 110 pitches, but once while throwing just 83 in five innings. The thumb injury was already public by then. But the fact righty Juan Nicasio spent the year dealing with residual pain from a left knee injury that cost him most of 2012 wasn't revealed until near season's end. Some nagging hurts will be kept in-house.
"That's on an individual basis, working with each pitcher and looking at the last time he threw, how many days off those guys had in between, whatever else," Geivett said." There are a lot of factors that go into that. And a lot of times you won't know how a guy's feeling.
"Jimmy Wright [the pitching coach], Bo [McLaughlin, the assistant pitching coach] and 'Doigie' [head athletic trainer Keith Dugger], they need to make sure Walt has all the information he needs. We want them to last the whole year. We want to play in October. We have to keep our rotation intact."
Geivett believes it's time to stop treating the Rockies as unusual.
"The year before, the average start in the Major Leagues was 95.1 [pitches]," he said. "We break 100 a few times and everybody acts like we're being revolutionary. We're even over the average in what we allow the guy to go to."